There has been a lot of news coverage lately about Senator’s Rockefeller’s new cruise crime law. For the first time, the cruise lines will be forced to disclose the full range of assaults, rapes and other crimes which occur on cruise ships, and inform the public which cruise ships the crimes were the alleged crimes occurred.

The old law, which was part of the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act (CVSSA), included an attempt to compel the cruise lines to disclose all of this information four years ago. 

But the cruise industry altered the language at the last moment, inserting language requiring the Karan Seechurndisclosure of only those crimes opened by authorities and then subsequently closed.  

This language was an attempt to hide the crimes. The disturbing fact of the matter is that the FBI opens a minuscule number of investigations into crimes on cruise ships. The FBI testified at Congressional hearings which I attended that it opens only around 7% of crimes which are alleged to occur in the cruise industry. So by requiring the cruise crimes to be reported only when they are actually investigated and then closed, the cruise lines ensured that 93% of those crimes would never be revealed to the public.

This runaround was not lost on Senator Rockefeller. He vowed to fix the language before he retired. He was successful in improving the language so that the cruise lines have to report all crimes regardless of whether they are investigated or closed. This was the original intent of the CVSSA, so that the public can see which cruise ships have more crimes than others.

However, the cruise line’s trade lobbying organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), claims that the amendments are not necessary. CLIA said in a press release:

"CLIA’s position is that the new provision is unnecessary, because it largely duplicates information already available to the public . . . "

Is this true? Consider this example.

A number of newspapers recently announced that a mini-bar attendant entered a woman’s cabin with a master key and molested her.  The FBI agent refused to identify the cruise line or the cruise ship in his arrest affidavit. All of the newspapers referred to the sexual assault as occurring on an "unidentified cruise line." As I explained in my prior article, FBI agents routinely do this as a favor to the cruise line which regularly hire former FBI officials to head up their security departments (like Royal Caribbean). Under the old law which is still in effect, because the FBI file had an open file on the crime, there is no requirement for the cruise line to disclose it. The crime will not appear on the Coast Guard database. The cruise line can hide it.

But a number of people contacted me on our Facebook page and explained that the only cruise line sailing out of Bayonne at the time was the Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas. I quickly found the crew member on his Facebook page, verified he worked for Royal Caribbean, and published his name in our story. There are a number of photographs which the crew member posted from his Facebook page and Google+. (One photo ironically shows him drinking a Corona while wearing a FBI shirt).  A number of other web sites then began reporting that the Quantum was the location of the alleged crime. It was only then, when the cat was out of the bad, that the cruise line decided to release a PR Karan Seechurnstatement stating that it had terminated the crew member.    

When the new law goes into effect, the cruise lines can’t play such cat-and-mouse games. The FBI can’t play hide-the-ball. The alleged crime has to be reported on a new Department of Transportation database. 

The new cruise law is absolutely necessary for the public to finally see the big picture of cruise ship crime. Crimes involving cabin attendants, room service attendants and mini-bar attendants entering cabins with master keys are hardly rare.

Last year CNN reported that of 959 crimes reported to the FBI since 2011, only 31 were disclosed on a web site maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Crimes occur with disturbing frequency on cruise ships. Isn’t it time for cruise passengers to know?

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.


Photo Credit: Google+

  • Curious

    Jim, what *is* the effective date on which cruise lines must begin disclosure? And what are the specified reporting periods? (If reporting periods are not specified, opportunity here for the cruise lines to manipulate the data by reporting for, say, alleged crimes in the past 3 days!)

  • Ian Johnson

    “. . . . . FBI agents routinely do this as a favor to the cruise line which regularly hire former FBI officials to head up their security departments (like Royal Caribbean). . . . .”

    A Federal Law enforcement agency doing favors for a corporation? Wouldn’t that be conspiracy? Whatever it is, it sounds illegal to me.

    Do you have direct knowledge or proof of this?

  • JB

    Ian, I have personally been in meetings with the FBI when I was told they carried out measures such as notifying a ship’s next port of entry that a crime scene is entering their waters and that they have the right to board the ship and investigate (which usually amounts to another trampling of a crime scene which decreases the amount of evidence the FBI will need days later when they board to convict a perpetrator) as a COURTESY. That courtesy also amounts to a favor to the Cruise lines. If no evidence exists, no case is opened and previously that meant no crime to report publically!! So the answer is yes, there is direct knowledge of this. I might also add that the Special Agent explaining this to me began his spiel by saying, “Let me dummie this down for you”……

  • It is not in the interest of cruise lines to report any crimes voluntarily because crimes happen sporadically and it is no good marketing or advertising. Remember it is all about money. So now the law will force them to, but when there is a law, there is a way out of it too….like alteration of records, or anything of the sort benefitted by the fact the vessel is at sea and things can take their own form. If a crime is committed at sea, by the time the ship gets to the next port for any authority to investigate, things change. We do no have direct knowledge of this, but pretty close. Although we must say, things on some cruise lines, are getting better. And must say too, that there are times when scenarios are staged by passengers who premeditate it all. (Mother and daughter sailing and “rape” by a crew member reported to Security Officer and cases of that sort). Again, money/lawsuit being the target.

  • This is shocking to hear that a section of FBI are not letting the law regarding disclosure honestly implemented because of their vested interests involved.It is obvious that for the protection of cruise passengers, this disclosure must be made mandatory, looking at the rising incidents of crime in cruise ships, around the world.

  • Ian Johnson

    JB, I’m not sure I’m clear on your response. When you say that the FBI “notifies a ship’s next port of entry that a crime scene is entering their waters and that they have the right to board the ship and investigate” . . . . . you are saying that they are informing the local authorities in the next port of call that they (being the local authorities) have the right to investigate the crime scene? Or are you saying that the FBI is telling them that they (being the FBI) have the right to investigate? I suppose it depends on the country the vessel is entering. If the vessel is entering a US port when a suspected crime has been committed, then I’m sure the FBI has the right to investigate it. But if the vessel is entering a foreign port then I’m sure that’s a whole different ball game, especially as the vessels are not US flagged. I don’t get your point about how that amounts to trampling a crime scene and reducing evidence? Are you suggesting that foreign law enforcement entities are not capable of processing crime scenes? I also don’t see how the FBI notifying an upcoming port of call that a crime has possibly been committed and a potential crime scene is entering their waters can be seen as a favor to the cruise lines? From a common sense, and a layman’s perspective that would seem to be the appropriate and legal action to take. Or are you saying that the vessel should simply seal off the scene and only allow American investigators to look at the evidence?

  • john ehrhart

    So, no further comments? No answer to the second time the question was asked by Ian Johnson? Then I, like Ian, will consider this “…more inflammatory rhetoric…”
    I’ve been looking for recent info to help me decide about investing there, or even visiting there, cruise ship or by air. If things like that are going on, it won’t stop unless these individuals and their agencies are brought to justice… publicly and immediately.