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 disclosure 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 statement 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?
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Photo Credit: Google+