Last fall, the Arizona Republic reported that cruise travelers for the first time can see what crimes are being reported aboard cruise ships operating in U.S. ports.
The newspaper commented on improvements once the Department of Transportation replaced the Coast Guard as the agency responsible for reporting crimes on cruise ships leaving US. ports. Consumers previously needed to check the websites of each cruise line to try and find out what crimes occur on which cruise line. Carnival Corporation bundled the crimes of its brands (Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, and Princess Cruises) together under one name, so that it was impossible for consumers to identify on which cruise line the reported crimes occurred.
The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act ("CVSSA") of 2010 was supposed to provide the public with reports of certain crimes aboard cruise ships, such as deaths, sexual assaults, thefts and missing-person reports.
But the cruise-friendly agencies responsible for disclosing the crime statistics requested changes to the wording in the CVSSA which rendered crime-reporting provisions useless.
Language added before its passage altered the CVSSA bill so that only crimes "no longer under investigation by the FBI" were reported on the website. An Arizona Republic investigation in 2012 revealed the language was altered at the request of the FBI and the Coast Guard, apparently with pressure from the cruise industry
The problem is that the FBI often refused to open files when crime occurred on cruise ships or, when it did, the FBI often kept its files open long after it has decided not to investigate the case. So any crime that the FBI didn’t investigate – or when it technically kept its investigation files open – was not included in the Coast Guard database.
The language of the statute was changed which resulted in far more crimes, particularly sexual assaults, being disclosed to to the public by the DOT. In the first six months of 2016 far more sexual assaults were disclosed (39) than during the same period in 2015 (6) when the reporting was disclosed on the Coast guard portal.
You can see the DOT’s portal here.
But a major problem remains. The cruise lines are the one which determine whether an incident constitutes "sexual assault." Many cases of sexual molestation of minors are mis-classified as "groping" or as "inappropriate touching," neither of which is a crime under the CVSSA .
The same is true regarding the sexual offense which the HAL waiter was arrested for on the Holland America Line Veendam last week. The CVSSA does not include "lewd and lascivious" conduct with a child as a reportable offense.
Cruise expert Professor Dr. Ross Klein, who has testified regarding the issue of crime on cruise ships before the U.S. House of Representative and the U.S. Senate, pointed this problem out on his website last October. Dr. Klein has reviewed hundreds of incident reports submitted by cruise lines and has observed a tendency for cruise lines to report incidents of sexual assault as either "sexual contact" (which is not reportable under the CVSSA) or as "molestation" or as "groping" or "inappropriate touching" or "lewd and lascivious conduct" (none of which are reportable pursuant to the specific language of the statute).
The cruise victim’s group, the International Cruise Victims, has tried to introduce legislation requiring the cruise industry to disclose when children are victims of crime. Several years ago, Dr. Klein determined that between 17.5 and 30 percent of the sexual assault victims on cruise ships are minors. The cruise industry vigorously opposed the legislation and refuses to disclose when children are sexually assaulted on their ships.
The crime that occurred on the Veendam when a 26 year old Indonesian HAL waiter (photo right) locked himself in a bathroom on the cruise ship and engaged in oral sex with a fifteen year old girl is exactly the type of sexual misconduct that families need to understand happens all too often on family cruise vacations, no matter how hard the cruise industry tries to parse words to keep it secret.
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Photo credit: Top: Fletcher6 – CC BY 3.0, commons / wikimedia. ; bottom: Gede Sukrantara Facebook page.