A crew member from Vanuatu was sentenced to five years and eight months in jail on Tuesday after he was found guilty two months ago of raping a co-worker during their employment for P&O Cruises’ Pacific Dawn.

A court in Vanuatu sentenced former Pacific Dawn crew member Noel Isaac to a count of  sexual intercourse without consent in December of 2017, according to a recent article in the Daily Post newspaper in Vanuatu.  The court had earlier found him guilty of one count of an act of indecency as well as one count of sexual intercourse without consent.

The court found beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Isaac trespassed into the victim’s cabin on the morning of December 6, 2017. Despite her pleas, he overcame her resistance and committed what the newspaper described as full and forcible sexual intercourse with her without her consent shortly before he disembarked from the cruise ship.

The victimed crew member reportedly did not return to her job duties and was forced to leave the ship due to the trauma. She later notified P&O that she would not return to work due to the assault. She reported the crime to the local police who reportedly had to halt the investigation awaiting the ship’s next visit to obtain the CCTV images.

The victim  was a new hire who worked in the galley. She boarded the Pacific Dawn in Brisbane in early December 2017; the ship thereafter sailed for New Caledonia and Vanuatu. The assault took place just a few days after she started work on the cruise ship.

The newspaper describes Mr. Isaac as having difficulties answering basic questions at trial about the incident. He claimed that he did not know where the victim’s cabin was located on the ship and denied ever going in to her cabin two days after he first met her. However, the evidence showed that Mr. Isaac entered and remained in the victim’s cabin for 40 minutes on the morning in question, according to the local newspaper.

Convictions of crew members for sexual assault are rare, due to the fact that flag states are not interested or equipped to investigate such crimes which occur in far off locations at sea. In this case, Carnival Corporation owned the Pacific Dawn, which was operated by P&O Cruises Australia and registered in London. This case, however, involved a crime committed by a citizen of Vanuatu where the ship called on its capital, Port Vila and where the crew member resided.

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Photo credit: P&O Cruises via Traveller magazine.

 

The U.S. Embassy in Nassau, Bahamas issued a new crime warning for the city following the assault of a U.S. citizen during the early evening hours of February 6, 2018, while jogging on West Bay Street just west of Goodman’s Bay Park.

This is an area around two miles west of the cruise port and downtown and east of the popular Cable Beach.

The Embassy urged that caution should be used in all areas of New Providence while traveling by foot Nassau Bahamas Crime Warningafter dark.

The Bahamas Tribune covered the new crime warning today.

The United States State Department issued its last crime warning for the Bahamas on January 10, 2018, which states, in part:

“Exercise increased caution in The Bahamas due to crime.

Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assault is common, even during daylight hours and in tourist areas. U.S. government personnel are not permitted to visit the Sand Trap area in Nassau due to crime. Jet-ski operators are known to commit sexual assaults against tourists, including minors. As a result, U.S. government personnel are not permitted to use jet-ski rentals on New Providence and Paradise Islands.”

The U.S. government has issued more crime warnings for the Bahamas than for all locations in the Caribbean.

The common response from the Bahamian tourism officials to these warning is to suggest that Nassau is safe compared to major American cities like Chicago or New York.

But the per capita murder rate in the country of the Bahamas is much higher than the per capita rate in Chicago and many, many times higher than the per capita rate in New York City. In the U.S., the per capita murder rate is a little over 4 per 100,000; in the Bahamas, the rate is around 40 per 100,000.

Most cruise tourists don’t understand that the murder, rape and crime rates per capita are much higher in the Bahamas, particularly in Nassau, than anywhere the tourists are from.

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Canada has issued another travel advisory, warning that travelers to the Bahamas "should exercise a high degree of caution (due to) high rates of crime, especially in Nassau."

The Canadian government said that "crime occurs mainly in Nassau and Freeport. There has been an increase in armed robberies targeting tourists in Nassau. Incidents take place in populated and isolated areas, and even in daylight hours. Do not carry large sums of cash or wear expensive jewelery. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure Canasa Warning about Crime in the Bahamasat ail times. If you are threatened by robbers, stay calm and do not resist. Home invasions are also of concern in Nassau."

The government also warned that "sexual assaults are on the rise in Nassau." Canada specifically warned that "there have been reports of jet-ski operators assaulting their clients in New Providence and Paradise Islands".

Two months ago the Nassau Guardian reported that a Bahamian taxi cab driver was arrested on charges that he raped a US woman visiting Nassau. 

Nassau’s Tribune newspaper published an article in September 2014 about the last Canadian crime warning for the Bahamas. The US government, through the State Department and the US Embassy, has issued numerous warnings about crime in Nassau affecting cruise passengers and tourists.

We have written frequently about the high incidents of murder and armed robbery in Nassau (New Providence). Last year, the country experienced a record number of murders. The murder rate in the Bahamas is far more than 30 per 100,00, compared to the U,S, per capita rate or around 4.5 per 100,000.

We have also written about Canadians residents and citizens becoming victims of horrific violent crimes in the Bahamas. You can read a few of our articles here and here.

Many cruise passengers chose to decide to stay on their cruise ships while in the port of Nassau.

June 9, 2016 Update:  The Nassau Tribune covered the Canadian travel advisory.  The Bahama Journal quoted the leader of the opposition party, Dr. Hubert Minnis, saying:

"“Record high murder rates, and countless stories of the latest violent crime dominating the front page of our papers have had a chilling effect on the entire country and it continues to bleed out beyond our islands. As horrific as the crime rate has become, what’s more astounding is the lack of action from the Government.” 

Photo credit: Tribune newspaper

Celebrity ReflectionThe Times of Malta reports that a 20 year old passenger from Scotland was charged today with raping a woman who he met on a cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection.

The newspaper says that the man allegedly raped the woman on the Celebrity cruise ship a year ago today. The man also faces charges of holding the woman against her will and committing "violent indecent assault" on the woman.

The young man and woman were on the cruise with their families. The alleged rape took place after the woman had her drink spiked.

Celebrity / Royal Caribbean registered the Reflection in Malta. The police is Malta issued an "European Arrest Warrant" to bring the alleged assailant to court. This is an unusual case insofar as most flag states, like the Bahamas, never issue warrants or even try to prosecute crimes committed on cruise ships flying flags of convenience. 

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Photo Credit: Celebrity Reflection cruise ship by Moonik – own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Our firm represents a young crew member who was raped while she was unconscious aboard the Marina cruise ship operated by Oceania Cruises.

We usually do not write about cases we handle, but we are doing so only after the Oceania defense lawyers in Miami felt compelled to write an article about the case on their website.

The young woman (identified as Jane Doe in order to maintain her confidentiality as a victim) was found unconscious on the floor of her cabin by her roommate. The cruise ship doctor diagnosed anal tears and other signs of rape injuries. Oceania MarinaThe ship doctor did not permit the crew member to leave the ship (which was in the South Pacific) for medical rape-crisis psychotherapy or counseling. The crew member contracted herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV), and sustained substantial physical and mental injuries, due to the rape.

After Oceania refused to cooperate, we flew the rape victim to Miami, where the cruise line and hiring agent are located, in order for the cruise line to provide medical and psychological treatment within their network of doctors. We allege that Oceania refuses to provide the rape victim with ongoing and uninterrupted medical and therapy, as well as the “maintenance and cure” to which she is entitled as a crew member.

The defense attorneys explained on their web page that the case “stemmed from the crew member’s allegations that she was sexually assaulted by a fellow crew member. She filed suit against the defendants in Florida state court alleging Jones Act negligence, unseaworthiness, failure to provide medical treatment, failure to provide maintenance and cure, and failure to pay seaman wages. In addition to those claims, the crew member brought common law tort claims arising from the cruise line’s alleged conduct for false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, spoliation of evidence, invasion of privacy, and fraudulent misrepresentation.”

The federal judge ruled that all of the causes of action were subject to international arbitration and, as such, the case cannot be pursued in state court in Florida. The cruise line defense firm rejoiced in the decision, stating that “we invite you to contact us to discuss the ruling, its effect, or for other creative solutions to your legal issues.

Of course, this case is not remotely “solved.”

Next week we will proceed in the court-ordered arbitration process and will seek to bring this disturbing case to a hearing as soon as possible.

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Photo Credit: Jordandkatz licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Viking CinderellaAccording to a documentary on Swedish TV4 as discussed in the Finnish newspaper Uutiset, cruise ship violence in the Baltic has grown “exponentially.” 

36 women and girls were raped on Baltic cruise ships last year (2014), according to a report from another Finnish newspaper, HBL, covering the documentary. 

The reporters used  hidden cameras to document "violent, dangerous, drunken behavior by ship passengers" and a "lack of proper oversight by ship personnel." The documentary focused on three cruise ships, the Viking Line Cinderella (photo above), the Tallink Silja Galaxy and the Birkaline Birka.

The hidden cameras revealed fights between passengers and cruise staff ignoring young women so intoxicated they were nearly unconscious. Cruise lines were criticized for selling liquor to inebriated guests and allowing passengers to drink duty free liquor during the cruise. These problems were characterized as endemic and something something the cruise companies deny.

In 2008, there were 43 reported rapes on these cruise ships. Although the program suggested that violence is increasing, it appears that there have dozens of sexual assaults each year on cruise ship in the Baltic for the past decade.

 

Photo Credit: EnDumEn via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0 

HAL Rape LawsuitA lawsuit was filed against Holland America Line (HAL) in Seattle for the vicious attack unleashed by a HAL crew member on a young woman last year on HAL’s Nieuw Amsterdam.

The crew member is identified as Ketut Pujayasa, age 28. from Indonesia. He worked a stateroom attendant. He used a master key card to gain illegal entry into the victim’s cabin.

Pujayasa raped, beat, punched and strangled her and then tried to throw the woman from the balcony into the ocean in international waters. 

The attack, lasting over 45 minutes, was absolutely horrific.

I’m surprised that HAL permitted this case to be filed.  

Records show another passenger’s report of an overflowing toilet was tagged as a “high priority” by the ship’s front desk the night the woman was attacked, Calls from passengers concerned about the woman’s cries or help were deemed to be of a lower priority.

Permitting crew members (cabin attendants, room service attendants, etc,) a master key is a terrible idea. Rapes by such crew members have occurred in the past.

A Seattle newspaper covered the story. I was interviewed for the story. 

Photo Credit: SeattlePI

A Royal Caribbean crew member pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a cruise passenger last year, according to a New Jersey newspaper.

NJ.com reports that Karan Seechurn of Mauritius, an employee who worked aboard the Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas, pleaded guilty to one count of abusive sexual contact.

In December of last year, crew member Seechurm (a mini-bar attendant) used a master key while he Karan Seechurn Royal Caribbean Cruisewas off-duty to enter a woman’s cabin and molested the woman while she was sleeping. 

As we wrote last year, it’s a dangerous practice to give male cabin attendants or mini-bar attendants a master key to passenger cabins. Prior sexual assaults have occurred on Royal Caribbean ships under similar circumstances. Royal Caribbean touts the Quantum as the most technological advanced cruise ship on the high seas. It’s too bad that the cruise line didn’t use old school technology and deactivate the master keys and cards to passenger cabins after hours.

The crew member faces up to three years for the sexual abuse charge. The sentence seems quite light. Seechurn tried to prevent the woman from leaving her cabin and threatened her when she awoke.

Many of his co-employees came to his defense on social media last year and posted comments disparaging the victim. 

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Photo Credit: Karan Seechurn Google Plus Page

A newspaper in Malta reports that the Malta Police have issued what is described as an "European arrest warrant" for a Scottish man wanted for attempted rape after he assaulted a girl from England aboard the Celebrity Reflection cruise ship last summer.

The newspaper says that the incident happened last summer on the Reflection when the young British student’s beverage was spiked by a passenger from Scotland, who then "indecently assaulted her Celebrity Reflectionand tried to rape her." 

Royal Caribbean registered the Reflection in Malta, which is a island nation in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, in order to avoid U.S. taxes, labor and wages laws and safety regulations. Cruise lines routinely register their cruise ships in places like the Bahamas, Bermuda and Panama for tax avoidance purposes.

Because the incident took place in international waters, criminal proceedings must be instituted in Malta where the cruise ship is registered rather than in any of the ports of call or the victim’s home country.

When the girl returned with her family to the U.K., the British police interviewed her and collected evidence. But the law enforcement in Malta did not take steps to arrest the Scottish passenger. The victim retained a lawyer who contacted the newspaper in Malta after he had heard nothing from the Maltese local law enforcement authorities for six months. It sounds like the police in Malta issued an arrest warrant only after the local press placed pressure on them.

Registering a cruise ship in a rocky little island in the middle of nowhere creates a no man’s lands where it’s virtually impossible to arrest and prosecute a sexual predator. This is a common problem that a sexual assault victim on a cruise ship experiences. The police in places like the Bahamas and Panama (or Malta, Marshall Islands, Bermuda etc.) have no resources or interest in prosecuting rapists on cruise ships around the world. 

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Photo Credit: Cruise Critic

A newspaper in Sweden is reporting that police officers in Finland have questioned eight Swedish men about the allegations of a passenger that she was "gang raped" on a Viking Line ferry in Finnish waters over the weekend.

The alleged sexual attack took place on the Amorella, which is described as an overnight ferry sailing from Stockholm to the Finnish port of Turku on Saturday. 

The eight male passengers are accused of sexually assaulting the woman, age 45.  

Many passengers were intoxicated and unruly on the ferry during the crossing. One passenger is quoted saying that she saw the victim half dressed and sitting in a corridor "in a shocked state."

Other witnesses "were critical of the way guards took care of the woman, suggesting that they didn’t respond quickly enough or appear to show enough care or concern for her."

Amorella

Photo Credit: Jonas Bergsten – via Wikimedia Commons.