The FBI arrested a crew member working on a cruise ship sailing out of Bayonne, New Jersey for abusive sexual contact of a passenger after he allegedly snuck into her cabin while she was sleeping. 

According to a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in federal court in New Jersey, the federal government alleges that crew member KARAN SEECHURN violated Title 18, United States Code, Section 2244(a)(2). This statute defines as a crime to knowingly engage in sexual contact with an adult female including the intentional touching, directly and through the clothing, of the Karan Seechurn Quantum of the Seasgenitalia, without the victim’s permission, with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade . . . 

The arresting FBI officer’s investigation led to the filing of an affidavit which states in pertinent part: 

"On or about December 23, 2014, defendant KARAN SEECHURN was a male employee, on board a cruise ship, which embarked from Bayonne, New Jersey, traveled to the Bahamas, and disembarked in Bayonne, New Jersey on December 27, 2014.

Defendant KARAN SEECHURN was employed by the cruise line and was responsible for re-stocking the minibars located in passengers’ rooms. In order to conduct this duty, he was provided with a key that provided access to passengers’ rooms. On or about December 23, 2014, KARAN SEECHURN used this key to access passengers’ rooms when he was not authorized or permitted to do so.

On or about December 23, 2014, a female passenger (the “Victim”) was sleeping in her room aboard the cruise ship. While the Victim was asleep, defendant KARAN SEECHURN entered the Victim’s room without her knowledge and permission. The Victim awoke to find one of defendant KARAN SEECHURN’s hands touching her genitalia, she pushed him off her and she tried to leave the room, but he pulled her back and threatened to burn down the cruise ship if she told anyone."

The FBI agent didn’t identify the name of the cruise ship or cruise line. This is often done as a matter of professional courtesy by the FBI so as not to embarrass the cruise lines which often hire former FBI agents to work in the cruise lines’ security department. There are numerous news outlets referring only to an "unidentified" cruise ship.  

The only cruise ship calling on the ports at the times identified in the affidavit is Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, the Quantum of the Seas.  In addition, a search of the crew member’s name reveals that such a crew member works for Royal Caribbean and is from Mauritius. The Department of Justice’ press release says that the crew member is from Mauritius.

The crew member is scheduled to appear in Newark federal court today.

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.  

December 30, 2014 Update: Many crew members have reacted to this story by blaming the victim and feeling sorry for the alleged assailant. (see comments below and our our Facebook page).  They recklessly accuse the victim of lying or tricking the crew member or looking for a lawsuit. These type of outrageous, misogynous comments reflect cultural issues on cruise ships which breed an atmosphere of contempt for women passengers that leads to sexual assaults. The problem is that this dangerous attitude is displayed not just by low level crew members but by the male-dominated managers and supervisors who decide how the victim is treated after the assault and make decisions regarding whether to report the crime to the authorities.   

 

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Photo Credit: Facebook

Navigator of the SeasThe Jamaica Gleaner reports that 2 U.S. men aboard Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Sea, which docked in Falmouth Jamaica yesterday morning, are accused of raping a female passenger aboard the cruise ship.

The Gleaner says that the "men were accused of raping a female passenger who they were partying with the night before on the vessel."

The sexual assault reportedly occurred at 5:30 AM, yesterday morning, when the cruise ship was sailing approximately 50 miles outside Jamaican waters.

The Gleaner also says that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), with assistance from the Jamaican police, is investigating the incident.

It is less than clear what this means as the FBI typically does not travel to the Caribbean ports to investigate crimes like this. The typical situation is for the FBI to get involved only after the cruise ship returns to an U.S. port. Sometimes the victim will get off of the cruise ship at the next port and fly back to the U.S. in circumstances like this.

Sexual assaults are not infrequent on cruise ships, particularly given the tremendous amount of alcohol sold by the cruise lines.

The newspaper says that the Navigator will return to Galveston tomorrow, "where the accused will be processed."

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia / Bahnfrend

News accounts of violent crime against both tourists and residents in the Bahamas continue to be regularly published in the international and local press. 

David Jessop, the Managing Director of the Caribbean Council, has written insightful articles this year regarding the damage to the image of the Bahamas caused by articles in social media regarding such crime. He states that that the Bahamas, like other Caribbean islands, doesn’t have the social media skills necessary to promptly and effectively minimize damage to the country’s reputation when tourists become victims of violent criminal acts. I suggest reading his articles: Social Media and Managing Mitchell Nini Crime BahamasReputation published in January, and Reputational Damage published a few days ago in the Bahamas Tribune.

But how does the Bahamas manage its reputation when its newspapers are regularly filled with gruesome stories of violence virtually every day?

On April 30th the local newspapers in the Bahamas reported that a jury acquitted three Bahamian men in their 20’s of the "near-fatal stabbing" of a Canadian tourist, Mitchell Nini. Mr. Nini was stabbed 7 times in the chest, back and stomach when the thugs robbed a gold chain from Mr. Nini’s friend. 

I have written before that tourists injured during violent crimes in Nassau cannot find justice in the archaic Bahamian legal system, although the Bahamian tourist police seem effective in boarding cruise ships at the wharf and arresting U.S. citizens for small amounts of pot

I first learned of the acquittal of Mr. Nini’s attackers when his friends and family posted the news of the acquittal on Facebook and Twitter.  The articles posted by his mother on Twitter indicate that the three men confessed to the crime but later claimed that the police beat them into signing the confessions. 

The Canadian press published New Brunswick Man Warns of Traveling After Being Stabbed in Bahamas. The newspaper article shows a photo of Mr. Nini recovering from the vicious attack in the hospital while saying that tourists should stay clear of the island. He told the Global News "Whether you feel like you’re safe on the resort, as soon as you step off the resort you’re in a war zone.”

Mr. Nini’s reference to a "war" is appropriate.

Bahamian Prime Minister Perrie Christie told that Tribune newspaper last week that the government is "developing new crime fighting strategies to win the ‘war’ that they are fighting against the ‘hostile young men’ in the capital."

Meanwhile, Democratic National Alliance (DNA) leader Branville McCartney made the news stating that he does not feel safe given the ongoing scourge of crime in the Bahamas. He told the Tribune “I don’t feel safe in this country . . . We live in paradise, but we are paralysed by fear. We are in prison in our own homes because of the criminal element running amuck in this country.”

There is good reason for even the politicians to be afraid of crime in Nassau. In December, the Acting Prime Minister Philip Davis was robbed at gunpoint. Then in January a police officer assigned to guard a residence of the Prime Minister Christie was arrested on suspicion of stealing a television at the residence. The latter is a petty crime I know, but you have to shake your head when the bad guys are bold enough to stick up the Acting Prime Minister and the police are stealing from the Prime Minister.

What’s the response from the Bahamas to these and many other stories about trouble in paradise?  I have received many comments from the citizens of the Bahamas chastising me for suggesting that the out-of-control crime in Nassau also exists throughout the many islands which make up the country. But there are too many stories about crime against tourists outside of Nassau as well.

Last month Edgar George Dart, a 56-year-old British citizen who lived in Canada, was shot and killed and slowly died in front of his family after three masked intruders burst into his mother’s home in Freeport. And a 14 year-old U.S. girl was raped on one of the out islands just ten days ago.   

Violent crime is a part of life in Nassau. Dangerous young men with knives and guns are menacing the residents and tourists alike. Do the families on Carnival, Disney and Royal Caribbean cruise ships know that a war is raging in Nassau and even the top politicians in the Bahamas are afraid of crime and have been victimized themselves? How can a country even attempt to manage its reputation as a paradise for tourists when the local residents are paralyzed by fear? 

Watch the video of Mr. Nini below: 

Consider reading: Bahamas Responds to Making the List of Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations: "The Bahamas Is Safe"

Bahamas Weekly: The Bahamas – Still Paralyzed by Fear: "Over the past two weeks, newspaper headlines have recounted horrific stories of violence, murder and mayhem which have gripped communities here in New Providence and on Grand Bahama Island; cementing crime and the fear of crime as one of the country’s most pressing national issues."

Have a thought? Leave a message below or join the discussion on Facebook.

Photo Credit: Global News

Inside Edition aired a video this week about a 28 year old woman who alleges that two crew members raped her during a Carnival cruise aboard the Victory last year.

The young woman told Inside Edition that Carnival served her a lot of alcohol and she has no recollection of how she ended up in the crew quarters. She indicates that once in the crew members’ cabin, the two Carnival employees held her down and raped her repeatedly. She feared that the men were going to throw her overboard. 

As is the situation with most alleged crimes on the high seas, the FBI declined to prosecute. Our experience with the FBI is that federal agents (unlike state prosecutors) typically decline to pursue Carnival Cruise Sexual Assaulta prosecution whenever alcohol is involved. The irony, of course, is that Carnival makes hundreds of millions of dollars in alcohol sales each year. Alcohol is often involved in rape crimes on cruise ships. 

Inside Edition later sent an undercover video crew aboard another Carnival cruise ship, the Fascination, to determine whether Carnival employees were fraternizing with the female passengers. Such conduct is supposedly prohibited by Carnival’s policies, but things are often quite different on the high seas than what is written in the rule books.

During a four day cruise to the Bahamas, two uniformed officers were reportedly observed cruising in the ship’s main bar. They even flirted with one of the Inside Edition employees and asking her to try their alcoholic drinks.

The Inside Edition crew later saw the two officers with their white uniforms in the ship’s disco. The officers reportedly were dirty dancing with 20-year-old twins, making out with the passengers, and standing by the girls’ cabins in the passenger area. 

Carnival responded to the expose by stating “the safety of our guests and crew is our foremost priority." 

The program disclosed that there have been more than 150 reported allegations of rape and sexual assault aboard cruise ships that visit U.S. ports since 2010. 

 

Photo and story credit: Inside Edition  

Today CNN covered the story of the violent sexual attack by Holland America Line crew member Ketut Pujayasa on a 31 year old passenger aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam

The 28 year old Indonesian crew member worked as a cabin attendant and used the master key card to gain access to the woman’s cabin. He reportedly sexually assaulted, beat and choked the woman, and then tried to throw her overboard. Attacks against women in their cruise cabins have happened before.

Read our article we posted this morning: Who’s the Most Likely Sexual Predator on a Cruise Ship? A Male Cabin Attendant with a Master Key Card.

CNN interviewed me in the video:

 

http://www.cnn.com/video/api/embed.html#/video/bestoftv/2014/02/19/cruise-ship-attack-blackwell-newday.cnn

Are sexual crimes committed by cabin attendants against women in their cruise ship cabins “shocking?”

If you define “shocking” as “disturbing” or “upsetting,” of course.

But if you define “shocking” as “unforeseeable” or “unpredictable,” not at all. Who’s the most likely sexual predator on a cruise ship?  A male cabin attendant. What’s the most likely location of a sexual assault? A passenger’s cabin. What’s the most likely way that a cabin attendant gets into the passenger cabin?  By using the master key card.

99% of cabin attendants are honest, law-abiding and hard-working men and women from around the world who are trying to support their families back home. But in our experience, the majority of sexual assaults on ships have been committed by male attendants who enter the passenger cabins and attack women and children.

Over four years ago, I wrote that “in our experience, the crew member most likely to harass or assault a passenger is a male cabin attendant in his late 20’s or early 30’s.” I warned women to be on the Nieuw Amsterdam Cruise Ship outlook of a male cabin attendant who is “most likely to use his pass key and enter a woman’s cabin at night.

After the vicious attack by HAL cabin attendant Ketut Pujayasa, age 28, against the passenger on the Nieuw Amsterdam, Holland America Line issued a PR statement stating that that it was shocked” by the crime.  But the choice of the word “shock” is intended by the HAL lawyers and risk management department to suggest that the crime was unforeseeable and, as such, it can’t be liable for the rape.

The word is also intended to convey to the public that things like this just don’t happen on HAL cruises. Saying the crime is “rare” is the favorite cruise line defense. Better yet, the cruise lines say that sexual assault is so rare and unpredictable that it’s just “shocking.”

A couple of years ago, a young college student we represented was raped by a cabin attendant after the cruise ship sailed to Nassau. The cabin attendant who attacked her was in his late 20’s. He entered the young girl’s cabin when she was asleep by using his key card after hours.

The young woman’s case was presented to our U.S. Congress. The Congressmen and Congresswomen were asked the rhetorical question why would a cruise line staff a woman’s cabin with a male cabin attendant in his 20’s? Why would a cruise line permit such a cabin attendant have a master key card that would permit him to enter a woman’s cabin 24 hours a day?  Why didn’t the cruise Key Card Cruise Ship Cabin Doorassign women cabin attendants to clean women’s cabins? Why didn’t the cruise line deactivate the cabin attendant’s key card after hours?

Simple steps like these were suggested long ago as a way for the cruise lines to avoid an entirely predictable crime like this. But instead of learning a lesson, the cruise lines engaged in its usual PR statements: “crime is rare” or “our employees are carefully vetted” or “the safety of our passengers is our highest priority” or other PR poppycock.

So what did the woman staying in her cabin on Nieuw Amsterdam have to contend with on Valentine’s Day? A male cabin attendant in his late 20’s, responsible for a woman’s cabin, who had access to a master key card.

It was a disaster waiting to happen.

Little did the victim know.

When will the cruise lines take the key cards away from the male cabin attendants?  When will the cruise lines warn their female guests that crimes like this have occurred over and over?

Do we really have to listen to cruise companies like HAL pretend that they are “shocked?”

 

Photo Credit:

Top: AP Photo/Marianne Armshaw via CTV

Bottom: CNN New Day

HAL Sexual AssaultThe Sun Sentinel reports today that a Holland America Line (HAL) crew member sexually assaulted and then tried to throw a woman from her balcony.

Reporter Paula McMahon writes that the crime occurred aboard the HAL 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.

The article describes that the crew member "appeared with no warning inside the passenger’s darkened stateroom in the middle of the night, raped, beat, punched and strangled her and then tried to throw her from the balcony into the ocean in international waters somewhere off the coast of Roatan, Honduras."

The attack was horrific. The newspaper states that the crew member struck the woman several times including using a laptop computer and a curling iron, and that he "used a phone cord and curling iron cord to try to silence her screams and yells for help."

The attack "went back and forth from her bed to the stateroom balcony and back into the room."

The criminal charges against the HAL crew included an account of another passenger who saw the victim when she ran out of her cabin, dressed only in a tank top that was covered in blood:

"The passenger also noted that [the victim] had a curling iron wrapped and tangled around her neck and/or hair. He also described [her] as having black eyes and visible bruising around her neck and shoulders. [The woman], fearing death was imminent, asked the passenger to relay to her family how much she loved them."

The 31 year-old woman was flown by air ambulance to a hospital in South Florida because of her severe injuries.

The crew member was booked into the Broward County jail. He claims that the rape and assault were revenge because he felt slighted.

We previously mentioned the incident in an article on February 15th: Crew Member Assaults Passenger Aboard HAL’s Nieuw Amsterdam During "Bare Necessities" Cruise

Our View: We have attended six Congressional hearings before the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate about crimes against passengers, There have been several hearings where other women have described the danger of permitting male cabin attendants to have access to master key cards for the passengers’ cabins. There is no good reason to permit male cabin attendants to be responsible for cabins where there are single women or children. Their key cards must be deactivated after working hours.

Photo: Ketut Pujayasa – Sun Sentinel / Broward County Sheriff’s Office 

Holland america Line Bare NecessitiesCruise Critic reports that a Holland America Line (HAL) crew member assaulted a woman aboard HAL’s Nieuw Amsterdam yesterday.

According to Cruise Critic, HAL released the following statement:

"A 31-year-old female U.S. citizen on board ms Nieuw Amsterdam was assaulted by a crewmember in her cabin early this morning. The female guest was cared for in the ship’s hospital and was in stable condition prior to disembarking the ship today in Roatan, Honduras, for air transfer back to the U.S. Holland America Line is providing full support to the woman. We are shocked and deeply saddened by this incident. The safety of our guests is our utmost priority.

The crewmember was placed under guard where he will remain until remanded to authorities. The FBI and other appropriate authorities were notified. A thorough investigation is in progress.

The ship is on a seven-day Western Caribbean cruise which departed on Feb. 9, sailing roundtrip Fort Lauderdale."

Holland America Line - Bare NecessitiesCruise Critic says that the cruise was organized by "Bare Necessities" which is a nude cruise travel company.

We last wrote about "Bare Necessities" when the Royal Caribbean cruise line kicked off a disabled cruise passenger from its cruise ship during a Bare Necessities cruise.

We have attended six Congressional hearing where crimes against cruise passengers have been discussed. Cruise lines will suggest that such incidents are "rare" but sexual assaults occur more often than companies like HAL will admit.

The HAL cruise ship returns to port in South Florida tomorrow. Will the FBI arrest the crew member?

February 18 2014 Update: HAL crew member held without bail after raping passenger and trying to throw her overboard.

 

Photo Images Credit: Bare Necessities

Read the Sun Sentinel data base of cruise lines assaults, including HAL.

There has been a great deal of debate over the past decade regarding the amount of crime which occurs on cruise ships. The cruise industry claims that crime is "rare," whereas at least one cruise expert who testified before Congress stated that the rate of crime on cruise ships is twice that of crime ashore.

Of course one crime is too many if it affects you or your family. 

The most likely crime on cruise ships is sexual assault.  The most likely victim is a woman or child aboard the ship as a passenger. And the most likely perpetrator is a crew member.  

Strict Liability: Cruise lines are strictly liable to pay compensation when a crew member sexually assaults a passenger. There is no need to have to prove that the cruise line knew that the ship employee Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Crimehad a record of assaulting other passengers and/or that the cruise ship was negligent in failing to warn the passenger of the danger of being attacked on the ship. If the crew member rapes a passenger, then the cruise line is vicariously liable.

Our firm has education and substantial experience to handle maritime sexual assault lawsuits against the major cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise lines.

Education:  Jim Walker focused on maritime law at Tulane University School of Law. He studied all of the maritime law personal injury courses and graduated in 1983.  He has practiced maritime law for 30 years.

Experience:  The firm has handled sexual assault cases against Carnival, Celebrity, Cunard, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean where women and children have been victimized on cruise ships. Three of our clients have testified before the U.S. Congress about being sexually assaulted during cruises. We have attended eight Congressional hearings about issues regarding the safety of cruise ship passengers.

Reputation:  Jim Walker has referred to as a "Prominent Private Practice Maritime Attorney" by Fox News; a "Top Maritime Lawyer" by the ABA Journal; a "Premier Lawyer for Cruise Passengers" by Reuters; a "Top Cruise Lawyer" by USA Today; and a "Leading Miami Attorney" by Newsweek Magazine. Read "about Jim Walker" for further details.

Results: We have obtained compensation for victims in a wide variety of cruise ship rape, sexual assault, and molestation cases, including the following recoveries: over $3,000,000, $2,500,000, $1,500,000, $900,000, $650,000, $500,000, $385,000, $250,000, and $115,000. (Please note that all cases are unique. These results may or may not reflect the compensation obtainable in your case).

Clients: We have represented women from ages 18 to 45 and parents of children from age 3 to 17. We have represented over 75 women and children sexually assaulted on cruise ships.

Types and Locations of Sexual Assaults:  Cases we handled include a variety of cruise ship employees – staff captain, ship doctor, chief engineer, hotel director, security guard, cabin attendant, bartender, cleaner, and child supervisor. The rapes and molestation cases occurred in various locations on the cruise ship. The most common locations are passenger cabins, storage rooms, and crew bathrooms.

We have studied the problem of cruise ship crimes extensively.  Consider reading:

Sexual Perverts & Pedophiles on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships

Rape of 15 Year Old Girl Is Latest Crime Against Children on Carnival Cruises

Another Child Porn Bust, This Time on Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas

How safe is a cruise? Even after new law, it’s hard to say

If you have a question about cruise ship crimes, and in particular sexual assault during cruises, please call our office at (305) 995 5300. or email me directly at jim@cruiselaw.com.

A local CBS station in Alabama reports that since January 2011, the U.S. Coast Guard publicly reported only 31 crimes aboard cruise ships. However, after Senator Rockefeller placed pressure on the cruise industry, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian on Thursday reported 94 crimes and 20 crimes, respectively, between October 2010 and the end of June of this year. These figures do not include Carnival. 

Is this a complete list of crimes? No. Extracting honest crimes statistics from the cruise industry is a long process. 

The news station states that the most common crime allegations are rape and sexual assault, followed by thefts.  

 

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