A United States District Court in Mobile, Alabama charged a Carnival cruise passenger with assault pursuant to a federal statute, 28 U.S.C. 113.

Jenetrice Williams of Birmingham, Alabama was taking a cruise on the Carnival Fantasy on August 19, 2018 when she allegedly “pulled a knife during an altercation with her boyfriend, Michael Carter.”

According to the probable cause affidavit, signed by an investigating police officer,  Ms. Williams “did produce a knife during an argument with her boyfriend. The defendant had a steak knife in her purse that she claims she brought from home and knowingly brought it on the cruise ship Carnival Fantasy.” She allegedly “purposely slashed / stabbed at the victim causing cuts to the victim’s left hand and right leg. The defendant was restrained by ship security.”

Comments posted on our Facebook page raised predictable questions:

  • How was it possible to sneak a knife past Carnival’s “highly trained security staff”?!?
  • And I can’t bring my water with me anymore, WTF?

Ms. William’s boyfriend left a comment on Facebook with a photo of him and his girlfriend only a few days before being knifed, stating “Coolin on the ship. No matter what enjoy life.”

Carnival Cruise Lines has experienced a number of deadly “domestic disturbances” in the past.  Last month, a 53 year-old man was arrested for murdering his girlfriend on the Carnival Elation.

The federal court records indicate that Ms Williams has been ordered to appear at a hearing which is scheduled for  October 10, 2018.

Photo Credit: Violation notice and probable cause affidavit – U.S. District Court, Southern District Alabama, Mobile, Alabama.

Pirates - Cruise ShipRecently, there have been a number of articles published about preparing cruise ships for attacks by pirates as the ships pass through the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb into and out of the Gulf of Aden.

Cruise blogger Danielle Fear published, via Cruise Critic, an article yesterday titled Blackout on Black Watch: Pirates, Razor Wire and Water Cannons on a Fred. Olsen Cruise. Ms. Fear is currently sailing on the 108-night “Wonders of the World” cruise onboard Fred. Olsen’s Black Watch around the “horn of Africa through the Red Sea to the Suez Canal, where piracy is still rampant and razor wire is added to the handrails ….” It is interesting to read her first hand account of security teams boarding the ship to prepare the passengers for pirates attacks as the ships begins to pass Somalia and Yemen. Although she states that “it is rare for them to approach cruise ships,” Mr. Fear included a photo of razor wire on the rails along the entire length of the Promenade Deck installed to act as a deterrent to pirates boarding the ship.

The passengers reportedly are required to attend mandatory “safe haven” drills to learn “where to go and what to do” in the event of a pirate attack.

A tabloid newspaper published an article earlier in the week describing how “a “crack team” boarded the Queen Mary 2 as it sailed through the “treacherous” Gulf of Aden. It appears that the Queen Mary 2 wasn’t lined with barb wire, like the Black Watch, but the article mentioned that it was equipped with water cannons and sonic devices to keep the pirates at bay.

These articles remind me of a photograph in an article in the Telegraph eight years ago about the Discovery cruise ship, operated by Discover the World cruise line, which reportedly confronted a Cruise Ship - Pirate - Terrorism Somali speedboat as the ship sailed from Mombasa towards the Seychelles Islands. The ship was equipped with “rolls of razor wire all over the stern rail (and) bundles of logs to be released to fall on any craft attaching itself to our hull.”

Look at the photo closely and you will notice barb wire and logs tied below the rails as well as a bundle of logs hoisted near the starboard/stern, positioned to be dropped on any skiffs which approach the cruise ship.

You can see “vessel hardening tactics” by a security firm here.

Barb wire, water cannons and sonic devices may work against pirates, but I would be more concerned with Houthi rebel missiles while attempting to pass Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb . . .

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Photo credits: Pirates Attacking the Seabourn Spirit off the coast of Somalia – AP via Telegraph; Discovery cruise ship -Richard Snailham via Telegraph

Celebrity ConstellationNewspapers in Italy are reporting that the local police in Salerno, Italy arrested a 31 year-old Jamaican, man employed as a cook in the galley of the Celebrity cruise ship, the Constellation, for “attempted murder aggravated by petty reasons.”

The cook, identified only as “OG,” attacked a 38 year-old Indian, head chef, with what is described as a “big knife,” according to the L’Unione Sarda newspaper. The cook stabbed the chef in the stomach, seriously injuring him and requiring emergency medical treatment at the the Salerno hospital where the chef was admitted in critical condition.

The newspapers say that the cook started his shift at 5 A.M. and reportedly was already in a state of alcoholic intoxication. The cook apparently took offense to the chef’s instructions.

Pursuant to maritime law, the act of a crew member attacking another crew member with a dangerous weapon renders the ship “unseaworthy” and creates strict liability on behalf of the maritime employer for the attack.

Photo credit: Megadri CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

June 1 2016 Update: Maritime Executive covers the story and includes a photo of the knife(s) allegedly used in the attack.  (Photo credit: Italian Maritime Border Police via Maritime Executive)

Cook knifes chef on Celebrity Constellation

Vision of the SeasA couple of days ago, we posted an article about cruise passengers who were robbed while visiting the Altun Ha Maya ruins site in Belize. During this incident, two cruise passengers were reportedly robbed of a gold necklace and $450 in cash by two men, one with a machete and one with a handgun.

A local television station said that "the tourism police officers were lax in carrying out their duties. When the last tourist bus left, so did the tourism police, although the site had not been closed."    

But the Ministry of Culture later issued a press release saying "there was adequate police and security presence at the Archeological Site."

Today, we were notified by a passenger, wishing to stay anonymous, who visited Belize City on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Vision of the Seas, and told us that her husband had been physically assaulted and battered in an apparent robbery attempt on March 8th after their cruise ship docked at the Tourism Village. She indicated that after a ten minute walk from the port on Gabourel Lane, she and her husband ate luch and began to return to the ship.  A local man "came up from behind with a rifle and said he was going to kill us if he did not get my bag."  Here is her account:

"We were victims of an attempted armed robbery on Tuesday, March 8, 2016 near the Museum of Belize after lunch at Senor Coconuts while walking back to port. My husband was hit on the head with the barrel of a rifle and sustained injury to the head (requiring stitches) and bruises on the arm and hand and I also sustained scratches and bruises. Luckily, there was a women nearby who scared him off. The police never arrived until we were at the hospital. We were driven there by a couple in the area. We were treated at the hospital and driven back to port. We were on RC Vision of the Seas. It is our understanding there is little police presence because they are underfunded and undermaned. This is a very dangerous place filled with crime and cruise ship visitors are not advised of this by the ships. I was really concerned because of all the young college girls on the ship. Do not go out of Tourism Village. The city of Belize is very unsafe."

The passenger told me "I want people to know if it weren’t for two kind women, I don’t know what more could of happened . . . There were three cruise ships in port that day, probably over 3,000 people. The cruise ships need to warn you, but they don’t. We learned the hard way."

Photo credit: ZipIt at English Wikipedia transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons

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

Security failed the tourists from the Costa and MSC cruise ships visiting Tunisia last week. The result: 17 dead cruise passengers and two dozen injured.

Tunisia acknowledges it. The risk of jihadists attacking tourists was readily foreseeable. Security analysts and security forces blew it.

In response to this failure, Tunisia fired the country’s leading security experts as well as high ranking police officers.

Tunis Terror Attack CruiseTwo newspapers covered the firings.

Al Jazeera  published Six Tunisia Police Chiefs Dismissed Over Museum Attack. The article explains that Tunisia’s prime minister Habas Essid fired six police commanders, including those in charge of tourist security and intelligence teams. In addition, a police officer working at the museum was arrested for abandoning his post during the attack. Four other armed police officers "were having coffees and a snack" when terrorists struck the museum. 

The Daily News published Tunisia Fires 5 Top Security Officials in Bardo Museum Attack Backlash. The article pointed out that the ousted officials include the director of Tunisia’s tourist police and the police chief for the neighborhood around the Bardo Museum. The decision was reportedly made after the prime minister visited the neighborhood of the attack and observed security problems. Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi reportedly also criticized security failures around last week’s attack.

But what about the security chief at Costa and MSC, including ship security officers and fleet-wide security directors? Why weren’t they fired? They are just as responsible for the security failure. The cruise lines picked the port and sailed their guests into danger without any security protection or warnings. The cruise industry is not only refusing to take any responsibility for the massacre but the spokesperson for the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) is boasting that "cruise ships are a safe and secure place for our guests in the rare event of a shore side incident."

MSC Cruises USA CEO Rick Sasso told Travel Pulse "There was no hint of terrorism or uncertainty in Tunisia before the attack . . . There are a zillion ports around the world, and we follow all of them. . . There was nothing going on there that indicated this should’ve been a concern."

I am amazed how clueless this cruise executive sounds. Tunisian soldiers were engaged in ongoing battles against Al Qaeda, there were prior suicides bombers which targeted hotels and museum attacks which targeted tourists. The UK issued a prior warning of a terrorist attack on tourist sites and the US repeatedly urged caution. ISIS was recruiting young men from mosques in Tunis to be trained and radicalized in Libya.  And MSC sails in like everything is fine.   

Tunisia should be commended for taking responsibility and cleaning house.

It’s a shame that the PR department at CLIA and the CEO of MSC are engaged in their usual irresponsible shenanigans and gobbledygook.  

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Photo Credit: AFP/Getty via DailyMail

USS Cole AttackFor the past couple of years I’ve been troubled by the increasing violence in North Africa and the Middle East and the unprecedented nature of the cruelty of jihadist terrorists who have beheaded and burned "infidels" alive. I have worried about various scenarios where cruise passengers are at risk of attack.

We already know that al Qaeda has planned to seize cruise ships and execute passengers.

 Our readers have sent us various scenarios of how cruise passengers are at risk on the high seas and in ports of call. 

A terrorist fires a RPG into a cruise ship: Libya is awash in weapons after Colonel Muammar Gadaffi was killed and lost control of the country. Automatic weapons, rocket propelled grenades (RPG’s), mortars, bazookas, and anti-aircraft guns have fallen into the hands of violent religious fanatics. The two Tunisian terrorists killed during the attack on Costa and MSC cruise passengers were trained in Libya. ISIS and Al Qaeda, of course, have access to weapons, including RPG’s, throughout the Middle East.

Think it’s far fetched? Think again. Al Qaeda has already used this weapon to attack tankers in the Middle East. In the video below, you can see the terrorists fire their weapons, yell Allah Akbar ("God is Great") and run off into the bushes. Cruise ships are easy targets, over three football fields long and 15 stories high, moving at only a few knots an hours while entering and leaving ports. A RPG would slice though the aluminum hull like butter and cause fire, damage, injuries and death. They’re sitting ducks without military escorts. 

A USS Cole-style kamikaze attack on a cruise ship:  Remember the U.S.S. Cole? 17 service men USS Cole Attackand women were murdered when suicide bombers rammed their speed boat loaded with explosives into the U.S. navy ship. Such an attack during a fueling operation while a fuel barge is alongside a cruise ship would result in a tremendous explosion with many hundreds of deaths.

Blowing up a tour excursion bus:There have been many tour buses filled with tourists which terrorists have attacked over the years. A bus with Korean tourists was exploded in Egypt last year. The saying "safety in numbers" doesn’t apply to cruise passengers; its more likely to make you a target when you come off of a cruise ship and board a bus with fifty other passengers. You can see what a terrorist attack on a bus looks like in the video below.

Al Qaeda embeds themselves as crew members or passengers: After 9/11 and the attack on the twin towers, my office received a call from an agitated U.S. crew member (a musician). He was upset that other crew members on a U.S based cruise ship which sailed into Miami were literally cheering while watching televised images of the death and destruction. Some cruise lines boast that their crew come from 60 different countries. This may well be an asset in most circumstances but it underscores the fact that the crew members have loyalties to other countries and other causes than those shared by U.S. Tourist Bus Attackpassengers.

A reader of my recent article for Yahoo Travel titled Is Cruising Safe? A Chilling Look at an Industry Under Siege offered this scenario:

". . . This isn’t about the ports and the safety of them. A terrorist could be among you at the buffet, laying by the pool, playing slots, drinking at the bar … they lay in wait. They’re completely legitimate looking like one of us. 50 of them could board a ship as a passenger with a clean record. They’ve been trained in other countries. They’ve lived in the countries they’re in for years and they lay in wait anticipating their marching orders. Then three days into the cruise, they take over the ship and start killing passengers . . . And that’s how it’ll go down."

The cruise industry needs to wake up. Tunis was preventable. Greater attention to Al Qaeda and ISIS is necessary to avoid a similar if not worse attack on innocent passengers. Dangerous ports need to be avoided. In the past, Princess Cruises used security teams / police to accompany tour bus excursions in Egypt. Maritime security teams are also required in foreign ports of call to address the risk of waterborne attacks. Cruise lines are overflowing with cash. The cruise industry collects around $40 billion a year, pay their crew members peanuts and doesn’t pay U.S. taxes. The industry needs to start investing some of those tens of millions of dollars into substantial security to keep their guests safe. 

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Photo Credit: USS Cole diagram – Reuters; bus explosion – AP via Yahoo Travel 

The cruise industry’s favorite publication, Travel Weekly, just published an article titled After Tunis attack, Impact on Cruise Sales Pondered

The article speculates whether cruise sales will drop following the Islamic State’s massacre of cruise passenger’s in Tunis last week. 

In the last couple of years, first quarter "wave" sales were negatively impacted by the Costa Concordia disaster in January 2012 and the Carnival Triumph "poop cruise" in February 2013. The article Tunis Tunisia Terrorsuggests that whereas the sinking and engine room fire could arguably be blamed on the cruise lines, the public is not likely to fault the cruise lines for the terror attack last week.

I disagree with that premise. Costa and MSC sailed into a country with a history of fighting between Tunisian solders and Al Qaeda resulting in dozen of soldiers killed and wounded over the last two years. Tunisian men have been recruited to train in ISIS camps in Libya. There had been prior attacks against a popular museum in Tunisia and a suicide bomber blew himself up in a hotel frequented by tourists. What did the cruise lines think would happen after Tunisians were radicalized and trained to use automatic weapons in Libya and then returned home? 

The public can easily conclude that the cruise lines sailed their guests into harm’s way without warnings or any thought of providing security for the excursion buses.

But the cruise supporters are out in full force spinning the story to exculpate the cruise lines. 

Bud Darr, a mouthpiece for the Cruise Line International association (CLIA), argues that the terror attack against cruise passengers "was not targeted at cruise passengers."

Another CLIA representative said: "Cruise ships are a safe and secure place for our guests in the rare event of a shore side incident."  

The editor of Cruise Week, Mike Driscoll, spun the attack-on-cruise-passengers as not a "black eye" for cruising "because it’s not the cruise lines’ fault, and it didn’t happen on a ship." 

Travel Weekly interviewed a travel agent who said “I think we’re all keeping our fingers crossed that this will not have a negative impact.”

Travel Weekly published statements from the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) who claims that "cruise lines have worked for many years with security and law enforcement authorities around the world to ensure passenger safety." CLIA claims that it has procedures to provide “an immediate and effective response to any (security) incident.”

I don’t believe it for a second.

The day before the attack the cruise executives were salivating over expanding their markets into North Africa and making greater profits. Their minds were on money, not security.  

Costa and MSC were caught flat-footed in Tunis. 

A former cruise line security chief was highly critical of the absence of any security for the Costa and MSC cruise passengers.  

CLIA and Travel publications like Travel Weekly will continue issuing statements and publishing stories claiming that cruise passengers are safe and sound in North Africa and the Middle East. But the specter of dead passengers certainly will scare customers away and drive down cruise sales, especially in the Mediterranean. If the cruise industry is going to cross its fingers, it better be in the hope that ISIS doesn’t target a cruise ship. 

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

Photo Credit: International Business Times  

Cruising for Trouble As the death toll increases in Tunis, the former Director of Princess Cruises says that cruise security was lax and the cruise lines failed to assess the danger associated with sailing passengers into Tunis.

Commander Mark Gaouette told IHS Maritime that cruise security measures for passengers should have been stronger.

"I believe the risk management process failed to properly assess the extremely volatile situation in North Africa," he said.

". . . at a minimum, more security should have been required for that excursion in the form of armed police or military escort, and armed presence at the museum itself."

Commander Gaouette is the author of "Cruising for Trouble: Cruise Ships as Soft Targets for Pirates, Terrorists and Common Criminals."   

The death and injury tally ranges around 17 dead and 20 to 25 passengers injured.

I remain amazed that the Costa captain piloted the Costa Fascinosa out of the port in Tunis and left 13 passengers behind, not knowing whether they were dead or injured. I can’t help but think of Costa Captain Schettino leaving passengers behind as he fled the sinking Concordia in Giglio. Do I have this wrong? To give the Fascinosa captain the benefit of the doubt, I can only assume that he may have been concerned that terrorists might attack the ship itself and slam RPG’s into it’s hull or gun their way up the gangway and look for hostages. In that sense, maybe it was prudent to escape the port as soon as possible, although it begs the question why Costa was there in the first place.    

MSC Cruises TunisYahoo Travel published an article titled How the Cruise Industry is Coping with ISIS Attacks on Passengers in Tunisia by Sid Lipsey / @sidlipsey. It includes comments which I made last month about the threat of terrorism in Tunis against cruise passengers. 

Why any cruise line would sail into Tunis is beyond me. In 2013 and 2014, many dozens of Tunisian soldiers were killed and even more injured in deadly attacks perpetrated by al-Qaeda and other Islamic fighters, according to an article titled Terror and Politics in Tunisia in the publication World Affairs. Tunisia is a major recruiting ground for ISIS. Recruits are trained in Iraq, Syria or Libya and then return to Tunisia radicalized.    

Costa and MSC have stated that they will not call on Tunisia in the foreseeable future. To me that’s like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, as the saying goes. Whether these cruise ships will actually stay away remains to be seen. We have seen cruise lines announce with great fanfare that they are leaving a Caribbean port after a cruise passenger or employee has been killed ashore. They always return after the media attention dies down.

If you have a comment, please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

March 21 2015 Update: Is Cruising Safe? A Chilling Look at an Industry Under Seige – an article I wrote for Yahoo Travel.

 

Photo Credit: International Business Times 

 

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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.