cruise vessel security and safety act

Sexual Assault Royal CaribbeanSurveillance video on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas shows an attack on a 13 year old boy by two adult passengers.

The men, identified by local Miami news station NBC 4 as Martinez and Lawson, corner the teenager in the ship’s library, before pinning him against the bookcase. The boy had apparently made an inappropriate comment earlier during the cruise to to Lawson’s daughter (Martinez’s niece).

In retaliation, the men confronted the minor, with Martinez taking off his shirt and sexually assaulting the minor, according to the article titled Teen’s Assault on Cruise Ship Caught on Surveillance Camera.

The minor’s mother reportedly said about the attack on her son: “He physically punched him, choked him, smothered his face in the pillow, pulled his clothes off, was on top of my son.”

The Sun Sentinel covered the disturbing story shortly after it occurred back in January of 2016.

The family of the boy is represented by another maritime lawyer here in Miami.

Royal Caribbean said “the ship’s crew has no duty to monitor the cameras . . . ”

A criminal judge sentenced Martinez to three years in prison for lewd and lascivious behavior with a child under 16, and sentenced Lawson to two years in prison sentence for child abuse.

The article mentions that in 2016-2017, 69 percent of crimes committed on board cruise ships were sexual assaults. The chairman of the International Cruise Victims Association (ICV), Ken Carver, told NBC 4 that “a third of all the rapes on cruise ships are on minors, if you can believe that.” You can read the 2013 Congressional cruise crime report with this alarming statistic here.

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

Photo credit: Broward Country Sheriff’s Office via Sun Sentinel; video credit: NBC 4.

Yesterday, a local newspaper in Louisiana, KLFY, interviewed the mother of missing cruise passenger Juwanna Brooks who disappeared from the Carnival Triumph on January 21st, as the cruise ship was sailing toward Cozumel after departing from New Orleans the previous day.  

The cruise to Mexico, a Christmas present from her husband, was Ms. Brook’s first cruise.  

It is a painful interview to watch as the mother states that she hoped that her daughter, who she describes as a wonderful daughter, mother and grandmother, would be located and returned to her, "one way or the other."

She also described that social media accounts of her daughter’s disappearance was "downright cruel."

She is absolutely right about that. There are so many outrageously mean and nasty people on Facebook that the popular page on Facebook of Carnival cruise fans, called Carnival Cruisers…Past, Present, Future (CCPPF), states that it prohibits any "rude, hateful, snarky, ugly comments" about man overboard situations and removes such comments. Its posting about this latest overboard case welcomes "thoughts, prayers, and comfort for the family" and says:

"Sadly, there has been a man overboard ("man overboard" is a general term and not gender specific. In this case, the victim is a woman) on Carnival Triumph. When something like this happens , it tends to bring out the worst in some of our members and it is always shocking to me some of the mean cruel things people can say regarding such a tragedy regarding another human being."

I had to implement a similar policy on our Facebook page over the years after people who read this blog’s articles felt compelled to immediately insult the people who disappear during cruises as "stupid.*" 

People should not disappear from a cruise ship. We attended all of the hearings leading up to the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) and listened to members of Congress being educated by the grieving families of cruise passengers who were lost at sea, as well as the cruise industry trying to downplay the issue. The cruise line representatives accurately stated that many of the passengers intentionally went overboard and/or engaged in reckless conduct (i.e., intoxication) which often resulted in them going overboard. But at the end of the day, Congress passed legislation requiring cruise lines to install man overboard (MOB) technology, whenever feasible, to automatically detect whenever someone goes over the rails. MOB systems need to be installed whether the person goes overboard due to carelessness or even suicide. 

After all, the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as the coast guards of foreign countries, none of which are reimbursed by the cruise lines for any sevices provided to the public, spend millions of dollars responding to the dozens of over-boards which occur each year. Even if the person going overboard cannot be rescued, the recovery of their bodies is obviously important to their loved ones as part of the grieving process. Implementing MOB technology saves lifes, saves unnecessary search and rescue costs and is the right thing to do. 

Unfortunately, Carnival is one cruise line which refuses to install any of the available automatic man overboard systems which are available on the market. Maritime Executive has featured several articles from a highly reputable captain and maritime expert explaining that the MOB technology is successful and feasible.

Carnival has a reputation as providing affordable "fun ships" for the masses. But, in truth, it is a recalcitrant cruise line that has a history of non-compliance with the few U.S. laws which apply to the foreign-flagged cruise industry. In the last year, it was been fined $40,000,000 for lying to the U.S. Coast Guard regarding the widespread oil pollution from its fleet of cruise ships. More recently, Carnival was  caught engaging in deceitful conduct of trying to hide food and galley equipment from federal sanitation inspectors from the USPH. It’s the one cruise line which refuses to hire lifeguards, when other lines (Disney, Royal Caribbean and NCL) have finally done so. So perhaps it’s no surprise, when it come to the issue of its guests going overboard, that Carnival refuses to implement automatic man overboard technology ever since the 2010 CVSSA went into effect. 

It’s long overdue for Carnival to install available MOB technology on its fleet of cruise ships.

How long will the parents of missing passengers at sea have to hope that their loved ones will return from cruises "one way or the other?" 

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

*/  Our Facebook page states: "We welcome a difference of opinion. However, we do not tolerate hateful speech, ad hominen attacks, crude language, or personal insults. We do not permit the denigrating or mocking of people who disappear at sea or die in cruise swimming pool accidents."

 

http://up.anv.bz/latest/anvload.html?key=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

Vision of the SeasToday, several passengers contacted me to ask for information regarding a Royal Caribbean crew member who apparently disappeared from the Vision of the Seas last week.

On Friday, December 9, 2017, the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, which had left from Galveston, Texas earlier in the week, made announcements that a crew member could not be accounted for on the ship as of the early evening. The crew member has apparently checked into his job in the early morning hours but had disappeared sometime thereafter. A ship-wide search was conducted without success.

There was speculation that high winds and rough seas may have played a part in the crew member going overboard.

There is no indication that the ship stopped or turned around to conduct a search in the water. Unfortunately, the scenario fits a typical pattern when a crew member goes over the rails unwitnessed late at night or in the early hours of the morning on a Royal Caribbean ship.  Royal Caribbean has not invested in the available automatic man-overboard technology (using heat sensors or infrared or motion detection and radar technology) which can send a signal to the bridge, capture the image of the person going overboard, and track the person by radar in the water.  Instead, the ship will conduct a cabin search for the missing person, review closed-circuit television images and often do not perform a search at sea.

As I recently explained in an article about MSC Cruises recently implementing this technology, MSC Cruises Implements New Man Overboard System Amidst Industry Delays, over 22 people on average disappear each year from cruise ships, and only 13.8% are saved. Unfortunately, the cruise industry’s trade organization, the Cruise Line International Organization (CLIA), has chosen to minimize cruise disappearances by misleading PR releases rather than devoting financial resources toward improving safety. Most cruise lines do not invest in MOB systems which do not return a direct financial profit to the penny-pinching cruise industry.

Ironically, the Miami Herald today wrote an article styled Technology is About to Change the Future of Cruising which omitted any discussion about using existing technology to comply with the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act which required the implementation of such life-saving technology.

Royal Caribbean is one of the cruise lines which will never respond to requests for information from us about disappearances of crew or passengers or other mishaps at sea.

Should you have any information about this disappearance, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

December 12, 2017 Update: Galveston Daily News Crew member missing from Vision of the Seas. A news station in Galveston reported that the missing crew member was a pool attendant from Mauritius (video below).

Photo Credit: Pjotr Mahhonin – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

http://abc13.com/video/embed/?pid=2774231

In 2010, the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) became law. The statute required, for the first time, cruise lines to disclose incidents of missing passengers, sexual assaults and other shipboard crimes to the American public.

The legislation was the result of the dedication and hard work of our client and good friend, Laurie Dishman (who traveled to Washington D.C. over 30 times), her Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA), as well as other members of Congress, including Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX)(all photographed below).

A special thank you, of course, goes to former President Obama for signing the ground-breaking legislation into law. He warmly greeted Laurie in his office and acknowledged the brave and special person that she is, while demonstrating great generosity of spirit. President Barack Obama

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, HAl Veendamso 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 Gede Sukrantara, HAL Veendambefore 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.

Have a comment? Please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: Top: Fletcher6 – CC BY 3.0, commons / wikimedia. ; bottom: Gede Sukrantara Facebook page.

Cruise Ship Acoustic Hailing DeviceAccording to the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, cruise ships are required to have "acoustic hailing and warning devices" in certain high risk areas. These devices emit a high pitched noise that is directed toward approaching vessels and causes intense pain to the ears of the vessel’s occupants. 

The reason for this law is is to protect passengers and crew members from pirate attacks by repelling pirate skiffs from approaching and trying to board vessels on the high seas. You can read accounts of pirates attacking cruise ships here to see that the risk of such an attack is foreseeable.

Unfortunately, some cruise lines are not in compliance with this new law which was passed in 2010.

But today I read a press release indicating that a major cruise line has chosen to use HyperSpike Acoustic Hailing Devices (AHDs) to protect five cruise ships. The cruise line is not identified.

Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship RapeOne of the purposes of the new Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Law is to educate the public regarding the sexual assaults and other crimes which occur on cruise ships.

But as we reported in our article Cruise Lines, FBI & Coast Guard Caught Altering Cruise Crime Law, the FBI and Coast Guard – acting to promote the cruise lines’ interests – undercut the Congressional purpose of the new cruise crime law. The cruise lines and these two federal agencies changed the language of the law to eliminate most cruise ship crimes from being reported.  

Originally all cruise ship crimes were required to be disclosed to the public.  But with the altered language, cruise crimes not reported to the FBI, or those crimes reported to the FBI and still under investigation, do not need to be disclosed to the public. 

You can read about about this issue in the Washington Post, USA TodayArizona Central and NBC Bay Area.

A good example of how the cruise lines are trying to hide crime statistics is a recent case this year involving a young girl raped on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. We reported on the crime in January.  A fifteen year old girl was lured from a teen club and raped by another teenager and a 20 year old man, Luis Scavone (photo left), on the last night of the cruise. The minor promptly reported the crime after she escaped from the rapists’ cabin.

Royal Caribbean allegedly "sealed" off the crime scene and reported the crime to the FBI and the Broward County’s Sheriff’s Office in the cruise ship’s home port. In Florida, local law enforcement also have jurisdiction over crimes on the high seas on cruise ships which return to a port in Florida.    

But rather than preserving evidence of the crime scene, Royal Caribbean unlocked the "sealed" cabin and cleaned the cabin.  It destroyed evidence in the crime scene.  Once the FBI learned of the cruise line’s misconduct, it left the cruise ship and declined to prosecute.

The FBI was willing to let the two rapists (from Brazil) walk free after raping a girl. Even more disturbing is that the evidence destruction occurred on a cruise ship supervised by a former top FBI officer, Gary Bald (photo below left), who now heads Royal Caribbean’s security department.

The FBI agents should have arrested cruise line employees for the destruction of evidence, but the FBI looked the other way and simply closed its investigation. The cozy relationship between the FBI and its former FBI agents, who are now working for the cruise lines, sometimes leads to the former and present FBI agents scratching each other’s backs rather than protecting the public.

The Broward County Sheriff’s Department, on the other hand, was not deterred by the cruise line’s misconduct and arrested the two Brazilians. The State Attorney’s Office for Broward County then prosecuted the two suspects and obtained guilty pleas from both.  The 20 year old Brazilian man pled guilty last week to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery in the rape of the girl.  He is now behind bars.   

Royal Caribbean Cruise - Director of Security Gary BaldYou would think that the rape of a child on the world’s largest cruise ship would be documented on the online database maintained by the FBI and Coast Guard.  That was the intent of the cruise crime law. But the FBI decided not to report it. Take a look here at the FBI statistics.  There is not a single report of a sexual assault for Royal Caribbean in 2012. In fact, there is not one report of a violent sexual crime against a cruise passenger for the entire cruise industry this year.

In prior years, the FBI reported over 400 crimes on cruises a year.  But now with the altered language in the cruise crime law, the FBI and cruise lines are concealing crimes. The FBI online database lists only 13 sexual crimes for all of last year.   

The bottom line is that even thought the cruise rapist is in jail after pleading guilty to state prosecutors, the FBI refuses to reveal the crime to the U.S. public on the online database required by the cruise crime law.

There is monkey business going on here.

The FBI and the cruise lines who routinely hire FBI agents are in cahoots. Congress needs to investigate how they derailed the law.  And the U.S. public needs to know how a law designed to protect women and children on cruises has been sabotaged to protect the image of the billion dollar cruise industry.     

One of the key provisions of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 is that crimes on cruise ships are suppose to be posted on the internet in order to provide a warning to the U.S. public. 

After listening to testimony over the course of the last five Congressional hearings, Congress concluded that cruise ship crime in general, and sexual assaults in particular, were such a problem that the U.S. public needed to be warned. 

Just last month, in the case of Jane Doe v. Princess Cruises, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal held that " .  .  . if congressional reports are to be believed, sexual assaults and other violent crimes on cruise ships are a serious problem."  The Eleventh Circuit cited the testimony from cruise line executives from the March 2006 Congressional hearing that 178 passengers on North American cruises reported being sexually assaulted between 2003 and 2005.  During that same period, 24 people were reported missing and four others reported being robbed. 

In the March 2007 hearing, a FBI representative testified that from 2000 through June 2005, the FBI opened 305 case files involving “crime on the high seas.”   During those five years about 45% of the crimes that occurred on cruise ships involved sexual assaults.

In September 2007, a Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI testified before Congress that “sexual assault and physical assaults on cruise ships were the leading crime reported to and investigated by the FBI on the high seas over the last five years, 55 percent and 22 percent respectively . . . . Employees were identified as suspects in 37 percent of the cases, and 65 percent of those employees were not U.S. citizens.”  The FBI representative also testified that the majority of cruise ship sexual assault cases are not prosecuted.

Although these numbers are significant, I have always thought that the crime statistics reported to Congress are probably just a fraction of the actual number of crimes which occur during cruises.  For example, in 2006, Royal Caribbean told Congress that 66 rapes and sexual assaults reportedly occurred over the course of the preceding three years.  However, in a subsequent civil case we handled, a trial court here in Miami ordered the cruise line to produce its raw crime data to us.  The reports revealed that the total number of sex-related crimes were actually around 273, including allegations of sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual harassment and inappropriate touching during a shorter time period.

The Los Angeles Times covered the story in an article entitled "Cruise Industry’s Dark Waters."   

With the new cruise safety law, cruise lines were finally required to report incidents of homicides, suspicious deaths, missing U.S. passengers, assaults, sexual assaults and thefts over $1,000 to the FBI.  The U.S. Coast Guard, in turn, is responsible for posting the FBI cruise ship crime statistics on the internet for the public to view. 

So what do the crime statistics the Coast Guard posted on the internet reveal?

According to the United States Coast Guard Investigative Services’ quarterly report from July 1, 2011 through September 30, 2011, not a single reportable crime occurred.    

Let me repeat that.  According to the just released FBI / Coast Guard report – not a single reportable crime occurred during the third quarter of 2011.

According to the FBI / Coast Guard’s first quarter and second quarter reports, only a total of ten sexual assaults occurred in the first six months of this year. 

For 2010, the FBI / Coast Guard report disclosed only 28 sexual assaults on cruise ships.  For the first nine months of this year, the number has dropped to only 10 sexual assaults.

These numbers are not only far less than in any of the prior years, but they are even less than the number of crimes the cruise lines will admit occurred.  For example, last month a newspaper in New Zealand reported on a study which concluded that the risk of being sexually assaulted was twice as high on a cruise ship than ashore.  Royal Caribbean responded to the article by stating that it had 24 incidents of rape or sexual assaults last year.  Yet, in their 2010 report, the FBI / Coast Guard disclosed that Royal Caribbean had only 6 such incidents in all of 2010.    

The FBI does not inform the public of alleged crimes which are under investigation (this is permitted by the cruise safety law) and this may partially account for such low numbers.  But the reality is that the FBI investigations rarely lead to a prosecution.  Not disclosing crimes because they are allegedly "under investigation" by an agency whose investigations rarely lead to a prosecution does the public a real disservice.  

Also, the numbers which the FBI and Coat Guard chose to disclose to the public do not include incidents which the FBI determines lacks sufficient evidence of a federal crime or the FBI deems unworthy of conducting a full investigation.  This is the rather amazing part of these statistics.  The cruise safety law was passed in large part because of an incident where a passenger was clearly sexually assaulted, yet the FBI prematurely closed its investigation the same day that the cruise ship returned to Los Angeles after the crime occurred.  I am talking about the case of Laurie Dishman whose Congresswoman in California, Doris Matsui, was instrumental is passing the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act in the first place.

Based on the FBI and Coast Guard’s current method of responding to the cruise safety law, these agencies would probably not even disclose the cruise ship crime against Ms. Dishman if it occurred today.    

There is something very wrong here.  What should the U.S. public conclude by reading the recent third quarter FBI / Coast Guard statistics suggesting that not a single crime occurred on a cruise ship over the past three months?   Around 3,500,000 passengers sailed on cruise ships over the past ninety days, millions out of U.S. ports, and not a single crime occurred?

What a joke.

The FBI and Coat Guard are making a mockery of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act  – a law victims of crime worked hard to enact in order to protect future cruise passengers.

Its time for Congress to take another look at the way the cruise lines, FBI and Coast Guard are reporting – or in this case – not reporting cruise ship crimes.  

 

For an insight into the actual number of incidents of sexual assaults and crimes on cruise ships, we suggest following sites:

Sun Sentinel Data Base

Professor Ross Klein Cruise Crime Analysis October 30 2007 – September 1, 2008

Professor Ross Klein’s Analysis  of Reports of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault on Royal Caribbean International, 1998 – 2005

AOL News has an interesting article about cruise ship dangers.  Written by Tori Richards, the article is entitled "New Law Targets Dangers Aboard Cruise Ships."  It features Ken Carver, the President of the International Cruise Victims organization.

Here is the article reprinted from AOL News:

LOS ANGELES (Nov. 28) — Missing persons. Assault. Child molestation. Rape. Death. Those are some of the extras the cruise ship lines don’t tell you about.

The industry suffered a black eye for the recent nightmare cruise aboard the Mexico-bound Carnival Splendor, but that’s just a small sampling of the safety issues plaguing one of America’s favorite vacation modes, victim advocates say.

Carnival Splendor Cruise Ship - Cruise Vessel Security and Safety ActAll sorts of dangerous incidents happen on ocean liners. But beginning next year, portions of a new federal law will give the FBI authority over crimes that occur on ships that have docked at U.S. ports.

"It’s like a town serving unlimited drinks with no police," Kendall Carver said of the cruise industry. His 40-year-old daughter disappeared from a Celebrity cruise ship in 2004.

"Every two weeks someone goes missing from a cruise ship somewhere in the world – and those are only the ones we know about," Carver said.

Last year, the FBI received reports of 349 incidents on cruise ships. It opened investigations into 32 cases involving "serious crimes" — including one death, three missing people, 20 sexual assaults and six assaults with great bodily injury. The names of the cruise lines involved were not available, nor were statistics from this year, an FBI official told AOL News.

A database of FBI reports from December 2007 to October 2008, available on the Sun-Sentinel website, shows 363 incidents. The vast majority were on Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruises.

None of this surprises Carver, who hears of incidents like this frequently as the founder of the non-profit International Cruise Victims which represents hundreds of people and is now in 20 countries.

Carver told AOL News he started the organization after spending years trying to find his daughter, Merrian Carver. During that time, he said, he ran into a cover-up by the cruise line, missing evidence and employees who were ordered not to talk.

The case has since been settled for an undisclosed sum, but Carver is still waiting for the answers he was looking for.

Merrian lived in Massachusetts and her father found an ally in the state’s U.S. senator, John Kerry. They discovered that there were no laws pertaining to crimes aboard ships at sea. Soon they began to lay groundwork to change that.

"My daughter was the subject of five Senate hearings," Carver said. "The cruise lines spent $11 million in lobbyists to defeat this, but we still won even though we are just a group of regular citizens."

President Barack Obama signed the Cruise Vessel and Safety Act of 2010 on July 27.

"This law will finally do away with the murky lines of jurisdiction that have put American cruise ship passengers at risk in the past," Kerry said in a statement. He also noted Carver’s help in getting the legislation passed.

It will be 18 months from the date of signing before the law is fully implemented. However, parts of it will be enforced in stages. Beginning early next year, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation must have guidelines to carry out enforcement. By summer, training standards must exist for ship personnel.

The law requires:  

  • Peep holes and security latches on all passenger and crew doors
  • Electronic video surveillance that documents crimes to be made available to law enforcement
  • Passenger security guides with information on reporting crimes to U.S. law enforcement
  • Limits on crew access to passenger cabins
  • Staff with knowledge and equipment to perform rape exams
  • Free and immediate access to law enforcement
  • Prompt reporting of crimes, which must be contained in a log

"It’s too soon to tell if it will matter," said Mike Ehline, a Los Angeles attorney who handles lawsuits against cruise lines. "I’m still getting the same types of issues with the cruise lines refusing to hand things over. They always have some excuse – like the video was out that day, it got lost, or it was erased on accident."

A Carnival spokesman did not want to comment on the new law. However, noting the high number of incidents reported on the Sun-Sentinel website, he said that Carnival carries more guests than any other cruise line with an estimated 3.9 million passengers this year.

"We have a zero-tolerance policy for crime and any and all allegations reported to us by guests or made known to us via any other channel are reported to the FBI," Carnival’s Vance Gulliksen said.

No one from Royal Caribbean was available for comment Friday.

According to language in the new law, "It is not known precisely how often crimes occur on cruise vessels or exactly how many people have disappeared during ocean voyages because cruise line companies do not make comprehensive, crime-related data readily available to the public."

It states sexual assault and physical assault as the leading crimes investigated by the FBI on cruise ships and it’s difficult for law enforcement to gather evidence and conduct an investigation.

"Before, cruise lines would just say ‘We are registered in this island or that, and we don’t have to do this,’" Carver said. "Now, they will be banned from coming into our ports if they don’t."

 

Story credit:  Tori Richards, AOL News

Photo credit:   Denis Poroy, AP (via AOL News) 

In July, President Obama signed the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act.  On the President’s right side in the Oval Office was Sacramento resident and my friend, Laurie Dishman.  On his left side, Laurie’s Congresswoman, Doris Matsui.

Laurie Dishman - Congresswoman Matsui - Cruise Safety Law The new cruise law involves a remarkable story about the bravery of Laurie Dishman.  Laurie went on a Royal Caribbean cruise in February 2006 to celebrate her 35th birthday and her long friendship with her childhood friend, Michelle.  But instead of a fun cruise, a janitor with prior complaints of sexual harassment who was working as a part time security guard sexually assaulted Laurie in her cabin. 

When Laurie reported the rape, the head of the security department came into her cabin and sat on the bed where the rape occurred.  He handed her a statement form to complete and left her in the crime scene.  When Laurie was finally permitted to see the ship doctor, he handed her trash bags and told her to return to the cabin and collect her bed linens as evidence. 

Royal Caribbean thereafter refused to provide Laurie with copies of her own shipboard medical records or provide her with the name of the cruise line employee who raped her. 

In response to this outrageous treatment, Laurie reached out to her Congressional representative in California, Doris Matsui.  Congresswoman Matsui answered Laurie’s plea for assistance, and called for a Congressional hearing to investigate the problem with crimes like this on cruise ships.

Congresswoman Matsui Goes after the Cruise Lines

Congresswoman Matsui began an investigation into the cruise industry.  She did not like what she found.  Royal Caribbean would not initially even commit to installing peep holes in the passenger cabin doors.  But Congresswoman Matsui was committed to helping Laurie and she found a number of allies in the House of Representatives, like Ted Poe from Texas, who are strong supporters of victim rights.  A sub-committee was formed to look into Laurie’s case and other similar sexual assaults.  The sub-committee invited Laurie to testify about her ordeal.  But the cruise industry pushed back and tried to strike Laurie as a witness at the Congressional hearing.  From the time of the crime until the last hearing, the cruise lines spent $11,000,000 lobbying against the legislation.

As you will learn from the radio show the "Travel Guys Radio,"  the cruise line tried to wear Laurie down, but Laurie traveled from California to Washington D.C. 21 times at her own expense to tell her story in support of the new cruise safety law.  She appeared on the major television networks, cable news, and radio stations – and was interviewed by newspapers throughout the U.S.  

The "Travel Guys" interviewed Congresswoman Matsui who describes Laurie’s bravery and the problems other crime victims experienced on foreign flagged cruise ships ("the cruise line didn’t help her at all .  .  . ").  The interview of Congresswoman Matsui starts at 10:20 and ends at 20:10

Click here to play the radio interview: 

http://www.archive.org/flow/flowplayer.commercial-3.2.1.swf

 

Laurie Meets President Obama in the White House 

Four and one half years after the crime on the high seas, Laurie was invited with Congresswoman Matsui to the White House by President Obama to watch him sign the new cruise law into effect.

Congresswoman Matsui - Cruise Vessel Security and Safety ActLaurie’s interview starts at 21:20 and ends at 30:00.

You can hear how Laurie went from a victim to a victim’s advocate in order to protect others.  As Congresswoman Matui explains, "without Laurie Dishmans in the world this would not have happened." 

 

For information about the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, consider reading:

Congressional All Stars Pass Cruise Crime Law By Vote of 416 to 4

Senate Unanimously Passes Cruise Safety Law

International Cruise Victims Celebrate New Cruise Safety Law in Washington D.C.

Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act – Finally Making Waves   

A Cruise Defense Lawyer’s Summary of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act

 

Consider joining the International Cruise Victims organization.  Make a difference!