cruise vessel security and safety law

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) statistical FBI compilation for the last quarter (April 1, 2012 – June 30, 2012) is out.

And if you are inclined to believe the FBI statistics, being on a cruise ship is the safest place on planet earth.  According to the crimes disclosed by the FBI, over the last three months of the reporting period only two crimes occurred on the 200 cruise ships or so operated by the twenty-six cruise lines operating under the trade banner of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).

Cruise Ship Crime - Rape - Sexual AssaultThe crimes which the FBI chose to disclose? One suspicious crew member death on a Carnival cruise ship, and one sexual assault on a Royal Caribbean ship. You can look at the database here

If you can read the microscopic text of the database, you may think: Wow, 3 – 4 millions passengers cruising a quarter and only one or two crimes?

But the truth is far different. We know from attending non-stop Congressional hearings over the last 7 years, that these two incidents are only a small fraction of the actual crimes which historically occur. Our little firm alone represents more cruise passengers than this victimized over the last six months.

We represent young women violently raped by two men on both a Carnival and a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. But you will find no mention of these violent and devastating crimes by the FBI or cruise line, anywhere.  The FBI database is bogus.  And you can read about other cruise crimes here, here, here, herehere, herehere.  But don’t bother to look for them on the FBI list of cruise crimes. There is no mention of them.  And that is exactly how the cruise lines want it. 

In years past, we listened to Congressional testimony and read FOIA requested information where literally hundreds of sexual assaults on cruise ships were revealed.  So why have only 2 crimes been reported in the last quarter and only 5 crimes reported for all of 2012?

As we explained in prior articles, the cruise industry and the FBI teamed up to alter the language of the crime reporting bill which cruise victims had approved by both houses of Congress.  But before the cruise crime bill passed into law, the cruise lines – with the assistance of the FBI – altered the language to exclude over 95% of crimes on cruise ships from being reported on the Coast Guard database.

What the FBI discloses now is a small fraction of the actual number of crimes. 

In the U.S., the Uniform Crime Reporting ("UCR") requires all alleged crimes be disclosed to the public. But the cruise industry wants to keep the number of crimes secret. Behind the scenes, the cruise lines changed the law regarding cruise crimes such that only those crimes reported by the cruise lines, and disclosed to the FBI, and investigated by the FBI, and then closed by the FBI are included on the FBI database.

Crimes hidden from the FBI, or reported to state agencies or other governments, or those crimes reported to the FBI and ignored / not investigated by the FBI, or crimes reported to the FBI and the FBI keeps the files open indefinitely are not reported.          

Cruise Crime - Sexual Assaults on Cruise ShipsThe bottom line? The FBI and the cruise lines are hiding 95% of the crimes from the public.

This serves as a great disservice to the cruising public.

If you are a travel agent, cruise specialist or concerned member of the public, email me at or call me at 305 955-5300. I’ll be happy to discuss with you how we can work together to educate the public about the actual number of sexual assaults against women and children which occur routinely during cruises.   

I have spent the last decade of my life watching the cruise lines try and hide dozens of crimes a year.  It won’t work. They will never get away with it, no matter how many innocent people are hurt in the process. Help me keep the cruise lines honest, and your customers safe.

The next family with teenage girls and little kids walking up the gangway to a cruise ship deserve to know the truth.

As part of its special investigation into the problem of crime on cruise ships, "Crimes Onboard – The Dark Side of Cruising," NBC Bay Area interviewed Congresswomen Doris Matsui (D-CA) who was instrumental in the passage of the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act.

Congresswoman Matsui’s constituent (and our client) Laurie Dishman called upon her after Ms. Dishman was sexually assaulted on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in February 2006. Congresswoman convened a hearing regarding the crime. Ms. Dishman testified before Congress in 2005 regarding her ordeal.  She traveled to Washington D.C. over 30 times to lobby for the passage of a cruise crime bill to protect women and children from sexual assaults on cruise ships.

Congresswoman Matsui discusses the new safety law which became effective this year.  She points out correctly that one of the purposes of the new law was to educate the public regarding the startling number of sexual assaults and other crimes which occur on cruise ships each year.  However, after the bill was voted into law, the final version of the law was watered down.   The FBI and Coast Guard now reveal only the number of closed criminal cases on cruise ships as opposed to the number of total crimes actually occurring each year.  

The public is warned of only a fraction of the real number of cruise crimes.  

The difference is between 16 closed cases as opposed to the actual number – "in the hundreds."

The democratic process is a slow one.  The cruise industry vigorously fought against the new cruise law for years, only to cave in at the end when passage of the law was likely.  Now it turns out that some limiting language was inserted into the bill at the end of the day which conceals the majority of the crimes which occur each year on cruise ships.  I wonder who did that? 

As Congresswoman Matsui points out, she and others in Congress are working on this issue.  The cruise crime law is just the first step to deal with the problem of crime on cruise ships.{releasePID}


Watch the video interview of Congresswoman Matsui’s constituent, Laurie Dishman, here

Video credit:  NBC Bay Area

A newspaper in the Philippines reports that legislation has been introduced in the Philippines to protect passengers and crew of cruise ships from sexual and physical assaults while at sea.

Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from Pampanga sponsored a bill which requires passenger and cargo ships to adhere to specific requirements to protect of passengers and crewmembers.

Macapagal-Arroyo - Philippines Cruise Safety LawThe legislation is patterned after the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Law which was signed into law last year by President Obama.  The cruise safety law was the result of the efforts of the International Cruise Victims organization.   

Representative Macapagal-Arroyo said that the leading crimes on cruise ships operated by cruise lines based in the United States are sexual and physical assaults.  “These crimes at sea can involve attacks both by passengers and crewmembers on other passengers and crewmembers,” Macapagal-Arroyo said.

“House Bill 4608 is being introduced to follow the footsteps of the U.S. and more importantly, to enhance safety of passengers and prevent incidents of a similar nature from happening,” Macapagal-Arroyo said.

The bill follows the U.S. law by requiring ship rails at least 54 inches in height, peep holes and security latches on cabin doors, fire safety codes, and the integration of  technology that can be used for detecting passengers who have fallen overboard. The new bill also requires anti-retroviral medications and rape kits to be available on ships. 

Crimes must be noted in the the vessel’s logs and reported to appropriate authorities.

The introduction of this law in the Philippines demonstrates the expansive reach of the International Cruise Victims to protect passengers and crew around the world.


Photo credit:

Cruise Law News - Totem - Victoria - British ColumbiaThis morning the Walker – O’Neill family arrived back in Miami at 7:30 a.m. after taking the “red eye” from Seattle.  We spent two weeks enjoying British Columbia for a great vacation.

My family voted before our vacation that there would be no blogging.  Out voted 3-1, I didn’t even take my lap top with me.  So my blogging hours were replaced with sightseeing in the beautiful capital of Victoria (great totems, photo left); surfing and whale watching (photo below right) in the fishing village of Tofino (Vancouver Island) ; mountain biking in Whistler; and finally a couple of days running and biking in Stanley Park in Vancouver.  A great time.

Our two boys, who are now officially taller than me, had  some fun clowning around in the Tofino Botanical Gardens with Mr. Skull Head (right, bottom).

The closest I could come to cruise law blogging was to tweet a photo of Pikes Market while visiting our niece in Seattle (yes that’s the NCL Pearl in the background) and a photo of the close up of the NCL Pearl while we walked along the pier.

A lot of things happened in the world of cruise law news during our short  vacation:

Cruise Law - Tofino - Whale WatchingPresident Obama signed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, as reported by Consumer Reports.  Our client, Laurie Dishman, traveled to the White House for a photo with the President Obama in the Oval Office.  We will be blogging about this and will include a photo of Laurie and President Obama.  Wow!  We are so proud of Laurie.  We will be talking about the new cruise safety law in the next several weeks.

Fort Lauderdale’s Sun Sentinel published a on line data-base of cruise ship deaths, incidents and crimes.  The data base is the hard work of reporter Jaclyn Giovis who interviewed me in an article entitled “Keeping Crime at Bay On Cruises.”

A newspaper in Seattle reported on the one year anniversary of the the mysterious disappearance of Amber Malkuch from Holland American Lines’ Zaadam cruise ship, as reported by Seattle’s KOMO News (read the comments to the story).  Cruise Line News (CLN) discussed Ms. Malkuch’s death a year ago.  We criticized the cruise line’s PR decision to label the disappearance as a “suicide” even before the Alaskan State Troopers concluded its investigation – “Suicide” – One of the Cruise Lines’ Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea.

Cruise Law - British Columbia - Vacation Passengers and crew members continue to contact our firm after being sexually assaulted or victimized during cruises on Carnival, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean ships.  Stay tuned for articles about how the cruise lines try and cover these crimes up, notwithstanding the new cruise law.

Royal Caribbean filed motions in three cases falsely accusing me of conspiring to steal secret safety information from the cruise line, in an effort to kick me off of the cases.  Being recklessly accused by a corporate felon like Royal Caribbean invigorates me and validates my work as a cruise safety advocate.  In the next month, we will publish articles about Royal Caribbean’s outrageous conduct and will include copies of motions, deposition transcripts and court orders regarding Royal Caribbean’s efforts to harm our firm and our clients.

We will win this dispute.

And we will obtain our attorney fees incurred in defending our little firm from these malicious charges by this $15 billion criminal corporation.

You can bank on that.  And you will read about it first here on Cruise Line News (CLN).

Its great to come back from a nice relaxing vacation, and jump right back into the frying pan.

Ever since the Senate and House passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, the cruise industry and its trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) which spent millions of dollars vigorously opposing the new legislation, have minimized the ground-breaking new law. 

UK P & I Club - Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act - Cruise Crime  So it was to my great interest and amusement today when a Cruise Law News (CLN) reader sent me a link to an article summarizing the new cruise law by a prominent defense lawyer for the cruise line industry.  California lawyer Lawrence Kaye authored an article entitled "Tough New US Regulations for Cruise Ships" in the UK P & I Club’s newsletter.  (P & I Underwriters insure the interests of cruise lines and shipping companies).

What makes this article so interesting is that Mr. Kaye is one of the executive members of CLIA and testified before our U.S. Congress during the cruise crime hearings from 2005 – 2009.  He argued that there was no need for legislation and he advocated on behalf of CLIA to kill the crime bill. 

Mr. Kaye is one smart maritime lawyer.  We have argued cruise crime issues on television.  The cruise lines are lucky to have him as their advocate. He is equally skilled in summarizing the new law, which I have re-printed verbatim from the UK P & I Club’s website, lest someone decide to delete it:

Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act 

Lawrence Kaye - Cruise Vessel Security and Safet Act  The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act 2010, due to become US law very shortly, imposes substantial requirements on cruise ships carrying over 250 passengers on international voyages which embark or disembark passengers in any US port. They concern design and construction, medical facilities, passenger and crew information, training and measures to report and combat crime.

Non-compliance can result in denial of entry into US ports, civil penalties up to $50,000 per violation and criminal penalties up to $250,000 and/or one year’s imprisonment.

The Act’s requirements are set out by Lawrence W. Kaye and Andre M. Picciurro of Kaye, Rose & Partners in the latest issue of US Bodily Injury News, Published by Thomas Miller (Americas) on behalf of the UK P&I Club.

Design and construction standards. All cruise ships must meet certain design and construction standards within 18 months of enactment. Rails must be 42 inches above the cabin deck, 2.5 inches more than the US Coast Guard’s existing requirement. Passenger and crew cabin doors must have a “means of visual identification,” such as peepholes. Ships must be equipped with technology, if available, to detect persons fallen overboard, and with a video surveillance system to document crimes. In certain high risk areas, ships must have acoustic hailing and warning devices. All new-build cruise ships must provide latches and time-sensitive key technology on all passenger and crew cabin doors.

Information. Cruise ships must provide passengers and crew with a list of all US embassies and consulates in the countries they visit. Congress is discussing whether ships should provide all Cruise Safety - Cruise Ship Security - Cruise Lawpassengers with lists of medical and security personnel and law enforcement agencies in the jurisdictions visited.

Sexual assaults. For treating and examining persons alleging sexual assault, the Act requires cruise ships to have on board medications to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (e.g., anti-retroviral medications); equipment and materials for performing post-assault examinations; and doctors and/or registered nurses with appropriate experience/certification in emergency medicine.

Cruise lines should make available to the patient a confidential examination report, with cruise ship personnel only entitled to see findings which will assist the master or colleague to comply with safety and reporting laws; contact information for law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, US embassies and consulates; a third party victim advocacy hotline; and private telephone and computer access to contact law enforcement, attorneys or support services. Ships must implement regulations about which crew members have access to passenger staterooms and when.

Log book and crime reporting. Ships must keep a log book (electronic or otherwise), detailing complaints of homicide, suspicious death, missing US nationals, kidnapping, assault with serious bodily injury, sexual assault, firing or tampering with the vessel, and theft of property over $1,000. Ships must notify the nearest FBI office and send a report to the Secretary of Transportation about all such crimes (except for theft of property less than $10,000) in specific circumstances. These include where a vessel owner, regardless of his ship’s flag, is a US citizen; where an incident occurs within US territorial waters or on the high seas but involving a US national, whether victim or perpetrator; and where a US national is involved if a voyage embarks or disembarks passengers in the US, regardless of where the incident occurred.

The Transportation Secretary will maintain a public website to keep track of all such reported crimes for each cruise line whose own websites must provide a link to the Secretary’s.

Crime scene preservation. The Transportation Secretary is obliged to develop training standards and curricula for certification of passenger vessel security personnel, focusing “on the appropriate methods for prevention, detection, evidence preservation, and reporting of criminal activities in the international maritime environment” within one year of enactment. Two years after such standards and curricula are established, cruise ships may only enter US ports if they have at least one certificated crew member on board.

Cruise Ship - Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act

Larry Kaye has no doubt that this legislation is “a priority item for passenger ship operators. Upon enactment, the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act will immediately address the issues of crimes and missing persons on cruise ships by imposing medical care and security protocols on cruise operators. It also imposes a rigorous timetable for a wide range of mandatory design and operational improvements to those ships within a two-year period.”

Louise Livingston, who leads Thomas Miller (America’s) Bodily Injury Team, added: “This review of the latest legislative developments for cruise operators has widespread relevance. All UK Club members should be aware of the speed and extent of regulatory change that can arise from a combination of high profile incidents and the political lobbying that is associated with them.”



UK P & I Club                    UK P & I Club

Larry Kaye, Esq.              Kaye Rose & Partners LLP

Freedom of the Seas    greenbriar