Merrian CarverKen Carver, Chairman of the International Cruise Victims Association (ICV), received the Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award from the U.S. Department of Justice during the annual National Crime Victims’ Service Awards ceremony on Friday in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Carver founded the ICV after his daughter disappeared from a Celebrity cruise ship during an Alaskan cruise in 2004. In 2006, he formed the ICV which is a grass roots, victim organization of families who have lost loved ones on the high seas or have been victims of sexual assaults and other crimes at sea.  

I remember when I first heard of Mr Carver. In 2005, the Arizona Central newspaper published an article titled Daughter Vanishes While on Alaskan Cruise by Robert Anglen about the disappearance of Mr. Carver’s daughter, Merrian Carver, from the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship.

The facts described in the article were bad enough: a Celebrity cabin attendant noticed that Mirrian was missing early in the cruise but when he alerted his supervisors, they told him not to worry about her. In the process, Merrian’s clothes and personal effects were quickly disposed of at the end of the cruise.  But the cover-up of the disappearance was even worse: neither the FBI nor local law enforcement officials were notified when there was no sighting of Merrian at the end of the cruise. Celebrity Cruises lied to Mr. Carver about its policies which required it to keep CCTV tapes for at least 30 days; when Mr. Carver asked for tapes within that period, Celebrity falsely told him that none existed. 

The cruise line gave Mr. Carver about as much attention and respect as someone complaining about losing a piece of luggage during a cruise. He told the Arizona Central: "We’ve learned that if something Ken Carver - International Cruise Victimshappens on a cruise, you are on your own," he says, choking back sobs. "No other parents should ever have to go through the crap we’ve been through. We don’t know if Merrian is alive or dead. We don’t know if there was an accident or murder or suicide or something else. . . . It is a very sad story."

After reading the blockbuster article about the terribly sad story, I felt compelled to read first-hand the facts alleged in a lawsuit which Mr. Carver was forced to file to try in Miami-Dade County to try and find out what happened to his daughter. I was also curious which law firm Celebrity Cruises retained to represent it in the lawsuit. 

The clerk requires anyone asking for a copy of a court pleading to fill out paperwork identifying the name and address of the person requesting the file. When I looked at the clerk’s forms, I could see the names of the defense lawyers who had previously requested the file and would be involved in the case.

Coincidentally, later in the week, I bumped into these lawyers on the sixth floor of the courthouse while attending a hearing in another case. I mentioned to them: so you guys will be defending the tragic case of the father whose daughter disappeared during the cruise to Alaska?" The lawyers first denied knowing anything about the case, but when I told them that  the clerk information confirmed their involvement, one of the lawyers remarked: that’s a bullshit case; we’re going to have it dismissed

I’ll remember this rude conversation and the defense lawyers’ smug attitude for the rest of my life. I recall thinking at the time that this was not going to end well for this cruise line or their heartless defense lawyers. 

Later, during one of many television specials about Merrian’s disappearance, one of the defense lawyers said to Chris Cuomo, who was working for ABC News at the time, Merrian probably committed suicide. Of course, there was absolutely no evidence of this, but this didn’t stop the defense lawyer from saying it. The smear tactic was clearly the result of the nasty attitude of the cruise line lawyers and their client. But it raised the obvious question that if it was somehow true that Merrian ended her own life, why wouldn’t the cruise line simply tell law enforcement and Mr. Carver and timely provide evidence supporting this conclusion? 

I’ll also never forget when I first met Mr. Carver. He attended the first Congressional hearing in Washington D.C. before the U.S. Senate on December 13, 2005, following the disappearance of George Smith III from the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas. I was representing Mr Smith’s wife at the hearing and was seeking information from an equally recalcitrant cruise line. Mr. Carver introduced himself at the hearing, smiled and asked me do you want to help me pass a cruise crime law? 

Quite frankly I didn’t know exactly what Mr Carver was talking about. I thought to myself that any kind of law requiring the cruise line to report crimes, an issue the cruise industry always sought to suppress, was unprecedented. 

But a month later Ms. Carver created the ICV. And with the assistance of hundreds of crime victims who joined the ICV, and the convening of several more Congressional hearings addressing crimes and disappearance on cruise ships, Mr. Carver was successful in having Congress enact the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010. His proposed legislation, requiring the disclosure of missing Ken Carver ICVpassengers, the reporting of crime on cruise ships, and the requirement for ships to be equipped with rape kits and anti-retorviral medications to automatic man overboard systems, passed the Senate and House on a nearly unanimous basis. 

Mr. Carver’s goals were to create transparency in crime and missing passenger reporting and install man overboard systems on cruise ships. The cruise lines fought back vigorously. The cruise industry treated Mr. Carver like a villain and essentially painted a bulls-eye on his back. The cruise lines spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying Congress to oppose Mr. Carver’s proposed legislation. But ultimately Mr. Carver prevailed.

Over the past dozen years, I’ve seen dozens of cruise executives and cruise line defense lawyers come and go – as well as PR crisis managers and lobbyists in the cruise industry trade organization. Many have left the industry. But Mr. Carver is still standing. Cruising is safer today because of him.

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Don’t Join Our Organization This Summer, by Kendall Carver

More than 10 million Americans will set sail on a cruise vacation in 2016. Many of these travelers will book their trips through U.S.-based travel companies—expecting not only top-notch service, but also safety and accountability in the event of an emergency.

Yet American travelers aren’t guaranteed either: The cruise industry routinely circumvents basic safety Merrian  Carver - International Cruise Victimsprocedures for expediency’s sake, prioritizing profits over people.

I know firsthand. My daughter, Merrian, disappeared from a Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska in 2004, yet cruise officials acted like nothing had happened. Merrian’s steward aboard the vessel reported her missing for five days to his supervisor, but was told to “just do your job and forget it.”

That’s right: Royal Caribbean made no attempt to contact either the authorities or Merrian’s family when she turned up missing and had not used her room. Once the cruise line was contacted about Merrian’s disappearance, it took Royal Caribbean three days to confirm that she had even been on the cruise first place. Confirming that Merriam didn’t use her room after the second night onboard took even longer. By then, the trail had gone cold. Requests for interviews by the private investigator hired by our family, were denied, as was access to the ship’s video camera system. Cruise officials even limited the amount of time that he could spend on the ship.

Our persistence in the face of negligence revealed a shocking detail: My daughter had been reported missing daily for the last five days of the cruise and nothing was done to search for her. More than a decade later, I still do not know how she died.

Unfortunately, my tragic story is not uncommon. The family of Larry and Christy Hammer—two Americans who lost their lives aboard the Amazon River boat Estrella Amazonica in April—are similarly grasping for answers. Theirs is the most recent demonstration of the cruise industry’s shocking disregard for passengers.

According to reports provided to us by the family, the Hammers were killed by a fire in their cabin. There were smoke detectors but no alarms in the cabins onboard the Estrella Amazonica—a boat proudly designed, built, and co-owned by the U.S.-based travel company International Expeditions Larry and Christy Hammer - International Expeditions (IE), according to the firm’s website. With no alarm to awaken them, the Hammers were overwhelmed as they struggled through the poisonous gases flooding their room. It took the crew more than 20 minutes to extract the Hammers from their burning cabin.

Similar to my family’s quest for answers, the Hammer family has resorted to independent investigators. The likely fire source was a power strip supplied by the boat—which lacked both surge protection and safety and flammability ratings. The fire alarm system and crew’s response to the emergency is also in question.

International Expeditions continues to deny the Hammer family’s pleas for information. Immediately following the incident, Van Perry, IE’s president, rushed to Peru to monitor the ship inspection. Within three days, he declared the ship “cleared as safe for travel” and personally re-boarded passengers onto the boat. When the Hammer family asked Mr. Perry for the supporting basis of his statements, he deflected and refused to provide information. Through interviews with independent investigators, the Hammer family was shocked to later learn that local authorities denied clearing the vessel as safe or having identified the source of the fire.

American travelers who put their trust in travel companies like Royal Caribbean and International Expeditions should tread carefully. Just because they’re based in the United States doesn’t ensure Ken Carver - International Cruise Victimspassenger safety or accountability when tragedy strikes.

To confront the cruise industry’s recurring problem of neglect and indifference, victims’ families organized the International Cruise Victims Association. Members’ tragic stories, posted to the organization’s website, attest to a devastating pattern.

My parting words are “be careful”—or else our organization becomes yours.

Kendall Carver is the chairman of the International Cruise Victims Association.

You can read about the Royal Caribbean cover up of Merrian Carver’s disappearance here

Photo Credit:

Merrian Carver (top) and Ken Carver – Ken Carver

Larry and Christy Hammer – Kelly Lankford & Jill Malott via KSHB
 

Crime Watch Daily is a new program which focuses on stories of crime in the daily life of average Americans.  Last month, it published it’s first show regarding crime on cruise ships – Cruise Ship Crime: Hard to Prosecute, Convict about the difficulties prosecuting crimes on the high seas.

The program has now published its second show about cruise ship dangers – When Cruise Ship Passengers Disappear Without A Trace.  

When 40 year old Boston resident Merrian Carver "disappeared" from the cruise ship Mercury operated by Royal Caribbean’s subsidiary brand Celebrity Cruises, the cruise line tried its best to cover the incident up. It didn’t report Merrian missing to either the FBI or the Alaskan State Troopers, Merrian Carvereven though the cabin attendant reported her missing early in the cruise. Merrian’s father, insurance executive Ken Carver, began a serious investigation. Royal Caribbean responded by lying to Mr. Carver and disposing of evidence. Mr. Carver didn’t go away and the story went public. The The Arizona Republic published an excellently researched and written story. In response, the cruise line reached into its bag of tricks and pulled out a good excuse: " . . . there is very little a cruise line, a resort or a hotel can do to prevent someone from committing suicide."

Aside of the speculation fueled by the cruise line’s lawyers and PR team, there was no competent evidence whatsoever for Royal Caribbean’s self serving announcement to the media. If it was a suicide, why did Royal Caribbean work so hard to cover the incident up and lie to Mr. Carver? Indeed, there is now an issue whether a crew member was involved in Merrian’s death.

Other cruise lines would duplicate the shameful way that Royal Caribbean handled the case. In 2009, I wrote "Suicide" – One of the Cruise Lines’ Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea.

Since then, we have seen repeated mysteries where young, healthy and seemingly happy crew members and passengers disappear from cruise ships, with the cruise line wildly speculating that they probably committed suicide, like Denisa Markoska, or Angelo Faliva, or Fariba Amani, or Annette Mizener, or George Smith, where there is absolutely no evidence supporting such a conclusion.

Royal Caribbean refused to speak to Crime Watch Daily. The cruise industry’s trade organization, the Cruise Line International Organization, claims that automatic man overboard systems – which can easily detect a person going overboard and immediately report the incident to the bridge – are somehow just an "emerging technology."  

 

//widgets.crimewatchdaily.com/videos/0_8158nn20/

Ken Carver Cruise VictimsKen Carver is the unlikeliest of people to become the founder of a grassroots victims’ organization. Mr. Carver is a conservative businessman and the past president of an insurance company in New York City. 

But in 2004, his daughter disappeared from a Celebrity cruise ship during a cruise she took to Alaska. No one should have to cope with the disappearance of their daughter on a cruise vacation, but Celebrity Cruises put Mr. Carver through living hell when he searched for answers. 

Celebrity learned that Mr. Carver’s daughter, Merriam, disappeared early during the cruise. But the cruise line did nothing. It didn’t notify the FBI or the Alaskan State Police. It didn’t preserve evidence or security video.  It disposed of Merriam’s clothing and personal items. It stonewalled Mr. Carver and lied to him.  Mr. Carver had to hire investigators and lawyers and spend $75,000 to try and find out what happened to his daughter. 

Mr. Carver attended his first Congressional hearing about the problem of passengers disappearing at sea in 2005. He has been involved in an additional seven Congressional hearings, in an effort to make cruising safer. He co-founded the International Cruise Victims organization in January 2006. 

Mr. Carver’s goals were to create transparency in crime and missing passenger reporting, install man overboard systems, and implement rape protocols and evidence handling procedures on cruise ships. The cruise lines fought back vigorously. The cruise industry treated Mr. Carver like a villain and essentially painted a bulls-eye on his back. The cruise lines spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying Congress to oppose Mr. Carver’s proposed legislation.  But ultimately Mr. Carver won.

Congress recently passed a cruise safety law which requires cruise lines to publicly disclose all crimes on a new Department of Transportation website.  Mr. Carver was previously successful in having the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act passed into law. This law requires cruise lines to install automatic man overboard systems on their ships. 

Over the past decade, I’ve seen dozens of cruise executives come and go – cruise presidents, PR crisis managers, and lobbyists in the cruise industry trade organization. Many have left the industry. But Mr. Carver is still standing, and cruising is safer because of him. 

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Video Credit:  Local 3 Phoenix AZ Family 

Nine years ago, I attended my first Congressional hearing regarding dangers to cruise passengers on the high seas. George Smith, of the Greenwich Connecticut area, had disappeared in the Aegean Sea during his honeymoon cruise.  I represented Mr. Smith’s widow. Senator Chris Shays (R-CT) convened a hearing to inquire into the disturbing circumstances surrounding Mr. Smith’s disappearance.

The hearing took place on December 13, 2005.  Right before the hearing began, a gentleman introduced himself and asked if I wanted to help him support legislation making cruising safer for the public?  His name was Kendall Carver.

Mr. Carver, a former president of an insurance company in New York, lost his daughter, Merrian Kendall Carver Senator RockefellerCarver, from a cruise ship. Merrian disappeared under suspicious circumstances during a cruise to Alaska aboard the Mercury cruise ship.

The cruise line tried its best to cover the incident up. It didn’t report Merrian missing to either the FBI or the Alaskan State Troopers, even though the cabin attendant reported her missing early in the cruise. The cruise line either gave her personal items away or put them in storage.

When Mr. Carver asked for an explanation, Royal Caribbean responded by lying to Mr. Carver and disposing of evidence. Mr. Carver didn’t go away. The story went public. The Arizona Republic, in an excellent article written by journalist Robert Anglen entitled "Daughter Vanishes While on Alaskan Cruise," revealed the hideous manner that this cruise line acted when people disappear at sea.  

Shortly after the December 2005 hearing, Mr. Carver joined with the family of George Smith to create the International Cruise Victims Organization (ICV).  The ICV now has hundreds of victims of cruise crimes and their families as members in over a dozen countries across the globe.

With Mr. Carver’s leadership as CEO (together with the work of the president, Jamie Barnett, and the board of directors) the ICV has been successful in convincing the House of Representatives and the Senate to convene a total of eight hearings into the issue of cruise ship dangers and the need for transparent crime reporting.   

The last hearing was in July of this year before Senator Jay Rockefeller.  Mr. Carver was there of course. My client Laurie Dishman (photo below), who was sexually assaulted on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, testified, in addition to others.  This was the eighth Congressional hearing I attended on the issue of cruise ship dangers. 

The cruise industry has spent millions of dollars and countless hours lobbying against the cruise crime bills. Several years ago, the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act was suppose to require the cruise lines to report all murders, rapes and other crimes to the U.S. public, but behind the scenes shenanigans by the cruise Industry and its trade organization, CLIA, so watered the cruise bill down that it became meaningless.

Senator Rockefeller introduced a bill at the last hearing designed to fix the shortcomings in the last bill. It will require greater transparency by the cruise lines in disclosing crime to the traveling public.  The bill will divest the Coast Guard (which has a cozy relationship with the cruise lines) of collecting the crime data and will transfer those responsibilities to the Department of Transportation (DOT). 

The best article on the development is written by Robert Anglen of the Arizona Republic. Mr. Anglen, you may recall, wrote the article in the same newspaper more than nine years ago about Mr. Carver’s experiences with Celebrity / Royal Caribbean when Mr. Carver’s daughter disappeared.  

It took nine years to pass a simple bill to require the cruise lines to tell the public the true crime statistics on the high seas. As you can read in Mr. Anglen’s article, the cruise lines have operated far too long in the murky waters of "voluntary disclosure" where they continue to hide the truth behind slick marketing slogans and a decade of lobbying to keep the crimes secret. 

 

Photo Credits:  Upper: Ken Carver / Senator Rockefeller – Ken Carver / Below: Laurie Dishman, far left; Ken Carver, next to upper right; Jim Walker, upper right – C-SPAN. 

Congressional Hearing - Senator Rockefeller Kendall Carver Jim Walker Laurie Dishman

Merrian Carver Cruise Ship Cover UpCoast to Coast Radio has a rather fascinating interview with Ken Carver, the Chairman of the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization.

Mr. Carver talks about "odd and mysterious disappearances on-board cruise ships and how the industry stonewalls investigations of crimes on the high seas. He recalled how his daughter, Merrian, disappeared from a cruise in August of 2004, which led him on a quest to find out what happened to her. Carver detailed how the cruise ship company forbid its employees from discussing the case with his investigators and repeatedly lied about video tape evidence which would have shed light on Merrian’s fate. Based on his research, Carver revealed that Merrian’s story is not unique and that once every two weeks someone disappears from a cruise ship.

Carver also shared a number of other troubling details about the cruise ship industry, such as that they “take the legal position that they are under no obligation to investigate a crime,” whether it be a disappearance, sexual assault, or robbery. Additionally, the companies and their ships are registered in Ken Carver International Cruise Victimsforeign countries, which makes criminal investigations the responsibility of those host nations and allows for the companies to avoid paying any U.S. taxes despite utilizing up to 21 different American government agencies.

Furthermore, Carver lamented that many former high ranking FBI and Coast Guard officials later find employment with cruise ship companies and, thus, those agencies frequently work against efforts to hold the industry accountable for these crimes."

Take a minute and listen to this information.

Mr. Carver discusses how the Miami-based cruise lines Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises lied and stonewalled to cover-up the disappearance of his daughter.

The website of the ICV is here.

The interview starts at 1:19:35.

  

https://youtube.com/watch?v=oHbwJ-ZE3JM%3Frel%3D0

 

Ken Carver - International Cruise VictimsFormer insurance company president, Ken Carver, discusses the disappearance of his daughter, Merrian Carver, from the Celebrity Cruises ship, the Mercury, and the lies and cover-up by the cruise line which followed.

Ken is the founder and the CEO of the International Cruise Victims (ICV) which he formed in 2006 with a few other families who had lost loved ones at sea.  

The ICV is now truly an international organization with members in twenty-four countries around the world.

You can read about Ken and the remarkable story of the ICV here.

The audio can be listened to here.     

CBS television station in California aired an interesting program this week regarding the unexplained disappearance of a young man from a Holland America Line cruise ship last summer.

Blake Kepley, age 20, vanished from the HAL Oosterdam last July during a cruise from Seattle to Alaska.

The disappearance occurred when my family was vacationing near Seattle.  I wrote about the incident in my blog article:  Back From Vacation – Safe, Sound & Thankful

Months after Mr. Kepley’s disappearance, his mom finally received a copy of the U.S. Coast Guard investigative report.  But it reached no conclusions.   It contained just one blurry surveillance image of a person walking on deck in the early morning hours when her son went missing.  The person’s face was blacked out, and the names of witnesses who claimed to have seen Mr. Kepley on the ship were also redacted.

Holland America Line claimed that there was no surveillance video available to explain what happened.

No one should disappear from a cruise ship without closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras recording what happened, says Mr. Kepley’s mom.

The case has the attention of the President of the International Cruise Victims organization.  Ken Carver lost his daughter on a Celebrity cruise ship in Alaskan waters and faced the indifference of the cruise line who did not even report her missing. 

Mr. Carver also discusses the problem of the FBI not releasing accurate number of cruise ship crimes, and the U.S. Coast Guard not implementing provisions of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act designed to protect cruise passengers. 

 

George Smith Disappearance  In December 2005, Congress convened its first hearing on the issue of the safety of U.S. passengers on foreign flagged cruise ships.  The hearing came about primarily due to the efforts of several families who had lost loved ones from cruise ships on the high seas, under suspicious circumstances. 

George Smith’s family was instrumental in bringing a great amount of much needed publicity to the issue of passenger "disappearances" and the shoddy manner in which cruise lines respond to such tragedies.  George III and Maureen Smith and their daughter Bree Smith of Greenwich Connecticut contacted Congressman, Chris Shays (R-CT).   

The Smith family joined forces with the father of a young woman who also "disappeared" from a cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean’s sister cruise line Celebrity Cruises.  Ken Carver, a former president of an insurance company in New York, lost his beloved daughter, 40 year old Boston resident Merrian Carver, who went missing under suspicious circumstances during a cruise to Alaska aboard the Mercury cruise ship.  

The cruise line tried its best to cover the incident up.  It didn’t report Merrian missing to either the FBI or the Alaskan State Troopers, even though the cabin attendant reported her missing early in the cruise. The cruise line either gave her personal items away or put them in storage. 

When Mr. Carver asked for an explanation, Royal Caribbean responded by lying to Mr. Carver and disposing of evidence.  Mr. Carver didn’t go away.  The story went public.  The The Arizona Republic published an excellently researched and written story, revealing the hideous manner that this cruise line acted when people disappear at sea. 

Mr. Carver’s situation is simply the worst conduct I have ever seen by a cruise line.

One of Mr. Carver’s daughters had been an intern of Congressman Shays when Mr. Carver had lived in Connecticut.  Mr. Carver’s story was featured on CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s show.  The  producer for the program, CNN’s David Fitzpatrick (a resident of Connecticut), recommended to Mr. Carver that he call on Congressman Shays and tell him about the way the cruise line treated his family. 

Ken Carver - International Cruise VictimsAs a result of the convergence of tragedies suffered by the families of George Smith and Merrian Carver, Congressman Shays convened a hearing to study the problem of passengers disappearing on cruise ships and the manner that the cruise industry treated the surviving the surviving family members.  He opened the hearing by stating:

"The bottom line is we are suspicious, candidly, that there’s some huge problem in the cruise industry.  We think that people are not aware of some of the challenges and some of the potential problems they encounter."   

Mr. Carver attended the December 2005 hearing.  I attended the hearing with my client Jennifer Hagel.  Mr. Carver introduced himself to me at the hearing.  He asked me if I was interested in supporting legislation making cruising safer for the public?  I saw a conviction in Mr. Carver’s eyes six years ago.  I realized that he was serious.  

Mr. Carver realized that he could not fight the cruise industry alone.  He thereafter created an organization called the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization, effective January 1, 2006.   As a former executive, Mr. Carver had the leadership and management skills to create a highly effective organization.  Like the many other ICV members, Mr. Carver also had a passionate dedication to his daughter and a desire to protect other families from going through a similar nightmare. 

Mr. Carver was responsible for convening four additional Congressional hearings, taking the ICV organization internationally, and organizing a team of victims who were responsible for the enactment of the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act

George Smith, Merrian Carver and other victims may be gone from this lifetime, as we know it.  But their legacies continue today. 

The cruising public is safer for the efforts of their families.  

 

This article is part of a series of articles this week: Disappearance of George Smith IV – Six Years Later.  Do you have information which may solve this case?   Please let us hear from you. 

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)