Sexual assault is an issue that has plagued the cruise industry for several years. Unfortunately, as each maritime lawyer at our firm knows all too well, not very many people are aware of this. For years, the cruise industry has been allowed and worked very hard to hide the number of crimes that occur on board, as a result only minimal about this has gotten out to the public.
Though maritime law requires crimes to be reported to the FBI, Coast Guard and other appropriate law enforcement agencies, the fact that most cruise ships are registered in foreign countries and fly foreign flags results in a kind of loophole – one that has allowed the cruise lines to get away with not reporting these crimes. By flying these “flags of convenience”, cruise lines until recently, had been allowed by the U. S. government to not have to report these crimes.
One might think that an allegation as serious as sexual assault would be taken seriously by the cruise lines, but in an effort to protect themselves, what they usually did was fire and send home the accused rapist if he was a non ranking member of the vessels crew and the victim if also a crew member or if a passenger try to convince them to not report it to U.S authority and to instead let the line deal with the perpetrator. The cruise lines motivation for this should be obvious, they believed that if they disclosed all the information about the crimes that do occur on board, future cruisers would be discouraged from booking a cruise vacation out of fear they might become the next target, this in turn which would result in a lose of a lot revenue. Additionally the line might also be accused of negligence for failing to maintain a safe shipboard environment. Yes, things can happen that are out of any one’s control sometimes, but the majority of crimes and accidents that occur on cruise ships happen because of a lack of sufficient safety measures. Like, for example, insufficient security measures, surveillance equipment, security guards, adequate monitoring of the security system on board or even because it did not properly screen crew members or train crew on how to respond to emergency situations. Continue reading →