Contributors

Charles R. Lipcon
Charles R. Lipcon is the firm's founding attorney and has been handling injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims for over 40 years. Read More »
Jason R. Margulies
Jason R. Margulies is an experienced maritime lawyer and an active trial attorney handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims. Read More »
Ricardo V. Alsina
Ricardo V. Alsina is an active trial attorney, handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims. Read More »
Michael A. Winkleman
Mr. Winkleman is an active trial and appellate attorney handling all personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims, as well as complex business disputes. Read More »

Articles Posted in Cruise Line Crimes

Posted by

Laurie Dishman Cruise Ship Safety Senate HearingIn Part 1 of our blog, we discussed how sexual assaults are an ongoing problem within the cruise industry and how cruise lines have continuously failed to provide accurate reporting of the numbers and the facts surrounding these crime and have also failed to improve ship board safety aimed at addressing it, despite the fact that they have a responsibility under maritime law to the health and welfare of their passengers and crew. As a result, Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller recently held his second hearing to discuss the lack of passenger safety.

Sen. Rockefeller has continuously tried to improve the safety of passengers on cruise ships yet, cruise lines have been very slow to respond to his concerns. Last year, he introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act and held a Senate Committee hearing to discuss the lack of safety within the industry. The hearing, titled, “Cruise Industry Oversight: Recent Incidents Show Need for Stronger Focus on Consumer Protection,” was aired publicly on the senate website and showed just how large of a discrepancy there was between the crimes cruise lines report and the actual number of incidents that take place.

Shortly after the hearing, four of the world’s major cruise lines, “Royal Caribbean, Carnival Corporation, Disney Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Lines, “voluntarily” published crime reports, which included statistics on the number of passengers who reported sexual crimes dating back to 2010. We say “voluntarily” in quotation marks because the disclosure was mostly a response to the Senator’s bill, which mandates reporting compliance and also standardizes the way reports are revealed to the public.

Continue reading →

Posted by

Senator John Rockefeller Cruise Ship Safety HearingSexual 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.

Continue reading →

Posted by

Life saver In Part 1 of this two-part blog series, we discussed how the continued lack of safety within the cruise industry has prompted Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller to host several Senate Committee hearings on the issue. Despite the advances in surveillance and accident detection technology and the number of incidents that have occurred within the cruise industry, including injuries, assaults, thefts, and death, the cruise industry doesn’t seem to be taking the necessary procedures to ensure optimal safety for passengers on board. The continued increase in cruise crime and accident statistics has led the senator to propose another hearing to discuss these issues, which will hopefully be the turning point for improved cruise safety policies and procedures.

The new hearing, titled “The Cruise Passenger Protection Act: Improving Consumer Protections for Cruise Passengers,” is scheduled for July 23, 2014 at 2:30 PM and will be broadcasted live to the public via the Senate Committee’s website.

Much like each admiralty attorney at our firm, Sen. Rockefeller recognizes that the lack of industry-wide safety onboard ships has contributed to the escalating number of incidents. A problem that we’ve seen time and time against is that safety seems to be an afterthought for the cruise industry. It usually takes a serious accident or crime to occur – followed by heavy media coverage – to get cruise operators to discuss safety concerns and make promises to improve safety policies or even address the concerns of the public or maritime safety organizations.

Unfortunately, cruise ship safety isn’t one of those “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” matters. Cruise lines shouldn’t wait until someone is seriously injured, assaulted, robbed, or killed in order to make improvements to their safety policies. If there is even the slightest chance that an accident or crime may occur due to a particular cruise ship’s maintenance conditions or the line’s overall safety policies, the issue should be addressed immediately. Sadly, this has not been the case, and hopefully, next week’s hearing will touch upon this critical concern.

Continue reading →

Posted by

Life saver Last year around this time, the cruise industry was receiving a lot of negative attention following the Carnival Triumph fire in February, 2013, the Costa Concordia crash in January, 2012, and not to mention, a host of other cruise ship accidents and crimes. Though the cruise industry has never been 100 percent free of turmoil, the past few years have been wrought with an uncharacteristically large number of incidents involving passenger injuries, sexual assaults, overboard accidents, and deaths, along with several accounts of mechanical malfunctions, cruise operator negligence and crew member misconduct.

And while the cruise industry claimed several times it would improve safety features, new accidents and crimes have continually occurred and the industry had failed to provide any tangible evidence showing it had made good on the promise to improve safety. This prompted U.S. Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller to call a U.S. Senate Committee hearing on July 24, 2013 so the issues stemming from a lack of safety within the cruise industry could be addressed. The hearing, titled, “Cruise Industry Oversight: Recent Incidents Show Need for Stronger Focus on Consumer Protection,” was aired publicly online and provided shocking statistics regarding the discrepancy between cruise ship crimes and accidents and actual crime and accident reporting.

Several industry experts and notable figures testified during the hearing, including the “Cruise Junkie”, Professor Ross Klein. Prof. Klein’s website, cruisejunkie.com, offers statistics and the latest news on maritime accidents, environmental issues, illness outbreaks, and other incidents at sea or in port. During the hearing, he shared his research, explaining that in 2013 alone, the cruise ship industry experienced 2 collisions, 2 passenger bumps, 3 groundings, 5 cruise ship fires, 8 failed health U.S. inspections, 10 cancelled port calls and/or itinerary changes, 16 delayed embarkations/disembarkations, and 19 mechanical issues.

Continue reading →

Posted by

HondurasIn our last blog, we discussed the escalating crime rate in one of the most popular cruise destinations, Honduras. Though several Caribbean ports frequented by cruise lines suffer from high crime rates, it appears as though the situation in Honduras is reaching a critical level. Even the US Department of State has issued warnings on the dangers of this nation, explaining how violent crime has increased drastically and advising visitors to exercise extreme caution while in port, remaining aware of their surroundings at all times.

Though crime rates are escalating, the warning states that “…the Government of Honduras lacks the resources to address these issues.”

Last week, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández issued a ban on guns in Roatan and the Bay Islands, the regions cruise lines most frequently call on, but just days after the announcement, a tragic shooting crime occurred.

According to news reports, a young man was shot on Sunday morning, just three days after Hernández announced the disarmament mandate. The victim, identified as Henry Alexander Almendarez Orellana, was reportedly shot by two men in the area where he was living, Barrio La Punta of Coxen Hole.

Continue reading →

Posted by

HondurasCruising should be a relaxing venture. One where guests can take a break from the stress of everyday life and enjoy their vacation doing as much – or as little – as they like. But while many travelers book cruise vacations in the hopes of unwinding and exploring new destinations, the unfortunate reality is that cruising these days can often be far from enjoyable.

Though we wish it weren’t so, every maritime attorney at our firm can tell you nightmarish stories of what really goes on behind closed doors aboard a cruise ship. Despite the fact that technology has improved drastically over the years, as well as the fact that maritime laws have become stricter, aiming to improve onboard safety for cruise travelers (and crew members), a greater number of accidents and crimes are taking place both on board a ship and in foreign ports.

The other day, our maritime lawyers blogged about some of the many actions cruise lines can take to improve safety on board ships, such as providing better and more comprehensive training for all crew members, hiring staff with a specific security background as well as equipping all ships with better surveillance technology. But while there are numerous things cruise operators can do to offer a safer shipboard environment for guests and crew, there’s not much cruise lines can do to improve safety in a foreign port, short of ceasing port calls altogether.

Many of the ports cruise ships call upon are nations were crime rates are extremely high. To a cruiser, the port may seem exotic and mysterious, but in reality, some of these popular destinations – especially those in the Caribbean – are often plagued with violent crimes. And though cruise lines often do advise guests to steer clear of certain “trouble” areas in port, suggesting venues that are closer to port, crime can happen anywhere and at any time.

Continue reading →

Posted by

Coast Guard helicopterIn our last blog, our firm discussed a tragic accident involving a Carnival Spirit crew member. The victim, who allegedly worked in the ship’s kitchen, was reported missing July 8 after failing to report to his station and was presumed to have fallen overboard. The area where the victim was presumed to have fallen overboard was scoured, but sadly, the search for the missing man was called off the following day.

Carnival alleges the vessel was turned around immediately after a shipboard search did not find the missing man and the appropriate authorities were notified. But is there more to this accident than meets the eye? Did Carnival follow protocol or could something more have been done to try and save the crew member?

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald online site discusses a Carnival Spirit passenger’s testimony that is rather alarming. The passenger, who wished to remain anonymous , told Fairfax Media that an announcement had been made at around 9:30 am on July 8 informing those on board that a crew member had gone missing. However, the passenger claims the ship did not turn around until around 2pm. The passenger also added that it is possible the crew member could have been missing since the previous night, when the ship left Vanuatu.

The passenger’s recount, if accurate, could mean quite a bit for Carnival. For one, it could mean the ship’s operators did not initiate a search as quickly as they should have and if so, may be held liable for the crew member’s death.

Continue reading →

Posted by

Coast Guard helicopterAs any maritime injury lawyer can tell you, accidents involving cruise ships are more common than anyone can imagine. Several factors can cause an accident, including mechanical failure, captain error, inexperienced crew and overall negligence on a cruise line’s part in maintaining a safe shipboard environment. But while there are many different types of incidents that can transpire on the high seas, a large number are, unfortunately, fatal.

One of the most common types of cruise ship accidents (and also one of the most fatal) is an overboard accident. Since 1995, over 200 overboard accidents have been reported across various cruise lines. Some of these accidents have been caught on a ship’s security footage, while many are not, making it extremely difficult to determine whether the victim went overboard as a result of their own actions, the cruise line’s negligence in maintaining safe conditions on board, or because of another’s criminal actions. Since evidence is not available in all overboard cases, many of the victims’ loved ones are never able to obtain the justice or closure they deserve.

This is incredibly frustrating given the fact that negligence is almost always a factor in these types of accidents. Negligence in the sense that most cruise lines doesn’t have sufficient security cameras throughout a vessel to capture victims going overboard the moment it happens or sufficient security personnel monitoring each deck. Negligence also in the sense that cruise lines have yet to install radar detection technology that will alert crew members when someone has fallen overboard. This technology is especially critical because it can ensure a ship is stopped immediately and that a search for the missing person(s) is initiated right away.

Continue reading →

HandcuffsEarlier this week, we reported on an alleged sexual assault aboard a cruise ship in St. Kitts on June 6. There wasn’t much information on the supposed incident at first, aside from suggestions that the alleged assailant was a crew member, but a recent article published by a local news source has confirmed that the assault did in fact take place and the attacker was in fact a Carnival crew member.

According to the news source, the assault occurred onboard the Carnival Valor, while the vessel was berthed at Port Zante. Details are still scarce, but the source reports that cruise operators alerted local authorities of the incident and the assailant was taken into custody the same day and charged with rape. The victim was a female passenger aboard the ship, but due to privacy concerns, their identity was not revealed. Unlike a victim’s privacy rights, however, the identity of the assailant can be disclosed. Strangely, neither local authorities nor Carnival operators have yet to provide details on the crew member’s name or the circumstances surrounding the assault.

We here find it extremely odd that the details regarding this cruise ship rape – which occurred nearly a week ago – still remain so ambiguous. Though cruise lines have long failed to accurately report crimes aboard their ships, especially sexual crimes, the identity of the assailant is usually revealed a few days after the incident is initially reported. This particular incident seems to be under wraps, which leads us to believe there may be something neither local authorities nor Carnival want to reveal.

Continue reading →

Posted by

Cruise ship inspectionOur firm has reported on numerous sexual assault incidents aboard cruise lines over the years. In some cases, the incidents have involved other cruise passengers as the assailants, while in other cases, crew members themselves have been the suspects. Just last February, we reported on a horrific incident involving a female passenger who was brutally assaulted and raped by a Holland America crew member in her own stateroom. But while the idea of a crew member breaking into a passenger cabin seems to many a farfetched concept, sadly, the rate of sexual crimes on the high seas is more common than anyone might imagine. In fact, comprising 55 percent of all crimes reported to the FBI, sexual assault is the most frequently occurring offense on the high seas, and one of the most covered up.

We’ve previously discussed how cruise lines have underreported crimes over the years, mostly due to the fact that most ships are registered in foreign countries. By doing so, cruise lines are able to avoid stricter U.S. laws and are not as bound to disclose crime data as they would were ships to be registered in the United States. Also, with full disclosure of all criminal incidents onboard ships, cruise lines risk the negative press associated with these crimes and a drop in bookings. After all, who would feel safe traveling with a cruise line that held a high rate of sexual assault crimes?

Last year, Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller introduced a bill that would require cruise lines to increase transparency in their crime data reporting. The legislation was proposed after it became increasingly clear that the cruise industry was withholding information about their crime stats, especially when it came to sexual crimes. According to FBI data, cruise lines only reported 29 sexual assault or rape incidents to the organization in 2012 and only 11 of these incidents to the public. Who knows how many more incidents occurred that were withheld from both the FBI and civilians?

Which leads us to our next point. A news source in St. Kitts recently published a story on an alleged sexual assault incident onboard a cruise ship. The attack supposedly occurred on June 6 while the vessel was docked at Porte Zante. Oddly enough, no details regarding which cruise ship the supposed incident occurred on or information about the actual incident were provided. Is someone trying to conceal information?

Continue reading →