Crimes on Cruise Ships Believed to Be Underreported

More national attention has been brought to crimes that occur during cruise ship voyages after a senate committee released its findings that a small percentage of crimes aboard cruise ships are actually reported. Only 31 of 959 incidents reported since 2011 to the FBI were publicly disclosed on the Coast Guard website. On top of that, those were only the cases that were no longer under investigation. Cruise ship owners are only required to report certain types of crimes, including homicide, disappearance of a U.S. National, kidnapping, or suspicious death. Cruise ship companies have reported 130 of these incidents to the FBI since 2011.

Members of the U.S. Senate have called for stricter reporting guidelines. Three of the major cruise ship companies have offered to report all alleged incidents to increase transparency. Companies will post a list of all reported incidents dating back to 2010 on their websites beginning August 1st. This includes all cases, regardless of whether they are open or closed.

A congressman highlighted one of the major flaws in the current reporting system. He pointed out that at sea you are unable to call 911 if you become the victim of a theft or assault. The only recourse available is to report the incident to security officers onboard the ship, who are also employees of the cruise line. This reveals the potential for the natural conflict of interest to stand in the way of a thorough investigation and reporting of the incident to authorities outside of the cruise line.

Cruise lines have been under greater scrutiny after a string of incidents occurred earlier this year. In this effort of greater transparency, focus has been placed on the idea that criminal incidents are remote occurrences. Crimes on cruise ships are typically investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation under Section 7 of Title 18 of the United States Code, but much of whether they investigate depends on whether the victim was a U.S. National, if the ship was located within U.S. Admiralty jurisdiction, or if the crime occurred within 12 miles off the U.S. Coast.

A victim of crime may want to utilize civil remedies available under maritime law to hold cruise ship companies accountable for the injuries sustained. Cruise ships are obligated to maintain reasonably safe conditions on board the ship for passengers. If a passenger was injured because of the ship line's failure, then they can be held liable for damages, or the money it would take to make the injured party "whole" again. Examples of a cruise line's obligations include background checks on employees, maintaining safe premises onboard, and providing safe transit for day excursions.

The Washington maritime law attorneys John Merriam and Gordon Webb have over 50 years of combined experience litigating admiralty personal injury cases. They understand the financial hardships an injury can have on a family, and they work tirelessly to get you the compensation you deserve. If you have been injured and would like to speak to one of our experienced attorneys, contact our office at 877.800.1007.

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