Cruise ship industry apologists have long parroted the idea that cruising is the safest form of travel. They point to the fact that cruise ship statistics show a surprisingly low incidence of crime. We have thoroughly covered in other blogs how a loophole in the law allowed cruise companies to avoid reporting the vast majority of crimes, but that loophole has now been closed.
According to a recent Telegraph Newspaper article which covers cruise crime, cruising is safe, but “Rape and sexual assault – sometimes perpetrated by members of crew – occasionally hit the headlines…” While this is true, it is a mistake to judge the incidence of cruise ship sexual assault solely by the number of cases which hit the headlines. In fact, cruise ship rape and sexual assault are reported more often than any other cruise ship crime.
Correctly, the article cites the fact that “Just as on land, alcohol is often a factor in the assault cases…” Cruise ship crimes have often been associated with excessive alcohol consumption, including cases in which cruise bartenders have been accused of intentionally trying to inebriate passengers in order to take advantage of them sexually.
One of the most pertinent conclusions that the article draws relates to the fact that cruise companies purposefully use international Maritime conventions in an attempt to shield themselves from lawsuits and other legal consequences of their actions. The article correctly asks, “What laws would apply to prosecuting the aggressor and protecting the injured parties?” The answer to that question is not so simple:
“In open waters, the law that applies on board is that of the ship’s flag state – the country whose name is emblazoned on the stern. In many cases, that will be somewhere like the Bahamas, Bermuda, Malta, or Panama. It would be the police from that country who would be required to investigate.
Different rules apply if the ship is in port at the time, or sailing in territorial waters, when the local authorities have power to intervene.”