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Referred to as floating cities, cruise ships offer luxury while traveling the high seas to destinations that will leave their passengers in awe of the world’s sheer beauty.
However, with all the glamor associated with cruise ships comes the dark side of this industry. Sexual assault and other cruise ship crimes have hit the headlines more often than before.
This makes it a harsh reality for the passengers onboard a cruise vessel wanting to party and play.
If you’ve been a victim of sexual assault on a cruise ship, get in touch with Los Angeles cruise ship attorneys as soon as possible to evaluate your case.
Sexual assaults have been happening on cruise lines since they’ve been operational. However, only after the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act made it a requirement for cruise lines to report cruise crimes to the relevant authorities for record and tracking purposes.
Even then, many crimes go unreported for many different reasons, including those under Maritime Law.
Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) in 2010 to ensure the safety of passengers while traveling on cruise ships. Besides guidelines and procedures that a cruise company must follow, the act also emphasizes the reporting standards and how cruise ships must report any crime onboard. However, due to lobbying and requesting the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Coast Guard, the cruise industry changed the language in the CVSSA, changing things in their favor.
Initially, data on all reported crimes were publicly available through a dedicated portal. Still, after changing the language, crimes not under FBI investigation must be reported on the portal. This change in the language led to many unreported crimes since the FBI does not conduct investigations on sexual assault or rape cases, and those cases still under investigation would not get posted on the portal.
In 2014, lawmakers saw how the cruise industry was exploiting the law and made amendments to the CVSSA by requiring cruise lines to report and identify all crimes or alleged crimes on the ship.
Even after the new amendments, certain crimes go unreported because cruise lines maintain the position that the crimes do not fall under the reporting requirement.
Some of the crimes include:
We already know that a cruise line hides a lot of sex crimes that happen onboard, but do they make any effort to investigate the crime?
A cruise ship’s security officials onboard are the first ones to take notice of a crime and respond accordingly until the matter gets transferred to the relevant law enforcement authority while docked at a port.
However, jurisdiction is a huge concern regarding crimes on a cruise ship. Who is responsible for investigating the crime?
According to the State Attorney’s office and federal court, section 7 of title 18 of the US code states that the Federal Bureau of Investigation will be responsible for investigations of crimes onboard cruise ships.
Due to different jurisdictions and federal law, not only does the US government get involved, but negotiations also take place with the relevant port authorities and officials from the cruise line.
According to the Law of the Sea set by the United Nations Convention, for any crime at the port where the ship gets docked, local authorities of that country have the jurisdiction. The government also has jurisdiction if any crime happens 13 miles away from their shores.
For any crime that occurs beyond the 13 miles distance, the jurisdiction falls under the country whose flag is on the vessel. So, if a ship has a Bahamas flag while sailing and a crime occurs, the Bahamas law will be applicable.
Captains of the ship also have decision-making rights when a crime occurs on their vessel. Suppose a crime occurs on a Royal Caribbean cruise sailing in the Gulf of Mexico; the captain can either make an unexpected stop at a nearby port for local authorities to take control of the situation or make it to the next scheduled visit.
The FBI investigates severe crimes on a ship involving a US citizen. However, investigations first start at the local authority’s level. When a crime occurs, the FBI contacts its networks across the globe to take charge and ensure the safety of the US citizens on the ship and then preserve the crime scene for further investigations.
Laws for the cruise industry are quite hazy as it involves a lot of authorities and even countries. To get to know more about the law before your cruise trip, it is best to contact maritime lawyers. Ehline Law is a leading personal injury firm with a stellar record of winning cases for our clients.
Let our Los Angeles cruise ship attorneys help you if you’ve gotten injured or have been a victim of sexual assault on a cruise ship. Contact us at (213) 596-9642 and get a free consultation with an expert attorney today!
Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.