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Page Updated 12/07/2021

Who Investigates Cruise Ship Rapes And Murders At Sea?


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 sheer beauty the world has to offer.

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.

Sexual Assaults and Other Crimes are at an All-Time High on Cruise Ships from Royal Caribbean to Princess Cruises

  • Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act
  • Do Cruise Lines Investigate Crimes on Their Cruise Ships?
  • Do Cruise Lines Follow Any Law to Protect Passengers from Pirate Attacks?

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 for an evaluation of your case.

Sexual assaults have been happening on cruise lines since they’ve been operational, however, it was only after the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act that 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.

Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act

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 US Coast Guard, the cruise industry changed the language in the CVSSA changing things in their favor.

Initially, data on all reported crimes were available to the public through a dedicated portal, but after changing the language, crimes that are 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 that are 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 in 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:

  • Molestation
  • Lewd conduct
  • Grouping
  • Touching inappropriately and more

Do Cruise Lines Investigate Crimes on Their Cruise Ships?

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 on a port.

However, a huge concern when it comes to crimes on a cruise ship is jurisdiction. 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 the federal law, not only the US government gets 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 that happens on the port where the ship gets docked, local authorities of that country have the jurisdiction. The country 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 on it while sailing and a crime occurs, the Bahamas law will be applicable.

Captains of the ship also have the 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 simply make it to the next scheduled stop.

The FBI does investigate serious crimes that occur 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 is 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!

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