Last summer, MarketWatch reported that 298 people have went overboard on cruise ships since 2000. Additionally, 49 people have went missing on cruise ships in the same time period, with no evidence to determine if they went overboard or disappeared while on the ship.
The data comes from multiple studies performed by Dr. Ross Klein, a sociology professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland, in Canada. He is also the editor for CruiseJunkie.com, an online collection of crime and incident reports regarding cruise lines. For years, Klein has kept track of all reported incidents that have occurred on cruise ships. On average, 19 people go overboard or missing on cruise ships annually. In a 2013 testimony to the United States Senate, Klein noted that his research shows that 3.3% of the disappearances involve murder, while 11% are contributed to suicide.
Last year, the Carnival Corporation (owner of Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, and Costa Cruises) confirmed that 129 of Klein’s 298 cases have occurred on their ships. Jim Walker, an American attorney who used to act as counsel for the cruise line industry, described the way that cruise lines operate to avoid responsibility. He stated, “So, the largest cruise line corporation in the world, Carnival, is based in Miami, but incorporates itself in Panama in order to avoid U.S. responsibility. They avoid U.S. taxes, U.S. labour laws, wage laws, environmental laws, safety regulations, and by doing that gain, quite literally, billions of dollars that would otherwise go to taxes.”
Unfortunately, taxes are not the only way that cruise lines avoid responsibility. Due to the fact that the cruise ships operate on international waters, there is no legislation that mandates the cruise line to investigate cases of crime or disappearance on the ships. With that said, cruise lines can get away with covering up murders, disappearances and rapes that occur on the cruise ships in order to avoid bad publicity. Kendal Carver, the President of the International Cruise Victims Association, explained that passengers can’t even rely on the security personnel aboard cruise ships. He said, “Their security officers are not going to take action that results in liability against the cruise line. And so many of these crimes have occurred where a crew member has raped someone – so, if they were doing their job they would be putting their employer at risk. The security on the cruise ship does not work for the public; it works for the cruise line.”
In a former interview with Vice Magazine, Klein stated, “To me the greatest threat going on cruise ships isn’t even the disappearances, but the sexual assaults.” He referenced the fact that the sexual assault rate on cruise ships is 50% higher than the sexual assault rate in Canada. With consideration of this data, the annual rate of sexual assaults on cruise ships is 33 per 1,000 people. For comparison, the 2017 National Crime Victimization Survey reported the sexual assault rate in the United States to be 1.2 per 1,000 people. Between 2016 and 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported 78 incidents of sexual assault on cruise ships, along with 16 assaults resulting in serious bodily injury.
The procedure for investigations on cruise ships becomes another major issue for passenger victimization and disappearance. When investigations do occur, they are typically handled by law enforcement in the country where the ship is registered. The majority of cruise ships in operation are registered in foreign countries to avoid paying U.S. taxes. However, if the ship is not docked, incidents of crime, disappearance, and death are investigated by cruise ship employees, resulting in a high probability for evidence to be tampered with, contaminated, or destroyed.
Among these circumstances, would you feel safe on a cruise ship? Let us know.