Last year, more than 90 cruise ships carrying nearly 200,000 passengers departed from the Port of Baltimore, making it the sixth busiest port on the East Coast, 11th among all U.S. ports, and 20th in world ports.
Now, for the first time, seafaring travelers can get comprehensive reports on crimes -- including those involving personal injury, assault, and death -- aboard cruise ships.
Access to the reports is the result of a crusade against the multibillion-dollar cruise-line industry carried out by a retired Phoenix businessman, whose daughter vanished from a cruise in 2004. The grieving father, Kendall Carver, and other cruise ship crime victims and their families lead the grass-roots campaign, which resulted in legislation that went into effect last year. Ships now are required to disclose all serious crimes and the FBI must develop a system to put victims of crimes in contact with federal agents while they are still aboard the ship.
Carver, the founder of the International Cruise Victims Association, said the required reporting means travelers now can find valid data on what crimes occur aboard cruise ships.
While a trade organization that represents cruise lines says data on crimes sea has always been available, statistics uncovered by Carver's association show a great disparity between what has in the past been reported compared to actual crimes committed at sea.
For example, according to an article in the Arizona Republic newspaper, FBI records show 563 crimes reported aboard cruise ships in 2011, including 11 deaths, 28 rapes, 57 sexual assaults, 64 sexual contacts and other sex offenses, 253 assaults, 126 thefts, 16 thefts of more than $10,000 and eight people going overboard. However, in 2011, only six cruise lines self-reported crimes on their website, totaling 102 crimes, including five deaths, 34 rapes, 29 sexual assaults, 17 assaults, 13 thefts of more than $10,000 and four people overboard.
Since legislation passed and the uniform reporting of crime statistics began last year, overall, reported crimes on ships jumped 408 percent with the number of sexual assaults reported in the first six months of this year alone increasing by 550 percent over 2015 statistics.
Even with under-reporting by cruise lines and a failure to fully investigate, a number of lawsuits have been filed in recent years against cruise lines for sexual assaults committed by their own crew members, including:
- A Georgia woman who filed a lawsuit in Florida's Southern District Court in September, against a cruise line after she claimed a bartender on the Bahamas-bound ship drugged her drink and raped her, leaving her unconscious on the deck.
- A Kansas mother who filed a federal lawsuit last year after she said a crew member on a cruise out of South Florida followed her into her cabin and raped her in front of her two children.
- A woman on a cruise in 2014 who filed suit after she said she was raped by two crew members. The employees didn't deny having sex with the passenger, but they said it was consensual.
- A woman on a 2012 cruise out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who filed a federal lawsuit after she said the cruise line company ignored her claim that a ship employee beat and raped her in a women's bathroom even though the incident was captured on surveillance video.
If you have been injured or someone you know has died as a result of a crime aboard a cruise ship, you may be entitled to compensation. Call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian at 800-529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.