For over a decade, the International Cruise Victims Association (ICV), an all-volunteer advocacy organization has provided support to hundreds of victims of crimes and other tragedies occurring on cruise ships. The organization’s four founding families have been joined by hundreds of additional individuals who have been victimized or are concerned about victimization and disappearances on cruise ships. Together, they continue to advocate for legislative reform to protect passengers from crimes and increase the rights of victims of crimes occurring on the high seas. Such passengers often feel alone and frustrated by the jurisdictional uncertainties and poor treatment by cruise companies.
American citizens buy their cruise tickets in America and then board what they assume is an American ship, in an American port. They naturally assume that the laws and rights that protect them as American citizens go with them. But what most Americans don’t realize is that as their ship disappears over the horizon, they not only vanish from sight but from oversight as well. They are now in international waters where egregious crimes are routinely under-investigated and the perpetrators are routinely unprosecuted, leaving victims routinely and tragically under-served.
ICV members, most of whom are victims themselves, have personally taken these concerns to Capitol Hill, where they have gone up against the powerful professional lobbying efforts of the cruise industry. In 2010, these efforts were rewarded with the passage of historic legislation, known today as the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, the first action of its kind intended solely for the purpose of increasing passenger safety. Our members find some comfort in knowing that we have not stood idly by or suffered our losses passively, as is evidenced by the fact that we once again have legislation pending in Congress to further strengthen existing legislation.
ICV urges potential passengers to be conscious of the dangers inherent in taking a cruise. Passengers should be aware that cruise ships are not registered in America; they are instead registered in foreign countries using a system known as “flags of convenience,” which allows the ships to buy the right to fly the flag of an under-developed nation whose lax laws prevail. This is especially critical in combination with the fact that cruise ships have no independent police or well-regulated medical care such as you would find on land in the U.S. Both of these workforces onboard ships are employed by the cruise lines which creates an inherent conflict of interest. This is especially egregious in the event that the crime or the sub-standard care involves a crewmember. Therefore, we urge passengers to take the same, if not more, precautions they would in any city on land. Stay together. Use the buddy system. Never, never let your children out of your sight. Be mindful of your alcohol intake and stay alert and aware of your surroundings on the ship.
Finally, ICV has fought long and hard to make a way where there previously was no way for the increased protection of cruise ship passengers. With purpose and passion, we have worked to give voice to the often voiceless victims of cruise ship crime through legislation, education, and advocacy. We are determined to continue to pursue justice for victims and rights for passengers with an energetic commitment to these goals.
**For more information on cruise ship crime, please go to www.internationalcruisevictims.org.