This year an estimated 203 cruise ships carrying nearly 960,000 passengers is expected to depart from the Port of Seattle.
Hundreds of crimes are committed aboard cruise ships each year and in the past, data shows, neither the companies nor law enforcement were eager to investigate. However, a law that went into effect last year requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation to take a more active role in investigating crimes committed asea, and the law requires a uniform standard for crime reporting.
Now the first comprehensive reports of cruise ship crimes are being released, thanks to the efforts of a retired Phoenix businessman, whose daughter vanished from an Alaska 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. Cruise ships now are required to disclose all serious crimes and the Federal Bureau of Investigation must develop a system to put victims of crimes in contact with federal agents while they are still aboard the ship.
In a 2007 address before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, an FBI representative said the agency “is committed to addressing piracy and serious criminal acts of violence and is dedicated to working with its partners at every level to investigate and prosecute crimes on the high seas.”
Despite the 2007 address, the FBI did not take an active interest in most crimes committed against passengers on cruise ships, according to the International Cruise Victims Association, the watchdog group founded by Carver.
"If you go back three years ago, when we raised the question with the FBI: 'What are you going to do if someone is raped on the high seas?' The answer was, 'Nothing,' " Carver said in an Arizona Republic newspaper article. "Now they are doing something."
Although a trade organization that represents cruise lines says data on crimes asea 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 article, 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.
For those whose lapse in judgment causes them to commit crimes while at sea, the new laws and closer scrutiny of crime statistics related to cruise ships could mean suspects would face federal charges.
Everyone charged with a crime, regardless of the circumstances, is entitled to a good defense. If you are facing criminal charges, call the Seattle law office of Steve Karimi at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online.