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Cruise Crime Act 2009 Questions

Written by: Paul Motter

What you may not know about the Cruise Crime Bill of 2009 – and why you need to follow this issue.

Among a laundry list of other “improvements” to cruise ship safety, the Cruise Crime Act of 2009 will require cruise lines to process and report every single baseless, uninvestigated and non-adjuducated complaint ever reported on all ships. This burdensome requirement is unlike anything any other travel industry has to comply with. So, how did this cruise bill get so far? maybe because we cruise lovers have not been paying enough attention to it.

The Cruise Crime Safety Act of 2009 is under consideration again this week, and it is another version of the last year’s Congressional cruise bills. But this year it is mainly being pushed by a few trial lawyers who specialize in suing the cruise lines. These men are naturally persuasive, after all, they sue the cruise lines for a living. They know exactly what needs to be pushed through Congress in order to achieve wild success.

This year the lawyers are giddy about finally getting the support of more people who have no care about the cruise industry other than to see them as easy pickings for trial attorneys. These people do not care about insurance rates or legal expenses driving up the cost of our cruise tickets. They would rather drive the cruise companies out of business.

The proponents of the bill want us to forget Constitutional Article III; where our nation agrees to abide by International treaties and law, and which gives the Federal branch jurisdiction over maritime law. They want ignore the fact that the United States is a signateur to the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) and the Athens Convention, two international treaties the U.S. has followed for several decades now – fully complaint with International Law.

Proponents of the bill wrongly claim there is a massive cover up of crime on cruise ships, so they want to require the industry to compile and publish “all reported crime incidents” on all cruise ships whether or not they involve a U.S. citizen. That means all reports, from “someone stole my sunglasses” to “a guy kissed me on the cheek when I said no” will now get the as much attention as a serious molestation charge. Every conceivable “crime” any passenger chooses to report will have to be documented, and even PUBLISHED for public consumption on the World Wide Web.

Typical Anti-cruise rhetoric:

I just read the transcript of a self-proclaimed cruise lawyer talking about cruise ships on a radio show, he made the following statements:

“The congress has put limits on how much you can sue for”
Not exactly. Our country subscribes to the International treaties of the Athens Convention and the DOHSA as mandated in Article III of the Constitution. The current laws are fully in keeping with International law – the direction for which Obama was elected.

“And yes, put up a higher railing because some of our people, you know, depending on how tall they are, they can fall over the railing.”
Patently ridiculous and untrue. No one has ever fallen over a railing because they were tall people. This is your biggest clue this man is basically just a fabricator – this is a wholly false and unsubstantiated statement, which no one challenged on the radio program.

“There are thieves on board”
Cruise ships are not dens for thieves, this is scaremongering. CruiseMates already warns people not to bring valuables onboard and also to use the safes. What more could a cruise line possibly do? Do you want security cameras in the cabins? In my experience far more thefts occur while your bags are checked in with an airline than on a cruise ship.

“You have a lot of assaults and a lot of rapes. And, people can’t do much, especially if they’re part of the crew”
Figures please? This is a harsh accusation which absolutely should not be said without putting the statistics on the table. “A lot” compare to what? I disagree that ships have “a lot ” of rapes. They have more sexual assaults than other crimes by far, but no more rapes per person than any other similar human population. This only goes to show you how relatively safe from other common crimes you are on a cruise ship.

Regarding crime on ships, this bill mandates EVERYTHING that happens must be reported to the Federal government, and failure to do so results in a substantial monetary fines againt the cruise line. As far as I know even public schools are not held to such a strict standard.

This same lawyer next says:

“You [cruise lines] better not try to cover it up, and you better report to the Coast Guard, the FBI, Homeland Security.” Cruise lines already DO report ANY crime that involves a US citizen to the FBI. They also send all of their ship passenger manifests to Dept. Homeland Security before the ship sails. If a person goes overboard they notify the Coast Guard immediately.

So, basically, this lawyer is once again scaremongering about how “bad” cruise lines are when in fact they are already doing everything he says they’d “better do or pay a fine” under this new law.

As far as sexual assault on cruise ships goes… Princess just recently turned in one of their own staff for a date rape situation after a private dinner. Coincidentally, this case fits ALL of the elements where such attorneys claim cruise lines “cover up.”

It was a consentual dinner with the two people alone. Although syill in trial, the crewmember was arrested as soon as the woman reported the incident, the ship isolated him and the crime scene, gave her a rape kit exam, turned the perp over to the FBI who later investigated, and now that man is in jail and on trial.

The cruise ship had every chance to cover up, send the perp home and tell the victim “we believe it was consensual” or “It’s a he said/she said.” This is exactly what the cruise victims claim the cruise ships “always” do.

But no. So, I ask you again… Where is the vast cruise line conspiracy to cover up crimes???

The FBI is More than Enough!

Our Constitution is an amazing Document:

Article III, Section 1.
The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

Section 2.
The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;–to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public ministers and Consuls;–to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;–

In just two consecutive paragraphs you have a federal court that obeys treaties and handles maritime law. Every US citizen has the full power of the FBI behind them when reporting these crimes, the FBI can and will collect evidence, arrest and even bring charges in federal court.

The FBI does an excellent job in handing these cases, as they should since high seas crime has fallen under their federal jurisdiction since the Constitution was written and the Bureau started.

Listen to the testimony of Jennifer Hagel Smith, whose husband George went overboard mysteriously in the Mediterranean in 2005:

“I was working side by side with the FBI. I was very confident in the FBI all along. I have to say that. I really think that they are just a stand-up organization. I did believe in everything they were doing and I felt like they were going to follow every possible lead. And’s what they do. They exhaust until there is no more.” (from the Smith Settlement Agreement hearing)

But this new bill requires that ALL crimes reported must be made accessible to the public at large, not just the FBI. Is that what the Consitution says? Is this new bill going to aid the FBI, further the cause of justice under our Constitution? No, it will just muddy each case with unsubstantiated innuendo with third-party case histories that were never investigated by a legal entity. Pretty much legitimizing hearsay in my opinion.

So, what is wrong with reporting the drivel along with the facts?

The FBI already has full power of jurisdiction, access to the crime scene, collection of evidence and ultimately the power to prosecute crime cases on cruise ships – when they believe there is really a crime. So, why should we legitimize uncorrobrated, uninvestigated, unprosecuted and non-adjuducated reports to be published on the Internet. Won’t that just lead to confusion and blur the line between true evidence and circumstantial innuendo? Won’t it taint jury pools and unfairly put misinformed pubic opinion on the front pages just when cruise lines are trying to settle cases?

When trial lawyers can introduce totally irrelevant and unsubstantiated information as evidence in cases you can expect a media circus every time.

Expect the cost of litigation and insurance to skyrocket, as well as the cost of cruise lines settling cases. That will cost jobs and growth in the cruise industry.

What is the fallacy that the lawyers don’t want us to know?

The trial lawyers claim they need more access to evidence, specifically the same evidence the cruise lines give to the FBI; forensic, eyewitnesses, technical witnesses. But the cruise lines rightly consider this “work product” as privileged information, so while they give all of such evidence to the FBI, they only give the opposing lawyers the names and contact information for the persons they interview. At that point the cruise line opposing lawyers can contact every single witness, interview them and depose them if they seem worthy. So, what’s the problem? Are they upset the cruise lines don’t do all the work for them?

Both the FBI and the plaintiff have the ability to investigate the case against the cruise line. If there is anything there, either may bring a case forward. Even if the FBI could not find enough evidence to bring forth a (criminal) case the Plaintiff lawyers can still pursue a civil case on their own. In fact, that already happens all the time already.

The opposing lawyers are upset that the cruise lines do not give them the same information they give the FBI – but there is a simple reason for that. They are SUING the cruise lines!

Here is a simple solution to this problem, instead of suing the cruise line for contributive negiligence at every drop of a hat – as long as the cruise lines are not directly responsible for anything criminal give them IMMUNITY from prosecution in exchange for cooperation. That way the victims get the justice they say they want.

Bingo – with full access to all of the cruise line’s records, the perpetrators are taken away, the victims get justice and cruisers are safe once again. That what the attorneys say would happen if they had this information. So why do they do everything they can to put the cruise lines in a defensive posture? Deep pockets is the answer. It appears that more than justice they want money in many of these cases.

As it is now, already, if the FBI cannot find solid evidence then expect the lawyers to start “throwing things against the wall to see what sticks” using any and all of the irrelevent “crime information” to be reported under this new law. Why else would they want all of this extra nonsense reported? It’s all about proving contributive negligence, my friends.

Again, the words of Hagel Smith regarding her attorney:

“He’s kind of a ‘throw up everything and see what sticks – that’s what their attorney’s approach is, so there are some things in here [a potential lawsuit they did not bring because they settled the case] where I thought he was reaching.”

Hmm, Jennifer Hagel Smith says about her own attorney in the case of her missing husband “I thought he was throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks” and “I thought he was reaching.” And she hired him. Imagine what it would be like to be on the opposite side of this attorney.

The FBI rightfully does not care about smearing the reputation of the cruise lines just to make a case. All they care about are the facts. The lawyers care far more about what they can get away with in settlement talks and in the courtroom against the cruise lines. They want to put as much “dirt” about the cruise line into the record as they possibly can, testing the judge’s limits for stuffing the trial record with innuendo and non-relevant information.

Once again, Jennifer Hagel Smith: “I am NOT under the impression that they’re (the cruise line) is withholding something from the FBI that has great impact on our case”

Basically, this bill is a trial lawyer Hail Mary that our Congress will pass an extraordinary law giving them far more weapons and ammunition to sue cruise lines. The problem is the new weapons are peashooters and spitwads, irrelevant information that is only going to clog up the records and double the amount of time spent in court, costing both sides far more money with no guarantee that awards will get any bigger.

The Danger of this Public database of unsubstantiated “Cruise Crime”

And what about putting everything on a public database? The victims have been sold on this idea by the lawyers who tell them “the FBI is useless,” and “we need the cruise lines to report everything for the safety of the passengers.” But what about the safety of the people who get “reported” but never get their day in court? Won’t this encourage vigilante acts against possibly innocent people, none of whom ever saw a day in court? In other words, the names of innocent people will be made public in non-adjudicated cases and some people will want to take justice into their own hands.

I personally received a death threat from a member of ICV not long ago. This man was mad because his cruise ship did not give him the name of a man who he says held his son’s hand (hence, he had to be a child molestor). After he thoroughly pounded the man without asking more than a couple questions both men were advised to leave the ship quietly a day later. The identities of each were withheld by the cruise line. Good thing, the so-called victim literally wanted to kill the so-called perpetrator. No day in court, of course.

If this bill is passed there will be nothing to stop people like the guy who threatened my life. They’ll eventually find names and addresses of their personal perpetrator, and then blood will be on the hands of the lawyers, cheerleaders and Congressmen who passed this bill.

There is nothing wrong with the system we have right now. There is absolutely nothing stopping a maritime lawyer trying to sue a cruise line from talking to anyone he wants – even cruise line employees, and the cruise lines will give them their names.

The current strategy of trying to sully the name of any cruise line by bringing up as many past problems is very simiar to what happens in sordid rape cases where defense lawyers attack the reputation of the victim – guilt by past association.

Fortunately, most judges in these cases are smart enough to exclude “evidence of non-related crimes” from the arsenal of the cruise ship chasing lawyer. If this new law goes through, however, the power of judges to stop a case from being prejudiced will be much harder because those loosly-defined, unproven crimes will already be “public information.”

Every cruise crime lawsuit will now become a happy fishing expedition for unsubstantiated innuendo. Just hand every trial lawyer and the media a boatload of rumors, allegations and accusations – NONE OF THEM VERIFIED, many of them wholly untrue, and let them go to town on damaging the cruise industry reputation. Worry about the facts of their case later, or never worry at all.

So what if the cruise lines and their passengers have RIGHTS TO PRIVACY, the right not to incriminate themselves, the right to protect the identities of innocent citizens and the right to defend or settle a case on its own merits, not based on whatever kind of dirt the plaintiff can drag into court.

Needless to say, we have extraordinary synpathy for the victims of the VERY rare crimes on ships. What we fully disagree with the people who only want to paint cruise ships as havens for criminals. It just isn’t so. This bill is overkill that will do far more damage when it comes to fixing what is already a minimal amount of crime on ships, and for that reason – we suggest this bill not go through as written. Serious consideration as to the outcome of such decisions must be determined first.

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Comments

Comment from Boudewijn
Time June 28, 2009 at 4:27 am

Boy, am I glad I’m not a US citizen.
But on topic: All the companies need to do is move there legal status to outside the US and the problem is solved. E.g. HAL ships sail under Dutch flag and are therefore Dutch territory: No FBI jurisdiction, no US laws etc.

Comment from Paul Motter
Time June 28, 2009 at 7:44 am

No, that isn’t true. Any ship that calls in US ports or carries US citizens is subject to the rule of law of the United States.

I know, yet another chink in the armor of misinformation this anti-cruise lobby likes to put out for public cunsumption.

Comment from Paul Motter
Time June 28, 2009 at 8:08 am

Where are you from Boudewijn? Holland, Maybe?

No matter, under this new law if someone accuses you of a crime it could also become public record, whther you had your day in court or not.

Comment from Boudewijn
Time June 29, 2009 at 6:46 am

Hi Paul,
Well, I’m from the Netherlands (Holland is a part of the Netherlands as e.g. Alberta is a part of Canada).

Both you comments kind of worrie me. I was always under the impression that when sailing under a Dutch flag I would be held to Dutch law, something like in an embassy.
Not that I have to hide anything, but if I were to be accused of a crime, I’d rather stand in a Dutch court then in an American court. Plus, I always thought that somewas was innocent until PROVEN guilty.

Another thing: Are you sure that when carrying US citizens, US law applies. That would suggest that when visiting e.g. a foreign country US law would go with them. I really can’t believe that.
Or, the flag on the back of a ship is there mainly for decorative purposes.

Quite complicated all, and since I’m not a US citizen, all far beyond my influence.

Comment from Paul Motter
Time June 29, 2009 at 9:39 am

Sorry if this is confusing to foreigners but thank you for the great questions.

Right now US citizens are protected by the laws of the United States while on the high seas. You are not a US citizen, so you need to look into the Netherland’s laws on protection for its citizens on the high seas.

If you were involved in a crime against a US citizen on a cruise ship that regularly carries US citizens and calls in the US you could be arrested by the FBI. But if no US citizens were involved then the FBI wouldn’t get involved.

Anytime a ship is in port then local jurisdiction applies. If at sea the law of country of registration applies first. Some nations of registration do little, but you mention Holland America regiters all its ships in Holland, Cunard registers all in the U.K. These are not just “flags of convenience.”

If the nation of registration takes no action then maritime law for the nation for which the parties involved will take jurisdiction. Most civilized nations have signed the Athens Convention and the Death on the High Seas Act. These are treaties which most nations regard as “law”. Our constitution certainly does.

So, your nation’s own maritime law can also apply if they choose to make it that way, as the US has done.

For example, when Jennifer Hagle Smith discovered her husband George was missing they were in Kusadasi, Turkey. Turkish authorities came on the ship and investigated her room. They took her in and questioned her. A local US FBI agent also came to her and later went aboard and looked through the room although he was technically off duty and only there to help Jen. The official FBI investigation came later, towards the end of the cruise.

Now, if you were arrested on a ship with a Dutch Flag (Holland America, for example) I am sure you would be subject to Dutch law, whether you were a Dutch citizen or not, but if it involved a US citizen then the FBI could also choose to also get involved. It is complicated, I agree. As to who gets precedent? They both have equal standing as far as I know.

What should worry you is the NEW law these people want to have Congress pass. Under that all “reported crimes” anyone claims to have happened onboard will have to be logged and reported to a US federal agency. You may be innocent as an angel, but someone could claim you did something and a permanent record of it will be made in the United States, possibly even reported on the Internet for everyone to see. There is no telling what kind of long term ramifications this may have.

If only this country was as tough on illegal aliens within our borders as it wants to be on legal citizens of any nationality sailing on cruise vessels.

Comment from Boudewijn
Time June 29, 2009 at 10:29 am

Thanks Paul, I get it now. It’s complicated but your explanation is excellent.

Comment from Paul Motter
Time June 29, 2009 at 1:12 pm

I also want to say one thing. There are people out there who not happy I am writing this stuff, but I think everyone has a right to know what is going on. There is far too much sensationalism and not enough logical discussion about this topic.

Comment from One of The Moms
Time July 10, 2009 at 11:53 am

I guess the ocean isn’t the only thing that is deep.

Comment from Dave Beers
Time July 12, 2009 at 10:26 am

Years ago, when I was an active motorcyclist, one of the magazines showed an image of what a “safe” motorcycle would look like if the lawyers, the government, and all the busybodies designed it. Of course it was ridiculous, with pads, air bags, safety bars, etc., hanging off of it. Nobody would want to buy it. But then marketing a viable product at a reasonable price wasn’t the goal. Regulation and exercising malicious control was the goal.

Once the government gets their fingers in something they’ll never let go of it. I can easily see cruise ships with totally caged balconies and promenades, an 8 foot high fence along the upper deck, and perhaps a psychiatrist assigned to the medical staff to conduct seagoing marriage counseling.

Comment from Dee
Time July 25, 2009 at 9:47 pm

Thanks for information. What can we do to STOP this stupid bill from passing?

Comment from Paul Motter
Time July 25, 2009 at 11:49 pm

Write to all of your congressmen. Unfortunately, Matsui has a stupid rule that if you don’t live in her district you can’t send her email. But she is doing national legislation. If all she cares about is her district (Sacramento) why is she even working on this bill?

It just shows you the arrogance and narrowmindedness of these legislators.

Comment from Sir Duke
Time March 3, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Paul,
Thank You for your insights and expanding my learning curve towhich I will write to my Congressman on this Bill. I love to Cruise also….

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