The International Council of
Cruise Lines (ICCL) today released information regarding crime on board cruise
ships prior to a hearing before the House Subcommittee
on National Security,
Emerging Threats and International Relations.
The industry data, based on 15 cruise lines' submissions, totaled 206
complaints from passengers and crew during a three-year timeframe (2003-2005)
when more than 31 million people sailed on cruise ships. There were 178
complaints of sexual assault, four robberies and 24 missing persons during the
The cruise industry retained nationally-renowned criminologist Professor
James Fox, Ph.D., as an independent expert to review the data provided to
Congress. Professor Fox is the Lipman Family Professor of Criminal Justice at
Northeastern University, visiting fellow with the U.S. Department of Justice,
Bureau of Justice Statistics and author of 16 books.
"While virtually no place -- on land or sea -- is totally free of risk,
the number of reported incidents of serious crime from cruise lines is
extremely low, no matter what benchmark or standard is used," said Fox.
"Cruising is one of the safest vacations available with an outstanding
record that demonstrates the industry's commitment to safety and security,"
said Michael Crye, president of the ICCL. "The cruise lines cooperated with
Congress in gathering these statistics to further demonstrate that cruising is
an exceptionally safe vacation."
Crye further explained, "Certainly, these are not just numbers; they
represent people that have gone through personal tragedies. We do not intend
to minimize or brush aside their grievances nor shirk responsibility. The
cruise industry is constantly reviewing its practices and procedures to make
sure incidents, no matter how rare, are handled responsibly and with
Cruise lines operate within a legal framework under which international,
federal and state authorities investigate crimes on board cruise ships. All
allegations of crimes involving U.S. citizens are reported to the Federal
Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and alleged crimes against Americans can be
investigated and prosecuted under U.S. federal statutes even if they arise on
cruise ships outside of U.S. waters.
ICCL member cruise lines maintain a strict zero-tolerance policy for crime
that was adopted in 1999. In the event of an incident, the cruise industry
takes all allegations and incidents seriously, reports them to the proper
authorities and fully cooperates in any investigation. In many instances,
cruise lines do not publicly disclose detailed information to comply with
directions from law enforcement and out of respect for the families involved.
Cruise lines work closely with local, state, federal and international
authorities, such as port authorities where ships call, the U.S. Coast Guard,
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the FBI and Interpol. Every cruise ship
has a dedicated security officer
and staff whose sole function is the security
of the passengers, crew and vessel. Security staff personnel typically have a
former law enforcement or military background and are trained according to
international security regulations
Crye offered the following advice for travelers: "While instances of crime
on board cruise ships are rare, it is important to be observant of one's
possessions and one's surroundings at all times while traveling. Cruise
passengers are reminded of this, as they are in any hotel, by safety
information, daily bulletins, port visit briefings
and the provision of room
safes or safety deposit boxes."
"While a crime can occur anywhere, a cruise ship is one of the safest ways
to travel," Crye added.
The ICCL and several cruise lines testified in a maritime security hearing
before the House Subcommittees on National Security, Emerging Threats and
International Relations and Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources
on Dec. 13, 2005. Following the December hearing, the Subcommittees, led by
Congressman Christopher Shays (R-CT), requested numbers from individual cruise
lines on sexual assault, missing persons and robberies ($5000 value and above)
during a three-year period (2003-2005). During this time, more than 31 million
people took cruise vacations.