Earlier this month, Florida Today published a story discussing the recent arrest of a Disney Cruise Line crew member who has been charged with two counts of lewd or lascivious molestation and one count of false imprisonment of a 13-year-old female cruise passenger. Our cruise ship lawyers have been watching this case closely for additional details to emerge. Under federal maritime law, cruise ship companies are subject to strict liability claims for rape, sexual assault and any crime committed by their employees. In other words, cruise ship companies are legally responsible for the criminal acts of their crew members.
Details of this latest crime is still emerging. However, Canaveral Port Authority Police were notified of the allegations shortly after Disney’s Dream cruise ship docked at the terminal following a four-day journey to the Bahamas. Police arrested 36-year-old Ahmed Sofyan, a resident of Jakarta, Indonesia.
According to police, Sofyan lured the minor into an unoccupied cabin and touched her inappropriately. During the encounter, the victim attempted to escape, and even asked to leave several times, but Sofyan wouldn’t let her leave. Sofyan ultimately let the girl go, and when confronted by police, admitted that he knew his conduct was wrong and that the girl was only 13 years old.
Following the incident, Karl Holz, president of Disney Cruise Line issued a statement: “We have no tolerance whatsoever for the behavior alleged in this incident. We are sorry that anything of this nature could have occurred on one of our ships. We place enormous value on the trust our guests have in us, and nothing is more important to us than the safety and security of each and every one of our guests.”
Preventing and controlling crime on board ships is one of the biggest problems that the cruise ship industry faces. Every year, dozens of cruise ship passengers fall victim to physical and sexual assaults onboard cruise ships at the hands of crew members and other passengers.
Last year, this blog discussed an assault on a fourteen-year-old passenger aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Imagination by a security guard. According to the victim of the alleged assault, the guard chased him into a stairwell and slammed him into a wall after witnessing the teen try to sneak into the ship’s nightclub. In July of last year, a 19-year-old man from Kentucky was charged with raping an 18-year-old aboard the Carnival Dream. These are just a couple of the dozens of crimes that are committed against cruise passengers each year.
Recently, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”), conducted a review of compliance with the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010, reporting that it had concerns about the usefulness the Act’s crime-reporting requirements. According to the review, the reporting requirements of the CVSSA produce outdated statistics on only a fraction of crimes.
The CVSSA requires cruise lines to report crimes falling into eight categories to the FBI: homicide, suspicious death, missing U.S. national, kidnapping, assault with serious bodily injury, sexual assault, firing or tampering with vessels, and theft greater than $10,000. According to the GAO, crime statistics are published by the Coast Guard on its website only after the investigations are closed. This means that, between January of 2010 and September of 2013, only 81 of 287 required crime reports were made public.
Cruise companies have a duty to provide a safe environment for their passengers and the failure to do so may entitle the injured party to compensation. Furthermore, when a crime is committed by a cruise ship employee, the company is responsible. The Florida cruise ship accident attorneys of Gerson and Schwartz, P.A. are licensed to practice law in all of Florida’s state and federal courts and have been representing the victims of cruise ship accidents for over four decades. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a crime or sexual assault on a cruise ship accident, contact the Florida maritime attorneys of Gerson and Schwartz, PA today.