<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Cruise Ship Safety]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcbayarea.com/feature/cruise-ship-safety http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com en-us Wed, 16 Apr 2014 10:06:17 -0700 Wed, 16 Apr 2014 10:06:17 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[New Bill Could Shed Light on Crime at Sea]]> Tue, 23 Jul 2013 19:00:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/195*120/cruise-ship-generic.jpg

Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) on Tuesday introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act, which strengthens provisions in the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act that Congress passed in 2010. This development comes more than a year after the Investigative Unit first raised questions about the accuracy of crime statistics reported at sea.

The bill requires the Department of Transportation to publicly post an account of all instances of alleged cruise ship crime reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Currently, only crimes that are investigated—and closed—by the FBI are included in crime statistics and posted on the U.S. Coast Guard’s website.

The bill also requires the reporting of alleged crime against children and the number of passengers that fall overboard.

“This new bill is very important because our original intent was to allow people to see what alleged crimes may have happened—not those that have been closed,” Matsui said in a one-on-one interview with NBC Bay Area at the State Capitol on Saturday.

She credited the Investigative Unit’s reports about crime on cruise ships for exposing the way incidents are reported and made public.

“I think the fact that you were involved in this and cast a light on it—I think it’s really very important,” Matsui said.

View More Investigative Unit Stories About Cruise Ship Safety

Matsui first realized there was a darker side of cruising after Sacramento native Lori Dishman came to her for help. Dishman says she was raped on a cruise ship in 2006, and told her story in front of NBC Bay Area’s cameras last year.

“I tried to fight my way off. I tried to get away. He put his hands over my neck,” Dishman said in a March 2012 interview. “I just wanted to go home. I just kept saying that over and over.”

The FBI launched an investigation into Dishman’s case, but the cruise liner said no arrests were made and no one was charged with a crime. The incident was never reported in crime statistics.

Some cruise industry critics say the 2010 law legislation did not go far enough in making instances of crime transparent to cruise passengers.

“I think the public needs to know that what’s been put up on the website of the Coast Guard is not even beginning to be accurate,” said Kendall Carver, a passenger advocate. “It’s a total distortion of the actual crime rates.”

Last year, just 15 cases of crime were documented on the Coast Guard’s website. But Carver said his organization, the International Cruise Victims Association, has received hundreds of calls and e-mails from those who say they were the victim of crime aboard a cruise ship.

Carver started ICVA after his daughter disappeared on an Alaskan cruise in 2004.

In a letter from the FBI sent to Carver in response to a Freedom of Information Act Request, the agency indicated that it documented more than 400 reports of crime in 2012, including 29 sexual assaults. The statistics online reflect 11 sexual assault cases closed by the FBI last year.

“That totally misleads the public about the safety going on a cruise ship,” Carver said.

The Cruise Passenger Protection Act also requires cruise companies to install surveillance cameras in all common areas on-board and gives victims the right to obtain video surveillance records if they are part of a civil action against a cruise line.

Specifically, the Cruise Passenger Protection Act would:

  • Ensure a cruise vessel owner notifies the FBI within four hours of an alleged incident.
  • Ensure that if an alleged incident occurs while the vessel is still in a U.S. port, the FBI must be notified before that vessel leaves the port.
  • Require vessel owners to also report an alleged offense to the U.S. Consulate in the next port of call, if the alleged offense is by or against a U.S. national.
  • Clarify that vessels must have video surveillance equipment in all passenger common areas, and other areas, where there is no expectation of privacy.
  • Allow individuals access to video surveillance records for civil action purposes.
  • Mandate that all video records are kept for 30 days after completion of the voyage.
  • Direct the Coast Guard to promulgate final standards within one year detailing requirements for the retention of video surveillance records.
  • Transfer authority for maintaining the internet website of alleged crimes on cruise ships from the Coast Guard to the Department of Transportation.
  • Require that the website breakout the crimes that are reported against minors and alleged “man overboard” incidents.
  • Direct the Department of Transportation to conduct a study to determine the feasibility of having an individual on board each passenger vessel to provide victim support services

On Wednesday, the United States Senate will also take up issues related to the cruise industry. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) will preside over a hearing aimed at strengthening consumer protections for cruise passengers.

Click here to watch the original investigation into how often crime is reported at sea.

If you have a tip for the Investigative Unit email theunit@nbcbayarea.com or call 888-996-TIPS.

<![CDATA[Questions About Cruise Ship Safety ]]> Tue, 10 Apr 2012 18:44:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/195*120/cruise-ship-generic.jpg

The Titanic sank one hundred years ago this week, but the recent Costa Concordia tragedy shows that cruise disasters are still real threats.

In January the ship slammed into a rock off the coast of Italy and sank, killing at least 32 people. Passenger Divya Sharma and her husband Sameer describe a chaotic scene moments before the ship submerged.

“We just looked at each other and did what we had to do to survive,” Sharma said.

The couple saved for months for what was supossed to be a vacation to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. They say the crew failed to show them where their life vests were stored and that there was no abandon ship drill.

"We don't deserve this," Sharma said. "We don't deserve the nightmares we still get."

The Costa Concordia incident is just one example of recent problems at sea. Just this month, a cruise ship caught fire south of the Philippines. In February, a vessel caught fire sailing in the Indian Ocean. In September of last year there was a blaze on a ship off the coast of Norway.

The Coast Guard oversees cruise vessel safety in U.S. waters. Inspectors evaluate everything from how the crew handles fires on board to how quickly they execute evacuation drills and lifeboat drills. Inspectors also examine the physical safety of cruise vessels to make sure they are in working order.

The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit obtained inspection reports for cruise ships examined at the Port of San Francisco for the past decade. The reports show that vessels had dozens of deficiencies.

View Inspection Reports Here

Out of 400 inspections, the Coast Guard found 104 deficiencies. All of the deficiencies are considered to be minor safety issues. Eighty-eight of the deficiencies were resolved immediately and 16 still existed when the Coast Guard let the vessels leave port.

Commander Jason Tama with U.S. Coast Guard sector San Francisco explained the deficiencies to investigative reporter Elyce Kirchner.

“An analogy might be a small dent in your car,” Tama said. “That doesn’t mean you can’t safely drive your vehicle across the Bay Bridge and get home and drive your kids around.”

According to a report from June 2007 when the Coast Guard examined a Japanese vessel, inspectors found live wires coming out of electrical outlets in the theater and discovered that at least two of the life raft launching machines on board were in disrepair. The Coast Guard tells us there are typically a few launching machines on any given cruise ship.

In that same report, inspectors stated that a life raft launching team showed a “general inability to deploy in a timely manner.” According to the report, the problems were resolved two months later.

“It is up to our folks who are very highly trained to determine what’s critical for safety,” Tama said. “We put them at the top of the list and make sure they are immediately fixed.”

Tama went on the say that “in some cases we work with the company to have them resolved in a timely fashion.”

According to a report from September 2008, inspectors found wear and tear and even cracks in lifeboats on a cruise ship from Bermuda. The report indicates that the problems were fixed later that month. The report also states that the cruise company was notified of the problems seven months earlier, but didn’t reply.

“If I’m a passenger on a ship, I’ll just need to accept that there may be some deficiencies on that vessel?” Kirchner asked Tama.

“It really depends,” Tama said, “depends on the vessel. But I can say that if you send a team of inspectors, highly trained inspectors to crawl around a cruise ship, even a modern cruise ship that is built to the latest standards, there may be.”

Al Anolik, a travel attorney and risk management consultant to the cruise industry, says American inspectors do a far better job finding deficiencies on board than inspectors in other countries. He also says minor problems, like cracks on lifeboats, can turn into bigger issues when they aren’t resolved.

“They are not minor when you need them,” Anolik said. “But until then, they can be put off because there are other things to do. And that’s the wrong attitude.”

Captain Bill Doherty agrees. The retired navy commander and former safety manager for Norwegian Cruise Lines is calling for independent, third party enforcement of safety standards apart from the cruise lines and the U.S. Coast Guard. He recently testified at a congressional hearing on cruise ship safety.

“It’s training, real audits—not rubberstamps—and identifying where we need to improve,” Doherty said.

Coast Guard officials seem to be on board with these changes. During the congressional hearings U.S. Coast Guard Vice Admiral Brian Salerno said the Coast Guard may need to look at its regulations. 

"Some of our regulations may need to be strengthened," Salerno said. “The international regime may need to be strengthened, maybe training needs to be strengthened. “Those are questions without answers at this point.”

Some changes are already underway. Crews are now required to complete passenger evacuation drills before leaving port, which exceeds international requirements.

Critics also say evacuation methods should be addressed. Current regulations require passengers to exit a distressed vessel within 30 minutes. It took at least five hours to get everyone off of the Costa Concordia.

Divya and Sameer Sharma welcome the changes, but say it will be a long time before they set sail on another cruise ship.

“Nobody deserves to die on vacation,” Divya Sharma said. “Why would they?”

<![CDATA[Reports Highlight Cruise Ship Deficiencies ]]> Mon, 09 Apr 2012 14:23:59 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Coast+Guard+logo.jpg

The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit examined U.S. Coast Guard inspection reports for cruise vessels inspected at the Port of San Francisco over the past decade.

Click the link below to view the inspection records.

Cruise Vessel Inspection Reports

<![CDATA[Crime Onboard: The Dark Side of Cruising ]]> Tue, 27 Mar 2012 05:55:43 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/227*120/cruiseshipsafety.jpg

Vacationing on a cruise ship, the last thing you think about is being a victim of crime. But crime at sea may be happening more than you imagine. 

The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit found that it is difficult to get a complete picture of how safe passengers actually are on board.

Sacramento resident Laurie Dishman agrees. 

In February 2006, Dishman and a friend went on a cruise to celebrate 30 years of friendship.

“We wanted to go and have fun,” she said.

But she says that’s not what happened. Dishman claims she was raped onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. Her alleged attacker was a male crew member. After it reportedly happened all she could think about was getting back on land.

“I just wanted to go home,” she said. “I just kept saying that over and over.”
Once the ship docked the FBI launched an investigation, but ultimately the government decided not to prosecute.

In a statement Royal Caribbean told us that based on the FBI investigation, no arrests were made and no one was charged with a crime.

The company also told us, “While we at Royal Caribbean strive to meet the high standards we set for ourselves, we acknowledge that we could have done better in our response to the Dishman incident. However, since 2006, Royal Caribbean has significantly enhanced the company's policies and procedures to prevent and effectively respond to security incidents."

Dishman took legal action against the cruise line and settled out of court. However, because no arrests were made and the crewmember was not charged with any crime, the alleged rape was never reported in crime statistics.

“Sexual assaults on cruise ships are more common than the cruise industry would like us to believe,” said industry critic Ross Klein.

He has collected and reported crime data from cruise ships for nearly two decades and has also served as an expert witness in cases against various cruise lines. Klein recently testified during congressional cruise ship safety hearings about his research.

“I’ve seen victimization of women in their 50s, 60s 70s, and women in their 30s,” he told us. “It’s almost when there is an opportunity, there is a possibility of an assault.”

Congresswoman Doris Matsui
also recognizes that there may be a problem with crime on board cruise ships.

“The more I delve into it the more I realize there is a darker side,” she said, “and it was important to bring that to the light.”

The democratic representative from Sacramento was motivated by Dishman’s story to take action in Washington.

Matsui authored the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010, which requires cruise liners to report all crimes to the FBI. In turn, the agency makes those statistics public on the United States Coast Guard website.

However, only incidents that are investigated—and closed—by the FBI are now included in cruise ship crime statistics.

Matsui told NBC Bay Area investigative reporter Elyce Kirchner that wasn’t the original intent of the law.

“They are only reporting the closed cases,” Matsui said. “So like last year, there’s only 16. There’s many more open cases than that.”

“How many more?” Kirchner asked the congresswoman.

“We don’t know,” Matsui answered.

Since the law went into effect, the FBI reported 28 cases of sexual assault for the entire year of 2010.

During the last six months of 2011, just three cases of sexual assault were made public.

Klein says there are many more, and points to his research from previous years as evidence.

From October 2007 through September 2008, he documented at least 150 cases of sexual assault, sexual contact and sexual harassment on board cruise ships. The data was obtained through filling Freedom of Information Act requests to the FBI.

The International Cruise Victims Association also says it gets inundated with calls and emails about crime at sea. Some detail violent attacks on passengers and even cases of child molestation. 

We reached out to the FBI numerous times by email and by phone, but the agency said its policy is not to comment on how it enforces the law.

As for the cruise industry, Dishman, Klein and Matsui say it’s very powerful. According to government disclosure records, in the last five years the cruise industry spent $10 million lobbying lawmakers.

“Basically, you have had it your way for quite some time,” Matsui said of the cruise industry. “You don’t believe that you need to answer to one member of congress.”

During congressional hearings on cruise ship safety, Christine Duffy, president of the Cruise Lines International Association or CLIA, the world’s largest cruise association, testified that cruise companies are in compliance with the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.

“We remain fully and deeply committed to continuous enhancement of the safety of guests and crew members,” Duffy told lawmakers.

CLIA also issued us a statement saying it has an excellent safety record and that “the industry has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to crime. Cruise ships are required to report all allegations of a crime to the appropriate law enforcement agencies, and there are ramifications for not properly reporting.”

Now as an advocate, Dishman encourages victims of crime at sea to come forward and tell their stories.

“What gets hard is when I see someone half my age that has gone through something so traumatic as a rape or sexual assault and knowing that they were treated similar if not the same as I was,” she said.

Dishman says passengers deserve to know how many crimes have been reported, and whether they were investigated or not.

Congresswoman Matsui says she hopes to work with the FBI to change how the agency reports crime statistics.

If you have a story you think we should investigate, email us at theunit@nbcbayarea.com.


Photo Credit: Getty Images ]]>
<![CDATA[Cruise Ship Safety: An Investigation Into How Often Crime At Sea Is Reported]]> Fri, 27 Apr 2012 14:25:30 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ITEAMATTACKATSEAPKG_6207867_722x406_2215763810.jpg While vacationing on a cruise ship, the last thing you want to think about is being a victim of crime. Often, crimes at sea go unreported, covered up or off public record. Our investigative reporter, Elyce Kirchner, has spent several months uncovering the truth. She has the sobering results. This story was published March 27, 2012, at 12:02 a.m.]]> <![CDATA[Cruise Ship Safety: Crime Prevention, Evidence Preservation]]> Tue, 27 Mar 2012 05:55:43 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/190*120/coastguardlogo.jpg

The U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and the FBI prepared a course to provide guidance on how to prevent and detect crimes, preserve evidence and report criminal activities at sea.

Click the link to view the course manual: Crime Prevention and Detection

<![CDATA[Rep. Doris Matsui On Federal Cruise Safety Law]]> Tue, 17 Apr 2012 07:48:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/2NEWMATSUIWEB_6207086_722x406_2215690788.jpg Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) speaks about the strengths and weaknesses of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010.]]> <![CDATA[Cruise Ship Safety: Cruise Lines Respond]]> Tue, 27 Mar 2012 05:55:43 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/227*120/cruiseshipsafety.jpg

The Cruise Lines International Association and various cruise companies respond to crime on board vessels.

Click the link to read the responses that they issued to us.

Cruise Lines Address Crime On Board Vessels

Photo Credit: Getty Images ]]>
<![CDATA[Cruise Ship Safety: Crime Statistics Analyzed]]> Tue, 27 Mar 2012 06:00:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/Magnifying+Glass.jpg

Cruise industry critic Ross Klein has compiled news reports and FBI statistics regarding crime at sea, including incidents of sexual assault and passengers overboard.

He has documented them on his website, cruisejunkie.com.

Click the links for a sample of Klein’s findings:

Sexual Assaults on Cruise Ships

Passengers Overboard 1995-2007

Passengers Overboard 2008-2012

Crime Stats October 2007-September 2008

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cruise Ship Safety: State, Federal Legislation]]> Tue, 27 Mar 2012 11:12:22 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/112008-capitol-p1.jpg


Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina) introduced legislation to protect passengers when a crime is committed onboard a cruise vessel. The proposal would allow the FBI to delegate authority to local port authorities when a violent crime at sea has occurred.

Click the link to read the text of the bill: California AB 1060 Cruise Ship Bill


Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) authored the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010, which requires the FBI to post cruise ship crime statistics on the U.S. Coast Guard website.

Click the link to read the full text of the law: Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cruise Ship Safety: Incident Reporting Statistics]]> Tue, 27 Mar 2012 05:55:43 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Coast+Guard+logo.jpg

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 prescribes security and safety requirements for most cruise ships that embark and disembark in the United States.

The Act mandates that reports of criminal activity be reported to the FBI. Per the Act, the U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for posting via internet portal cruise line reporting statistics provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Click the links below to view the crime statistics for 2010 and 2011:

Cruise Line Incidents 2010

Cruise Line Incidents Q1 2011

Cruise Line Incidents Q2 2011

Cruise Line Incidents Q3 2011

Cruise Line Incidents Q4 2011

<![CDATA[Cruise Ship Safety: Congressional Testimony]]> Tue, 27 Mar 2012 05:55:43 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/182*120/99988338.jpg

The Congressional Transportation and Infrastructure Committee called recent accidents or incidents involving cruise ships in foreign waters a warning signal for officials and the cruise industry to make certain U.S. cruise passengers are as safe as possible.

Among the individuals who testified to Congress on February 29, 2012 and March 1, 2012 are Christine Duffy, president and CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association and Ross Klein, cruise industry critic.

Click here to read written testimony from Ross Klein.

Click here to read written testimony from Christine Duffy.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Royal Caribbean Statement]]> Tue, 23 Jul 2013 12:52:43 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/227*120/cruiseshipsafety.jpg

Royal Caribbean issued us a statement regarding Laurie Dishman’s alleged rape onboard one of its ships in 2006.

Click here to read the statement.