Cruise Industry Releases Crime Statistics

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 three-year period.

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 compassion."

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.