AN epidemic of sexual assaults is blighting the booming cruise industry, it’s claimed.
But while these mega ships are essentially floating cities, they crucially don’t have not have police forces or courts.
Record numbers of people are choosing to holiday on the high seas, with at least two million British people getting on board ever bigger ships each year.
But with no police, campaigners and maritime lawyers are claiming once you leave land you are no longer protected.
“A cruise ship is like a floating city of 10,000 people with no police,” Philip Gerson, a lawyer who testified before US Congress on behalf of a teenager who was raped by two men in 2014, told the New Times.
“You have a barbershop, you have a gym, you have retail stores, but no police.”
By far the most common reported crime is rape amid a background of heavy drinking thanks to all inclusive drinks deals offered on many ships.
Maritime lawyer and cruise ship expert Jim Walker told Sun Online: “We see a direct correlation between excessive alcohol served on cruises and violence, in general, and sexual violence against women, in particular.
“Bartenders and waiters on cruise ships often receive tips and gratuities and are motivated to sell excessive amounts of alcohol in order to earn a living.
“There is no independent police force on these increasingly huge cruise ships.
“Girls and young women are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse in what is often a lawless environment.”
SEX ASSAULTS MOST COMMON CRUISE SHIP CRIME
The true scale of rapes aboard cruise ships is hard to gauge.
But figures compiled over the past three years among US passengers suggest there were at least 220 sex attacks.
And recent research carried out for a Congressional hearing found that more than 30 per cent of sex attacks are committed on minors.
Victims and their families often have the trauma of never seeing the attackers face justice, with hardly any cases prosecuted if the ship is international waters when the crime was committed.
Ships do have secure cabins to hold alleged criminals, but once suspects are delivered to authorities on land they can walk free because of a legal loophole.
This was highlighted by a case in April, whereby an accused rapist was let go after alleged cruise ship sex attack on a British teen.
It was claimed the 17-year-old girl was attacked when the cruise liner was heading from Palma to Valencia.
But when the ship docked in the Spanish port and the alleged rapist was taken to court, a judge let him go.
He ruled the alleged crime had been committed in international waters and that since the ship was registered in Panama, then technically it occurred in the territory of the central American country
Many cruise ships are flagged in tiny countries to avoid costly taxes and rules.
Often these nations are too small and impoverished to deal with their own crimes and rarely prosecute crimes committed aboard the vast numbers of ships registered with them.
‘DANGER OF SEXUAL ASSAULT’
As reported, in one lawsuit it is claimed Royal Caribbean crew members stood by and did nothing while the 15-year-old victim was plied with drinks — even though sexual assaults were known to be rampant on cruise ships.
Ruling that the cruise ship company had a duty to protect its passengers, Chief Judge Ed Carnes said: “The company should have been well aware, as it had previously reported multiple sex assaults on its ships.
“Publicly available data reinforces the allegations in the complaint that Royal Caribbean knew or should have known about the danger of sexual assault aboard its cruise ships.”
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A Royal Caribbean spokesperson told news.com.au that while they are unable to comment on pending litigation.
But it said: “We do take this allegation very seriously”.
“The safety and security of our guests is our top priority,” the spokesperson said.
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which represents the industry, wanted to allay concerns of passengers, who are unlikely to come to any harm.
Andy Harmer, CLIA UK & Ireland director, told Sun Online: “The safety and security of guests is the number one priority for every cruise line.
“The industry has always been vigilant in reviewing operational security matters and has a long history of putting the safety of passengers and crew first.
“In terms of security on board, cruise passengers are protected by a comprehensive system of security.
“Security staff on board and onshore are well-trained and experienced; some are former law enforcement officers and full-time security personnel are on the job 24/7 whilst closed-circuit cameras are also used to monitor ship activity.
“While precise security details for each vessel are confidential and vary based on size, configuration, passenger demographics and other factors, cruise lines have experienced, well-trained security staffs and protocols in place to protect passengers and crew, including closed-circuit cameras to monitor ship activity.”
The teen boarded the Oasis of the Seas cruise ship with her two sisters and grandparents when she was gang raped[/caption]
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