YEAR OF THE SEAFARER | Jurisdictional Disputes Leave Foreign Crew Members In No Man’s Land

Jim Walker | Cruise Law News

A number of articles published this weekend reveal the plight of young women sexually assaulted on foreign flagged cruise ships and cargo vessels.

Yesterday [July 17], in Cruise Rape – Is Royal Caribbean Up To Its Old Tricks?, we reported that a South African crew member claims that another crew member raped her on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  The Captain of the cruise ship reportedly dismissed the rape as a “he said, she said” incident, and then sent her back to her home country.  If a U.S. crew member or passenger is victimized, the cruise line claims that it reports the crime to the Federal Bureau of Investigations.  The FBI has jurisdiction over such incidents.  But when a “foreign” crew member is raped, the case can fall into a no man’s land.

Most Royal Caribbean cruise ships are flagged in the Bahamas.  Royal Caribbean is incorporated in Liberia.  No one from these countries has any interest in or inclination of conducting a criminal investigation into the rape of a woman from South Africa.  And the country of South Africa has no jurisdiction to board a Bahamian flagged vessel operated by a Liberian corporation.

Today, the Times Live newspaper in South Africa reports that a 19 year old cadet on a cargo ship was raped and her body was found floating overboard.  Ms. Akhona Geveza was completing her Akhona Geveza - Safmarine Kariba - Sexual Assaultcadetship to become a navigational officer.  She reported being repeatedly raped by a senior officer on the Safmarine Kariba cargo vessel.  It is unknown whether someone pushed her overboard or she committed suicide.

The terrible ordeal is explained in two articles “Teen’s Horror on the High Seas” and “Legal Tangle Over Teen’s Death at Sea.”  The newspaper mentions a number of incidents of sexual assault and harassment of crew members.

The articles explain that what makes the case of Ms. Geveza difficult to investigate is that the ship is registered in Britain, Ms. Geveza is South African, the vessel was in Croatian waters, and the officer who allegedly committed the crime is Ukrainian.

It has been our experience when we represent young women from outside the U.S., that the flag states (Bahamas, Bermuda, Liberia, and Panama) never conduct a criminal investigtion.

A female cadets interviewed in one of the articles is quoted as saying: “We were told that the sea is no man’s land and that what happens at sea, stays at sea . . . ”

Credits:

Photograph             Akhona Geveza – FaceBook

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