Family of Chester Woman Missing From Cruise Ship Seeks Answers

Her name is Rebecca Coriam. She is only 24 years old. She is from Guilden Sutton, which is located in Cheshire, England.

Rebecca chose to work onboard a Disney cruise ship which is registered in the Bahamas. She was employed to supervise children onboard the ship. Reports state that Rebecca was last seen onboard the passenger cruise ship, Disney Wonder, on March 21, 2011.

Unfortunately, as has become the typical scenario, the issue of which country should take the leads in the investigation surfaced and became a problem. The family learned that the police in the Bahamas did an investigation, but the Bahamian authorities stated the evidence did not suggest any “foul play”. The question arises what type of investigation the Bahamian police really could have conducted to try to find this British citizen who went missing on a Disney cruise ship which was registered in the Bahamas as a flag of convenience.

Disappearances onboard cruise ships have gained much more national attention since the honeymooner, George Smith, went missing during his honeymoon cruise aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. Legal commentators and experts voiced harsh criticism of the manner in which the disappearance was reported and investigated by the cruise lines, arguing that the critical passage of time and missing evidence thwarted the efforts of the authorities to solve the disappearance, which was labeled as likely involving foul play.

In this particular case, the Bahamian authorities has indicated there was no evidence to suggest “foul play”, but again the issue of who should have conducted a thorough and complete investigation, the timing of that investigation, and how much evidence was actually gathered, remains at issue.

In a report from the BBC News out of the UK, it is indicated that a meeting with the shipping minister in the UK is going to take place. This incident is further calling to the attention of the authorities of other countries the need for legislation regulating criminal activity, including disappearances, that occur onboard these foreign flag cruise ships that sail all over the world, and carry passengers from all different locations in the world.

There appears to be a movement in the UK for legislation to allow British authorities to investigate an incident that involves a British citizen that occurs in international waters. The current law is that the responsible authorities is the country that issued the flag to the vessel, which in this particular case is the Bahamian authorities. People continue to question the incentive, the qualifications, and the abilities of the authorities of these flag states to investigate such events when they do occur.

In the George Smith case, in which our firm represented the family of George Smith, the Turkish authorities were initially contacted, and conducted a very brief investigation regarding George Smith’s disappearance. The ship sailed within hours from the port in Turkey, without proper forensic evidence being obtained, and without a full and complete investigation which would have included interviewing all of the potential witnesses. It was several days before the FBI got involved. Again, experts voiced opinions that the impropriety of the initial investigation, as well as the time delay in conducting any type of proper forensic evaluation and investigation severely hampered the investigation on the part of the FBI. The case remains unsolved.

Meanwhile, a Bill which would protect cruise ship passengers and crewmembers from criminal acts at sea has been filed in the Philippines.

An article appeared on a Philippine news website stating that a representative introduced a Bill which would require the owner of any passenger ships or cargo ships, as well as any type of marine vessels, to upgrade, modernize and adhere to specific requirements to guarantee and protect passengers as well as crew onboard ships.

The representative, who introduced the Bill, said that there were 12 Million cruise passengers in the year 2007 alone, and “with these figures, few vacationing passengers on vessel had been aware of their potential vulnerability to crime while on an ocean voyage”. According to the representative, Macapagal-Arroyo, she stated that sexual and physical assaults on vessels out of the United States are the leading crimes which have been reported and investigated by the FBI. The article outlines the difficulties relating to who the proper authorities are who investigate such crimes, as well as obtaining reliable statistical data about such crimes. The representative obviously did her research, and obtained information from the International Cruise Victims Association in order to present this Bill.

The Bill introduced will be known as the “Vessel Security and Accountability Act of 2011”, and would change the height requirement required for ships railings on passenger ships, and to require passenger cabins and crew cabins to have peep holes and security latches. It would also require that fire safety codes be implemented. All of these measures are designed to address the issues of fire onboard a cruise ship, and sexual assaults, as well as disappearances.

One can read the article to see all of the different provisions that are contained in this Bill that is being proposed, which are all safety measures which have been discussed since the missing of George Smith, and the growing public awareness of sexual assaults and disappearances occurring onboard cruise ships.

Our firm continues to be cruise ship and boating safety advocates for those injured or harmed at sea.