New Proposals Addressing Crimes at Sea Agreed to by United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (IMO)

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has announced that the IMO has agreed to a proposal by the United Kingdom, the Cruise Lines International Association and the Philippines to promulgate guidelines which will address concerns relating to alleged serious crimes and persons missing at sea.

There were 24 delegations which spoke at the IMO meeting held on April 18th. All of them supported the proposal.

The key elements that are going to be part of the guidelines include preservation of evidence, medical and pastoral care for victims, effective and timely reporting to governments, as well as cooperation between the governments with respect to investigations.

Our firm has handled many cases where all these problems have surfaced, and applauds the announcement that guidelines are going to be developed to address these problems. Many of these problems were brought to light following the disappearance of George Smith during his honeymoon cruise. Our law firm represented the parents of George Smith. We fought for more than a year simply trying to get evidence from the cruise line company and from other sources in order to provide the parents with answers to the questions they had about the disappearance of their son. We were met with roadblocks all along the road.

The problems started with the investigation onboard the vessel, where there were allegations that material information was either not properly preserved or destroyed. There were problems determining which authority had the jurisdiction to conduct the investigation, which resulted in a significant delay in the F.B.I. getting involved in the investigation. Again, resulting in loss of material evidence that could have solved the mystery.

The problems with the George Smith case, as well as other cases involving missing persons onboard a cruise ship, led to Congressional Hearings addressing these matters. I was an invited speaker as a maritime expert to answer questions in Congress regarding safety laws and procedures that apply to the cruise ship companies when incidents such as this occur onboard a cruise ship. Eventually, the Congressional Hearings led to the passage of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act which was signed into law by President Obama.

The next step with respect to the IMO is to get down to the technical details to complete the guidelines. The work is supposed to begin immediately and will be led by the United Kingdom along with other member states of the IMO. The goal is to develop guidelines that are proportionate for the different ship types and without an excessive burden to the Master and crew. The IMO will receive input from CLIA and other organizations with specialized expertise.

I think attorney Laurence D. Gore for his reporting on the news about the agreement to develop these guidelines. The guidelines are long overdue, and hopefully will lead to greater clarity when an incident such as what occurred in the George Smith case happens. The goal is to make sure the cruise ship companies promptly report these incidents to the appropriate authorities, and take all necessary steps to assure that important and critical evidence is not lost after a serious crime is reported, or a person is reported as missing at sea.

Our firm continues to act as safety advocates for all those injured or harmed at sea.