Princess Cruise Ship Passenger Charged with Importing $31 Million Worth of Cocaine

MIAMI, Florida-A magistrate recently determined that Melina Roberce must stand trial on charges of importing cocaine on board the MS Sea Princess cruise ship back in August. Ms. Roberce was one of three passengers aboard the Princess cruise ship MS Sea Princess who had been arrested for attempting to smuggle over 200 pounds of cocaine aboard the cruise ship in a suitcase. The big question is how the drugs made it onto the cruise ship undetected.

gavel-300x200Ms. Roberce is only 22 years of age, and pictures show her crying when she was informed that she will stand trial. She was detained by Australian Federal Police along with fellow passengers Isabel Lagace, 28 years old, and Andre Tamine, 64 years old. The three were detained when the cruise ship arrived in port in Sydney Harbour.

All three have been charged with the crime of importing the cocaine. The cocaine is reported to have an estimated street value of $31 million and was found in locked suitcases during the search of passenger cabins. It is reported to be the largest drug bust of its kind on board a cruise ship.

This case is the another example of criminal activity that takes place on board cruise ships. It has been well documented over the past several years that sexual assaults and other crimes happen with much more frequency of board cruise ships than previously known. I testified before Congress addressing maritime safety and security issues. At the time Congress was very concerned not only with criminal activity such as sexual assaults, rapes and thefts, but also with inadequate security, which raises grave concerns about the threat of terrorism.

It will have to be determined how this amount of cocaine was able to be smuggled on board the cruise ship in the first place, whether anybody from the cruise ship company was involved, and whether adequate security procedures were followed. This situation again emphasizes that cruise ship safety and security must be focused on and addressed, as there clearly is not enough security and restrictions on board cruises.

In fact, an article written by Fairplay a couple of months ago discussed this recent discussed the fact that this large amount of cocaine being smuggled on board a cruise ship raises the question whether more threatening items can make its way onto the cruise ships, such as explosives. The article discussed the fact that the possibility of a terrorist attack is a concern of the cruise ship industry and the millions of passengers that travel on cruise ships each year.

An interesting book called Cruising for Trouble, Cruise Ships as Soft Targets for Pirates, Terrorists and Common Criminals, has been written by Commander Mark Gaouette, who is a former security head of Princess and Cunard cruises. He too has expressed concern about the possibility of a terrorist attack of a cruise ship. In his book he discusses the 2004 terrorist attack by an Islamic terrorist group, which resulted in the sinking of the ferry, SuperFerry 14, and the deaths of over  100 passengers in the Philippines.

During the congressional hearings addressing ship security and safety, the cruise ship company was asked the question by Congress what security they had to address potential terrorist attacks. The response was that it was very sensitive to discuss at a public hearing and they were granted the request to address this question in a more private setting. What occurred after that I am not sure, and what measures are being taken to avoid smuggling of drugs or other dangerous devices is definitely something Congress should be paying close attention to. This recent drug bust on the MS Sea Princess highlights a dire need for increased presence of security on board the ships and assurance that the best possible safety measures are being implemented on board cruises.