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What legal protections are there for crimes committed on cruise ships?

Crimes onboard cruise lines have proved very difficult to report and investigate in the past because nearly all cruise ships register their ships with foreign countries.

Video footage of violent brawls aboard a Carnival cruise line spotlights the possibility of becoming a victim of a crime while out at sea.

The Carnival Legend was forced to escort several guests off the ship and place them on a smaller boat ahead of the boat's docking in Australia on Saturday. Several fights broke out over the 10-day cruise and passengers on the ship said the issues were mostly instigated by a single extended family.

One of the videos shows security guards kicking brawling passengers while they're on the ground as people are heard screaming and crying. Carnival is currently reviewing its security response in light of the events.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released its first public log of crime incident reports following legislation passed in 2014 requiring the public disclosure of serious crimes by cruise lines.

Cruise ship crimes reported include sexual assault, homicide or suspicious deaths, assault with serious bodily injury, theft of more than $10,000 and missing Americans.

From Oct. to Dec. 2017, the DOT reported one suspicious death, one missing person, three physical assaults and 16 sexual assaults. Sexual assaults are reported at significantly higher rates than other serious crimes.

Crimes onboard cruise lines have proved very difficult to report and investigate in the past because nearly all cruise ships register their ships with foreign countries, meaning the laws of the country where the port may apply to the crimes committed.

Maritime laws may also apply when an offense is committed against or by an American in an area outside the jurisdiction of any country.

Crimes committed while out at sea can get a little bit tricky when trying get justice but there are ways to protect yourself under U.S. laws.

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 passed after U.S. leaders found numerous issues with crimes onboard cruise ships. The Act pointed out the lack of information available for passengers to understand their legal rights, cited a high volume of sexual assaults and found crime scene investigators had a difficult time preserving evidence on site -- among other problems.

The act seeks to combat the vulnerabilities of becoming of a victim of crime aboard cruise ships.

The law requires all owners of ships to maintain a surveillance system to use as evidence if a crime occurs and mandates video copies be turned over to law enforcement if requested. Vessels are also required to provide passengers a guide with information about medical and security services, as well as an explanation of the jurisdiction authority and law enforcement processes.

Under the law, cruise ships must also maintain professional trained forensic specialists to assist in sexual assaults and must provide confidentiality of sexual assault examinations. Crime scene preservation training for all vessel crew members is also required.

One of the most significant mandates of the law requires all criminal activity be reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) as soon as possible after a crime has occurred.

Vessels found in violation of the law can be banned from entering the U.S.

Victims of crime onboard a cruise ship can contact the FBI, DOT or the U.S. Coast Guard for more information about how to proceed. If outside the U.S., support can also be found from the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

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