CRUISE SHIP CRIMES - WHICH LAWS APPLY?Cruise Ship Crimes – Which Laws Apply?

If you are ever the unfortunate victim of a crime aboard a cruise ship or sea vessel, the laws that apply may depend on where the ship is located at the time of the incident.

Local laws often apply when a ship is in port or within a country’s territorial waters.

For instance if your valuables are stolen in your cabin while the ship is docked at port in Mexico, the Mexican authorities and justice system will usually have jurisdiction to handle the case. The result is similar if the ship sailing in Mexican territorial waters at the time of the crime.

What if a crime occurs in the middle of the ocean or on the high seas? 

If you are not within the territory of any nation’s jurisdiction, then maritime law often applies.

At sea, the procedure usually involves the ship’s security officer being notified of the crime. The security officer then meets with the victim (or person reporting the crime) and take statements.

If someone is thought to have committed a crime on the high seas, the captain can decide whether to incarcerate a suspect until the ship reaches home port. The captain can also decide to remove that person at the next port of call — even if it is in another country.

Most people removed from ships are those who have engaged in drunk or unruly behavior. Don’t let that happen to you.

Jurisdictional changes can cause complications. 

One recent cruise passenger had $32,000 worth of jewelry stolen on board her Mediterranean cruise ship when it was docked in Venice, Italy. Regretfully, she failed to discover the theft until the ship had left port and was back in international waters. By that time, it can be difficult for the cruise ship staff to do anything. The crime technically took place in Italy’s jurisdiction. However, the ship had left port, preventing Italian authorities from coming aboard and conducting an investigation. It was unclear if the theft was done by somebody else on board the ship, or someone on the Italian mainland who slipped aboard while the ship was docked.

Crime tips for traveling on cruise ships:

    • Keep in mind that you still need to be responsible for your own safety.
    • Be as vigilant about crime aboard a ship or in port as you would be at home.
    • Don’t leave valuables out.
    • Follow the guidelines issued by the cruise line.
    • If you are a victim of a crime onboard a cruise ship, be sure to find out if it will be reported to either local or federal authorities. If it will be reported to authorities, ask for a copy of the paperwork. If it won’t be reported by the ship’s staff, please be aware that there is nothing stopping you from reporting it yourself.

Source: Staff Writer

Note from This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author,, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.