On the heels of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2375 released on September 11, 2017, President Trump issued a new executive order on September 21 (the EO) that greatly expands U.S. sanctions against North Korea, particularly so-called secondary sanctions, which apply to non-U.S. individuals and corporations. The EO establishes the following: Broad new criteria for designating non-U.S....… Continue Reading

Spain has quitely chartered a cruise ship to be positioned at the Port of Barcelona as housing for thousands of riot police and security officers in order to try and suppress rebel Catalans who are seeking an independence referendum.

You can read about the dispute in Spain in a New York Times article As Catalonia Referendum Nears, Tensions Rise in Spain

According to Bloomberg Politics, Spain hired the the Rhapsody to house a portion of the 16,000 security forces in advance of the October 1st referendum passed by the Catalan Parliament but declared illegal by Spain’s highest court. The riot police are intended to try and control the pro-independence campaigners. 

Bloomberg writes that Spain is putting "more boots on the ground" near Barcelona in order to arrest local officials and raids regional-government offices prior to the referendum.

In addition to the Rhapsody which has a capacity of 2,448 people and can accomodate 700 vehicles, Spain is chartering two additional unnaned ferries to house the riot police. Not to be confused with the Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas, the Rhapsody is a RoRo ("roll on - roll off) cruise-ferry operated by the Italian shipping company Grandi Navi Veloci SpA. 

Chartering cruise ships to provide housing is not particularly uncommon, at least where extra housing is needed following hurricanes or for special events such as the Olympics. But it seems highly unusual for cruise ship or ferry operators to agree to lease their ships as housing for riot police to be used in such a hotly disputed political and probably violent dispute.

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Photo credit: Grandi Navi Veloci 

On 12 September Reed Smith hosted a panel for London International Shipping Week to discuss ‘Tomorrow’s Maritime World, Today’. Representatives from a cross-section of the industry (ship managers, financiers, lawyers, insurance specialists and marine technical specialists) each brought their unique experience to the discussion, making for a lively debate on three pressing topics in the...… Continue Reading

Hurricane Irma, which continues to strengthen as it heads west toward the Leeward Islands and Virgin Islands, is now a Category 5 storm with winds of over 175 mph (with gusts up to 215 mph) as of this morning's advisories. The huge storm is predicted to continue west across the Caribbean, north of Dominican Republic/Haiti and Cuba, and then turn to the north, likely hitting the Florida Keys and South Florida by late Saturday / early Sunday morning.

Irma will continue as a category 5 storm for the next few days, although its intensity will decrease to a category 4 with winds of 150 mph. 

The most reliable computer models (the U.S. and European models) show Irma continuing to head west before making a sharp turn to the north towards South Florida, although there are no guarantees exactly where or when that northward turn will occur. 

"Spaghetti models" via Mike's Weather Page (image below) is my favorite page to follow the progress of the hurricane. You can see the probable path of this dangerous storm heading into the Florida Keys and South Florida here.  

Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas was the first cruise ship to alter its itinerary from its original Eastern Caribbean schedule to the Western Caribbean. The Allure's itinerary was changed to Cozumel, Labadee, and Falmouth. It appears likely that Royal Caribbean's private destination in Labadee (Haiti) will be directly impacted by Irma later this week; cruises to that destination seem likely to be rescheduled. 

Royal Caribbean's Chief Meteorologist, James Van Fleet, who the cruise line hired after the debacle when the Anthem of the Seas sailed into a well-forecasted storm last year, will be on the hot seat responding to questions posed to him on line. Mr. Van Fleet is already fielding inquiries via his Twitter account. The last question posted was "I'm currently on harmony and someone thinks Irma is going to cause us to reenact titanic. Can you confirm?"  (A PR video produced by Royal Caribbean is below.)  It remains to be seen whether Mr. Fleet was hired for public relations purposes or to provide meaningful information and insight to the Royal Caribbean ships at sea.

Carnival will also be changing its fleet's cruise ship itineraries. The Carnival Glory, scheduled for an Eastern Caribbean itinerary, will switch to a Western Caribbean cruise, which will include Grand Cayman, Roatan, Belize City and Cozumel. Carnival's changes to the itineraries of the Carnival Magic, Carnival Splendor and Carnival Pride are explained below. 

The itineraries of the cruise ships of other lines are certain to change as Irma heads toward Florida. Additional days at sea and more ports of call in places like Roatan and Belize seem likely.

A large number of air carriers are permitting flyers to cancel their scheduled flights to the Caribbean islands, with some adding flights from the islands to Miami to accommodate people wanting to escape the storm. Cruise lines typically do not permit such cancellations and have policies which permit the ships to change itineraries at their sole  discretion. Unless the passengers have purchased insurance applying to this situation, there is little that families can do to cancel their cruises without incurring penalties or forfeiting their fares.

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Photo credit: Top - NOAA via AP; middle - Mike Weather Page. 

HURRICANE IRMA ITINERARY CHANGES (courtesy of Carnival)
September 3, 2017

CARNIVAL GLORY (SEVEN-DAY CRUISE FROM MIAMI)
Revised Itinerary Original Itinerary
Sept. 2 – Miami Sept. 2 – Miami
Sept. 3 – At Sea Sept. 3 – Half Moon Cay
Sept. 4 – Grand Cayman Sept. 4 – At Sea
Sept. 5 – Mahogany Bay (Roatan) Sept. 5 – St. Thomas
Sept. 6 – Belize Sept. 6 – San Juan
Sept. 7 – Cozumel Sept. 7- Grand Turk
Sept. 8 – At Sea Sept. 8 – At Sea
Sept. 9 – Miami Sept. 9 – Miami

CARNIVAL MAGIC (SIX-DAY CRUISE FROM PORT CANAVERAL)
Revised Itinerary Original Itinerary
Sept. 3 – Port Canaveral Sept. 3 – Port Canaveral
Sept. 4 – At Sea Sept. 4 – Nassau
Sept. 5 – Cozumel Sept. 5 – At Sea
Sept. 6 – Belize Sept. 6 – Amber Cove (Dominican Republic)
Sept. 7 – Costa Maya Sept. 7- Grand Turk
Sept. 8 – At Sea Sept. 8 – At Sea
Sept. 9 – Port Canaveral Sept. 9 – Port Canaveral


CARNIVAL SPLENDOR (SIX-DAY CRUISE FROM PORT FORT LAUDERDALE )
Revised Itinerary Original Itinerary
Sept. 3 – Port Everglades Sept. 3 – Port Everglades
Sept. 4 – At Sea Sept. 4 – Nassau
Sept. 5 – Cozumel Sept. 5 – Half Moon Cay
Sept. 6 – Mahogany Bay (Roatan) Belize Sept. 6 – Grand Turk
Sept. 7 – Belize Sept. 7- Amber Cove (Dominican Republic)
Sept. 8 – At Sea Sept. 8 – At Sea
Sept. 9 – Port Everglades Sept. 9 – Port Everglades

CARNIVAL PRIDE (SEVEN-DAY CRUISE FROM BALTIMORE)
Revised Itinerary Original Itinerary
Sept. 3 – Baltimore Sept. 3 – Baltimore
Sept. 4 – At Sea Sept. 4 – At Sea
Sept. 5 – Charleston Sept. 5 – At Sea
Sept. 6 – Freeport Sept. 6 – Grand Turk
Sept. 7 – Nassau Sept. 7- Half Moon Cay
Sept. 8 – At Sea Sept. 8 – At Sea
Sept. 9 – At Sea Sept. 9 – At Sea
Sept. 10 - Baltimore Sept. 10 – Baltimore 

The cruise passenger reported missing last week after she disembarked from the Carnival Splendor in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, has been located. We wrote about the incident - Passenger From Carnival Splendor Missing in St. Thomas, USVI.

A family friend left a message on this blog, stating that " . . . she was kidnapped and managed to escape. She ran to the local authorities and now help is on the way . . . "  A post on an article in a Virgin Islands newspaper (which has not been verified) explained that "she was allegedly "kidnapped by gun point somewhere close to where it docked."

This account, if true, has not been confirmed by the local police in St. Thomas. 

This morning, a local newspaper in St. Thomas, published an article reporting that yesterday (Sunday):

". . . at around 11:05 a.m., Regina Gilliam approached a Virgin Islands Port Authority (V.I.P.A.) officer at the Cyril E. King Airport and identified herself as the missing person from the Carnival Splendor cruise ship. The V.I.P.A. officer was able to verify that she was indeed Ms. Gilliam, and notified 911 immediately . . . "

The article continued:

"Ms. Gilliam was subsequently interviewed by the V.I.P.D.’s Investigations Bureau as part of the force’s standard procedures for missing persons. An investigation was launched to locate Ms. Gilliam on Thursday, when she did not reboard the ship before it was scheduled to depart St. Thomas at 4 p.m.

Mr. Dratte (the V.I.P.D. Public Information Officer) said the force was working with all relevant authorities to ensure Ms. Gilliam’s health and wellbeing, and to protect the integrity of the investigation . . . "

The official account, or course, raises more questions than provides answers.  Was Ms. Gilliam really abducted? And if so, when and by whom?  Carnival reported her missing when the Splendor left port on Thursday afternoon and she was located on Sunday morning, three days later. Some people are questioning whether she was really kidnapped. At the same time, the Virgin Islands has motivation to downplay the incident; the islands obviously do not want the bad publicity of cruise passengers being abducted playing out in the international press.

Women going ashore from cruise have been victims of foul play in the past, such as in Mexico and in Bonaire, where Royal Caribbean crew members were murdered after going ashore in ports of call. If Ms. Gilliam was in fact kidnapped, this is obviously is a serious matter that should be acknowledged by the police in St. Thomas; those responsible for the crime should be arrested and help responsible, and the USVI tourism people and the cruise lines have a duty to warn the public.

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Photo credit: vifreepress.com

Newspapers in the United States Virgin Islands are reporting that a Carnival cruise line passenger has gone missing in St. Thomas after disembarking from the Carnival cruise ship on Thursday, August 31, 2017. 

The missing passenger has been identified as 26-year-old Regina Gilliam, who is reportedly 5 ft 4 inches in height.

Photographs released by the Virgin Islands Police Department and available online at the Virgin Island Free Press are below.

Ms. Gilliam left the Splendor, after it reached St. Thomas, at 8:19 A.M. last Thursday, but did not to the cruise ship by the time it left port on Thursday afternoon. 

Comments posted on the Virgin Islands Consortium are expressing hope that Ms. Gilliam has not been met with foul play, with one person commenting that " . . . we don't need the cruise ship industry to have yet another reason to pull out."

Carnival pulled out of St. Thomas after one of its guests was shot and killed during a shore excursion there in 2010. We represented the young girl's family. The case resulted in one of the leading decisions explaining the cruise line's legal obligation to warn of dangers ashore in the ports of call where it frequents - Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals: Cruise Lines Have Duty to Warn of Danger of Crime in Ports of Call.

There have been a few cases where cruise ships have left ports of calls without their female crew members who have met with foul pay like this case and this one as well. 

Fortunately, most passengers who "disappear" at ports of call in the Caribbean (it seems like most such cases occur in Jamaica like these three, and this one, and these two, and these two as well) eventually turn up safe and sound.  

Let's hope for the best with Ms. Giliam. 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion omn our Facebook page.

Photo credit: vifreepress.com

On August 30, 2017, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts filed criminal charges against a man reportedly from Bay Springs, Mississippi for allegedly raping a 15-year-old boy on a NCL cruise ship during a seven-day cruise from Boston to Bermuda. The sexual assault reportedly occurred on August 14, 2017 while the cruise ship was docked in Bermuda, according to the U.S. Attorney's office in Boston.* 

The incident was first reported by the newspapers in Bermuda, including Bernews and the Royal Gazette, which did not mention of name of the assailant or the cruise ship where the incident occurred. The newspapers in Bermuda, which typically do a poor job of reporting of crimes on cruise ships, did not provide any details regarding the alleged shipboard crime.  

The federal court filing in federal court in Boston (see below) indicates that the United States charged Adam Christopher Boyd, age 30, with one count of sexual abuse of a minor. Mr. Boyd was arrested in Bermuda and faces extradition back to the United States. The court filing indicates that the cruise ship where the rape occurred is the Norwegian Dawn. According to an affidavit from a FBI agent in support of the criminal charges and arrest warrant, the Dawn arrived at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda on August 13, 2017 where it was scheduled to spend three days before returning to Boston.

The FBI affidavit states that before the rape, the 15-year-old boy was drinking alcohol on deck 13 of the ship with other passengers who he met during the cruise.  Mr. Boyd met the child and informed him that he was an hairdresser and offered to braid the child's hair. Mr. Boyd reportedly asked the child his age and the boy said he was 15-years-old. The FBI reportedly later interviewed another passenger who stated that Mr. Boyd asked him if the boy was really just 15-years-old, and the passenger confirmed that the minor was, in fact, 15-years-old and not 18 as Mr. Boyd later claimed.  

According to the court filing, Mr. Boyd volunteered to escort the boy back to his cabin and offered the boy to stay in Mr. Boyd's cabin which the child declined. The ship's surveillance footage reportedly showed Mr. Boyd and the boy leaving deck 13 early in the morning of August 14th; another passenger verified that the boy appeared to be intoxicated at the time. When they reached a secluded area of deck 14, Mr. Boyd kissed the child and put his hands down the minor's pants and felt his genitals, following which he anally raped the child, according to the affidavit.  After the incident, the boy told a group of other teenagers who he previously met during the cruise, that he had been sexually assaulted. He also he told the police in Bermuda, who later came onto the ship to investigate the incident, that he had been "raped."

The court filing further indicates that other passengers stated that later that morning they saw the boy sitting by himself on deck 13, appearing upset and crying.  The child eventually returned to his cabin and reported the sexual assault to his family who alerted the ship's security personnel who, in turn, notified the police in Bermuda. The local police took the child to a hospital where a rape kit was administered. The police arrested Mr. Boyd who denied that penetrated the child.

The FBI agent, who prepared the affidavit, stated that she believed that there was probable cause that Mr. Boyd violated Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 2243(a) which defines sexual abuse as knowingly engaging or attempting to engage in a sexual act with a minor who has not attained the age of 16 and is four years or more younger than the assailant. The sexual abuse of a minor carries a jail sentence of five to fifteen years and a fine of up to $250,000. 

Sexual assaults of minors on cruise ships is an issue which I write about often; last month NBC News aired an investigation into the sexual assault of minors on cruise ships - NBC News: Hidden Dangers for Children on Cruise Ships. We have written about boys as well as girls being victimized during cruises, not only by crew members but by other adult passengers. Cruise lines are in the business of selling carefree, dream vacations to idyllic destinations; the cruise industry will never warn passengers of the dangers of their children encountering predator crew members or pedophile passengers. 

The U.S. government has jurisdiction to prosecute cases of rape on cruise ships when a U.S. citizen is involved, as either the victim or the assailant.  The criminal charge in federal court in a case of rape of a child is characterized as the "sexual abuse" of a minor; there are no criminal federal statutes for "rape" or "sexual assault."  

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Photo credit: Rap Sheets - of Adam Boyd for arrest on charges of driving under the influence in Mississippi in August 2015. 

*Note: The Department of Justice writes: "The details contained in the charging document are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law."