Cruise ship crime: Who's in charge of law and order on the high seas?

  • Travel
  • Tuesday, 06 Jun 2017

Some cruise ships have actual holding cells, but most make do with cabins for passengers who need to be contained. (File photo, 01/07/2015. Please credit: "Stefan Sauer / dpa".) Photo: Stefan Sauer/dpa

It's a question that a passenger boarding a cruise ship might fleetingly ask, but then quickly forget: Who is responsible for law and order when we're out on the high seas?

The passengers on an average cruise ship amount to a small town of 2,000 to 5,000 people, and there might be situations when one or a few of them misbehave, even break the law.

What then? Who can detain a troublemaker? Is there even a jail cell?

"There are actually detention rooms on some ships," says Helge Grammertsdorf, whose job it is to worry about these problems. These usually are ferry vessels, says the expert from Germany's international cruise lines association CLIA.

"On a cruise ship this can, if need be, a cabin used for the purpose." Tui Cruises is one such line to use this practice.

Cruise (ship) control

The person that lays down the law on a vessel is almost always the ship's captain, says Grammertsdorf. It's his decision whether a suspect will be arrested. "Additionally, there are also specially trained security personnel on board," he points out.

cruise ship
There's a small town on board a cruise ship and there might be situations when one or a few of the 'residents' misbehave, even break the law. Photo: dpa/Stefan Sauer

Tui Cruises says it even has "a department that acts as a security service" on its fleet. The department is headed by a chief security officer who usually has a military or police service background and is versed in the basics of crime investigation.

At Aida Cruises, a spokeswoman says the company likewise employs an "experienced and highly trained international team of security personnel" on board. The security team is on call to resort, at any given moment, to measures needed to protect guests, the crew and the ship itself.

If the situation actually does require a passenger to be arrested, then as a rule the person is handed over to local authorities or police at the next port of call. Tui Cruises says it has laid down the procedures throughout its entire fleet for such cases. – dpa

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