Do Cruise Ships Have Police? How Cruise Ship Safety Deal With Crime at Sea (2023)



If you happen to’re already an everyday cruiser or simply interested by reserving your first cruise, you is likely to be questioning about how crime and safety are handled on board.

This text seems to be on the query: “Do cruise ships have police?” and explains all you want to know…

police boat

Are There Police on Cruise Ships?

Cruise ships wouldn’t have police. As an alternative, an onboard Safety Director will oversee the ship’s personal devoted safety division, staffed by former federal, state and army legislation enforcement personnel from numerous international locations.

By legislation, ships crusing to or from the USA should have no less than one crew member skilled in crime prevention, detection and reporting.

Why Are There no Police on Cruise Ships?

Police forces are ruled and empowered by nation-states in an effort to defend their residents and to stop crime and civil dysfunction. Nationwide police forces may generally work collectively to sort out worldwide crime by way of the worldwide policing coordination group Interpol

Cruise ships, nonetheless, will not be primarily based inside nationwide borders and don’t match neatly below the efficient jurisdiction of anybody nation. Which means that there isn’t an apparent police pressure with ongoing accountability for legislation and order on every cruise vessel.

Even the place there’s a linked police pressure (e.g. the police pressure of the ship’s “flagged” or nominal nation) they’re unlikely to have the sources to research all cruise ship crime completely, and couldn’t virtually deploy cops on each cruise.

Urged learn: Are There Guns on Cruise Ships?

Which Nation is Answerable for Investigating Crimes at Sea?

If a cruise ship is in port on the time against the law happens, the native authorities for that nation have clear jurisdiction to research and prosecute these accountable. However, if a ship is at sea, you could marvel which nation has jurisdiction (the facility or proper to interpret and apply the legislation) on board the ship.

Underneath the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), international locations have jurisdiction over actions in waters inside 12 nautical miles of their nationwide shoreline.

Past 12 miles, the ship’s formally registered (“flagged”) nation usually has jurisdiction.

So, if a ship is registered in the Bahamas, then Bahamas legislation might apply, even when the ship is cruising on the opposite aspect of the world within the Pacific Ocean when against the law happens.

It will clearly be impractical for Bahamas police to attend, so the highly-trained cruise ship safety workforce might be first on the scene to take care of any crimes dedicated at sea.

Who Investigates Crimes on Cruise Ships?

As an alternative of police, cruise ships usually have their very own safety groups who act as first responders when crimes are reported on board. These inner safety employees are employed by cruise ship firms and work below the authority of the ship’s captain.

When crime occurs in international waters, the captain should resolve whether or not to proceed cruising to the subsequent scheduled port of name, or to make an unscheduled cease at a nearer port.

Native authorities on the port can then be introduced on board for formal investigations. The ship’s safety workforce are accountable for passenger security, preservation of proof and investigation till they hand the case over to legislation enforcement officers.

When US residents are concerned in critical cruise ship crimes, the FBI should examine, though different legislation enforcement companies may need the first function. The place critical crime is indicated, the FBI can draw on its international community to guard passengers and to safe and protect the crime scene.

This recourse for US residents is proscribed. Underneath worldwide legislation, the US can not prosecute crimes on foreign-flagged ships as soon as they transfer outdoors US jurisdiction. It will be unlawful for the FBI to enter a foreign-flagged vessel outdoors US territory or to implement US prison legal guidelines, with out flag state permission.

Royal Caribbean shi pwith Bahamas flag

What are Cruise Ship Safety Groups Like?

Ex-police or army personnel with relevant experience or qualifications could also be searched for extra senior cruise ship safety positions. Even lower-level positions might have specific standards (e.g. bodily health necessities, diving certification, and many others). 

Uniformed safety employees are usually seen at checkpoints or patrolling across the ship. There may be much less apparent plainclothes safety employees engaged on the vessel.

Bigger cruise ships endeavor lengthy worldwide journeys, particularly by waters the place piracy or terrorism are potential dangers, might have larger groups of specifically skilled safety officers who’ve beforehand served with police or army models.

cruise ship security guard

What Occurs If You Commit a Crime on a Cruise Ship?

The results of against the law on a cruise ship differ relying on the seriousness of what you’ve executed. It’s possible you’ll be disembarked on the subsequent port of name, and handed over to the native police. For critical crimes, you’ll be locked in your cabin or in a ship’s brig till you attain port.

If it’s a minor crime, you may nonetheless be allowed to wander the ship however you’ll be reported to the police both on the subsequent port or when your cruise ends.

Why Crime Investigation on Cruise Ships Can Be Difficult

There’s a variety of potential complicating elements for crime investigation on cruise ships.

Worldwide Authorized and Diplomatic Points

Jurisdiction is a posh situation for cruise ship crime, with a number of probably authorities to contemplate and coordinate. These may embody a ship’s ‘flagged’ nation, overseas port authorities, the house international locations of sufferer and perpetrator, and the FBI the place US residents are concerned. Investigation and prosecution can entail delicate and extended worldwide negotiations.

Maritime Regulation Versus Regulation on Land

The legislation at sea will not be the identical legislation you will see in any particular person nation. Maritime legislation is a novel, intricate and generally murky area, making an attempt to manage the ungoverned areas of the ocean. Some areas of maritime legislation are a long time or centuries previous, and is probably not clearly related to trendy cruise ship crime.


A ship’s “flag of comfort (FOC)” is the nation the place it’s formally registered, no matter possession or working routes. When a ship’s proprietor chooses to flag their ship in a specific nation, actions on that ship turn into topic to the legal guidelines of that nation, and lots of crimes might be dealt with below its jurisdiction.

Common FoC international locations are typically these with the least stringent legal guidelines and laws round labour, security and environmental safety. Cruise ships are almost definitely to be registered to the Bahamas, Panama and Liberia.

Cruise traces might state that they’ve “headquarters in Miami” with out mentioning FoCs for his or her vessels. Passengers ought to perceive that whatever the location of the cruise firm HQ, its ships could also be registered elsewhere.

Potential Conflicts of Curiosity

The ship’s captain and safety workforce are employed by the cruise firm. Whereas the first goal of a nationwide police pressure is to sort out crime and defend residents, the first goal of a cruise firm is to run cruises and earn cash. Safety officers might due to this fact really feel below direct or oblique strain to get a cruise transferring once more rapidly, as a lot as guaranteeing {that a} crime is totally investigated.


It would take a number of days earlier than a cruise ship is ready to name at a port and permit legislation enforcement officers to research against the law report. Throughout this time, proof might deteriorate or be tampered with, making subsequent investigation tough or unattainable.

Do Cruise Ships Have Jails?

Bigger cruise ships do have a sort of jail, often called ‘the brig’. These protected, lockable areas are not often used besides in circumstances of great crime the place prosecution is probably going (e.g. trafficking medication).

For much less critical crimes, or the place passengers are drunk and disorderly, they might as a substitute be locked of their cabins.

cruise ship brig

What Are the Most Frequent Crimes on Cruise Ships?

Essentially the most commonly reported crimes on cruise ships are reported to be sexual assaults adopted by bodily assaults with critical harm, and main theft.

Ultimate Phrase

So, do cruise ships have safety? Sure, and so they’re excellent at their job. The safety on cruise ships will assist maintain visitors protected, and guarantee that anybody breaking the foundations (or the legislation) is handled rapidly and effectively.

When you’ve got questions on safety preparations on specific cruise traces or ships, I’d counsel that you simply seek the advice of the cruise line’s web site or contact them on to request additional details about their safety personnel and programs.

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