Stephen Mosley MP has this afternoon (Tuesday 1st November) spoken in a Parliamentary debate about the need to change international maritime law to protect British citizens on board cruise ships.
Mr Mosley was granted the debate in Westminster after highlighting the case of Chester cruise ship worker, Rebecca Coriam, to Shipping Minister Mike Penning MP.
Speaking after the debate the Chester MP said: “Under international maritime law, once a ship is 24 miles from any coastline it is in international waters. The law of that ship is then the law of the country whose flag it flies and responsibility for crimes on board the ship lie with the legal authority of that country.”
In March this year, Chester resident Rebecca Coriam disappeared whilst working for a British employment agency, on a Bahamian-registered, American-based Disney cruise ship, in international waters, off the coast of Mexico.
The investigation into her disappearance consisted of one officer from the Bahamian Maritime Authority boarding the 3,650 capacity ship from which Rebecca went missing, three days after her disappearance.
7 months on, the Coriam family are still awaiting the outcome of the Bahamian inquiry.
“To avoid stringent safety rules and regulations, and also for tax purposes, most cruise companies register their ships in obscure countries like the Bahamas, Panama, Liberia or Ecuador.” said Mr Mosley.
“In Rebecca’s case, the Disney ship was registered in the Bahamas. Yet the Bahamian authorities made virtually no attempt at investigating Rebecca’s disappearance and because of current international legislation, not a single British or American police or forensics team boarded the cruise ship to investigate.
“The investigation into Rebecca’s disappearance was appalling.
“Very few people know that when they board a cruise ship that they are so poorly protected. I made it clear to the Minister that reform is urgently needed to ensure that safety measures are improved and that more international co-operation in tackling crime at sea occurs.”
During the debate, Shipping Minister Mike Penning MP said that Rebecca’s case had, “opened our eyes” to the lack of protection offered to UK citizens on board cruise vessels.
Mr Penning made two announcements of what the Department for Transport is doing to help prevent similar problems in the future.
Firstly, the world renowned Marine Accident Investigation Board, who examine and investigate all types of marine accidents to or on board UK ships worldwide, will in future automatically investigate the disappearance of UK citizens at sea, regardless of whose flag the ship is flying.
Secondly, the UK will shortly put forward a motion at the UN International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to increase international cooperation of investigating crimes at sea, specifically focused on what the international community can do better when the responsible flag state doesn’t have the capability to investigate, like in the case of Rebecca Coriam.
Mr Mosley was delighted by the Minister’s response, but insisted that raising awareness and keeping the issue in the limelight is still important.
“While the UK Government has obviously got the message, we now need to ensure that the International Maritime Organisation know the importance of making substantive and long lasting reforms.”