Cruise Ship Jobs: Laws On The High Seas
It can be very exciting to get on with your cruise ship jobs – you’re in a luxury hotel far away from land and everything seems rosy. But what happens when things go out of hand. If someone commits a crime? There isn’t a police station for miles, and you’d have to swim for it!
On board a cruise ship, things are very different from a perspective of law. Jurisdictions are confusing since you have got people of different nationalities, the ship travelling to and from ports in various countries and in international waters, as well as the flag registration of the ship.
One of the main laws that all ships must adhere to is SOLAS (International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea), an international maritime treaty that sets minimum safety standards for merchant and passenger ships.
These include the number of lifeboats each ship is required to have, types of communication equipment needed for rescues and even certain specifications for ships plying in freezing seas. On cruise ships, one of the most prominent SOLAS requirements is the safety drill. You will need to know this and other safety information as part of your cruise ship jobs.
If your cruise ship job requires you to work with cargo (loading, discharging or securing it) or embarking and disembarking passengers, the law requires that you have certain approved training in passenger safety and cargo safety.
Most cruise ship companies ensure that these requirements are met. But the problem arises with issues such misconduct, assault and theft. There’s no one single rule of law to follow. One online portal offered the example of an alleged rape of a US citizen that took place in international waters on a cruise ship registered in Liberia but docking at Mexico during the voyage. While her case was registered in Los Angeles, she was told that there was nothing that could be done.
This is because the areas of jurisdiction differ and could come in conflict with each other. Internal waters such as ports and bays are governed by that part of the country, down to the state laws (which could differ from national laws in places like the US). Territorial waters stretch out to 12 nautical miles from the coastline and are governed by that particular country.
International waters start from 24 miles out where the ship is ruled by the law of the country whose flag it flies. So if a ship registered in South Africa is sailing 25 miles off the coast of the US, it will be subject to South African law.
In between the 12-24 miles is a contiguous zone which offers the country it is nearest to certain rights with issues such as smuggling drugs and sanitation. It still remains, however, that most cases of alleged misconduct on the part of an employee might take a turn for the worse for the crew member involved. There will be an inquiry during which time the accused can try to clear their name, but to be on the safe side, it is best to avoid situations that could be used against you. For example, skip the elevator that has only one guest in it, ensure the room is empty before cleaning it, and be polite and respectful at all times.
Often, cruise ship companies also take certain measures to protect their interests. Many tickets and cruise ship job contracts will include clauses regarding which countries, states or cities any lawsuits against the companies can be tried.
Most employees on US ships can avail the benefits of the Jones Act when it comes to accidents or fatalities on the job. Guests are governed by other laws. The Jones Act covers everyone from captains and support personnel to entertainers, housekeepers and cruise ship chefs. It helps them receive compensation in case of injury and could include covering medical bills, extended rehabilitation treatments, retraining for transitions to new positions and forms of ‘future damages’.
In all cases, it is important to read your contract carefully before signing it and ask questions if you have doubts. Signing up with reliable recruitment companies such as Kamaxi Overseas Consultancy can help clear any confusion.