Cruise Ship Human Rights Violations

Cruise ship workers are the backbone of the cruise industry, responsible for ensuring the comfort and enjoyment of passengers. However, these workers might face harsh working conditions, substandard living conditions, and poor treatment that might violate human rights. Many cruise ship workers find it challenging to seek accountability for these violations. They are unfamiliar with the national and international laws and regulations governing the cruise industry and human rights abuses.

If you are a cruise ship worker who experienced human rights violations on the job, seeking legal representation from an experienced attorney is crucial. The lawyers at Louis A. Vucci P.A. can help you navigate the complex legal system and pursue accountability for your human rights suffering. You deserve the same human rights protections as everyone else on the ship, and we will fight for your rights and interests against the powerful cruise industry.

Contact Louis A. Vucci P.A. today at (786) 375-0344 to speak with a cruise ship attorney about your experience.

Human Rights Violations

What Are Human Rights?

Human rights are the fundamental rights and freedoms that belong to every person, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, gender, religion, or any other status. These rights are inherent to all human beings and follow them wherever they go – at home, work, school, and other countries.

While the development of human rights goes back centuries, several essential documents helped define human rights for nations and businesses worldwide. They are as follows:

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) – In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed, for the first time in history, a list of fundamental human rights that should be universally protected, known as the UDHR. While it is not legally binding, the UDHR has inspired the development of many human rights treaties and conventions that are binding on states that have ratified them.
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) – Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966, the ICESCR listed several economic, social, and cultural rights. Examples include labor rights, the right to health and education, and the right to an adequate standard of living.
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – Also adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966, the ICCPR commits signatory nations to respecting the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, speech and assembly, electoral rights, and due process rights.
  • International Bill of Human Rights – The UDHR, ICESCR, and ICCPR are collectively known as the International Bill of Human Rights.
  • International Labor Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work – Adopted in 1998 and amended in 2022, this declaration commits governments and organizations to uphold basic human values, including the following:
    • Freedom of association and recognition of collective bargaining
    • Elimination of force or compulsory labor
    • Abolition of child labor
    • Elimination of employment discrimination
    • A safe and healthy working environment
  • Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) – In 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council endorsed the UNGHP, calling on all business enterprises to:
    • Protect human rights
    • Avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their activities
    • Carry out human rights due diligence
    • Provide for or cooperate with remediation of human rights violations through legitimate processes

Examples of Human Rights Violations Experienced by Crew Members

Crew members have reported experiencing various human rights violations while working aboard cruise ships, including the following:

  • Forced labor – Article Six of the ICESCR states that everyone has the right to work “which he freely chooses or accepts.” Sadly, some cruise ship employment arrangements are exploitive on the verge of forced labor. According to the Roundtable Human Rights in Tourism, some cruise ships exhibit slave-like conditions, especially for unskilled labor staff working behind the scenes. Furthermore, some cruise companies use recruiting agencies to staff their ships, which may utilize manipulative tactics, such as bonding employees through visas or other fees.
  • Sexual harassment or assault – No cruise ship worker should have to experience sexual harassment or assault on the job. This is an egregious violation of human rights. According to a WMU Journal of Maritime Affairs study, 35 percent of female crew members reported worrying about unwanted sexual attention on board.
  • Discrimination – Article Two of the UDHR states that everyone is entitled to the same right and freedoms regardless of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status. However, researchers have found significant stratification aboard cruise ships by nationality, facial characteristics, and sex.
  • Unequal pay or opportunity – Article 23 of the UDHR states that everyone has the right to equal pay for equal work. Furthermore, Article 7 of the ICESCR recognizes the right of all workers to equal opportunity for promotion. If a cruise company pays or promotes unequally, it may have violated human rights.
  • Unsafe living and working conditions – Because crew members work and live onboard, they deserve safe working and living conditions. The ICESCR recognizes a worker’s right to “safe and healthy working conditions” in Article 7 and to an “adequate standard of living” in Article 11.
  • Lack of basic needs – Article 11 of the ICESR recognizes the right to “adequate food, clothing and housing.” Because of their confinement to the cruise ship for several months, employees depend on the company to meet their basic needs. Failure to do so could be a human rights violation.
  • Lack of rest and leisure – Article 7 of the ICESCR recognizes the right of all workers to “rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours.” Many cruise ship employees work 12 to 14-hour days (or longer), seven days a week, month after month. That leaves little to no time for rest or leisure and seems entirely unreasonable to the average person.
  • Restriction of movement – The UDHR recognizes a right to “freedom of movement” in Article 13. Many cruise ship workers may feel their employer violates their freedom to move around at will due to the restrictive living and working conditions.
  • Interference with privacy – Article 12 of the UDHR states that no person should be subjected to “arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home, or correspondence.” However, many crew members may experience unnecessary privacy violations while living and working aboard cruise ships, such as searching their rooms or scanning correspondence.

How Can Cruise Ship Workers Protect Their Human Rights?

Human Rights Violations

If you are a cruise ship worker and believe your employer violated your human rights, you can do something about it. With an experienced attorney, you can seek accountability for your employers’ human rights violations and appropriate relief, including compensation for your lost wages, emotional distress, and more.

However, it will not be easy. Some human rights are codified in treaties, national constitutions, federal laws, labor regulations, or state laws. For example, violated workers can seek civil liability in the United States under the following federal laws:

  • Fair Labor Standards Act
  • Civil Rights Act
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act
  • Trafficking Victims Protection Act

If a victim of a human rights violation is not an American citizen, they may still pursue accountability through U.S. courts under the Alien Tort Statute.

Other violations are harder to remedy because cruise ships present such challenging venues for human rights enforcement. Ships do not always fall neatly within one national jurisdiction. For example, a vessel may be registered in one country, whereas the company is incorporated in another. Some companies purposefully seek countries with weak worker protections, such as Panama and Liberia, to register their ships according to a practice called “flying a flag of convenience.” Furthermore, a human rights violation could occur at a port in an entirely different country. This complex web of laws and jurisdictions confounds the task of seeking accountability for human rights violations.

In 2006, the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) to protect seafarers’ rights across all jurisdictions and legal regimes that ratified the convention. The MLC covers the following aspects of a cruise ship workers’ living and working conditions:

  • Minimum age to work
  • Employment agreements
  • Hours of work and rest
  • Payment of wages
  • Paid annual leave
  • Onboard medical care
  • Accommodations and food
  • Use of private recruitment and placement services
  • Return home at the end of the contract
  • Health and safety protection
  • Accident prevention
  • Seafarers’ complaint handling

According to the ILO, countries representing over 50 percent of the world’s seafarers and over three-quarters of the world’s gross tonnage of ships have ratified the MLC. Even so, the United States is not one of them, and it can still be difficult to seek redress for human rights violations in countries that have ratified the MLC.

A sophisticated attorney with extensive experience handling maritime legal cases can navigate the morass of laws, treaties, and corporate trickery. The legal team at Louis A. Vucci P.A. aggressively fight for crew members who suffered human rights abuses while onboard. With our help, crew members have successfully recovered millions of dollars in cases against their employers.

Louis A. Vucci P.A. Can Fight for Your Human Rights

As a crew member and human being, you deserve a safe and fair working environment. If you suffered human rights violations while working on a cruise ship, contact Louis A. Vucci P.A. today to learn how our legal team can help you seek accountability. We can help you understand your rights, assess your case, and fight for your rights and interests. Call Louis A. Vucci P.A. today at (786) 375-0344 for a free and confidential consultation.