02 November 2015

Maritime Union Calls for Police Investigations Into Cruise and Container Ship Deaths  

Cases of Young Women Never Fully Examined or Explained

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Shipping News Feature WORLDWIDE – Two unsolved cases have been used by the maritime union Nautilus International to illustrate a gaping hole in the pursuance of justice aboard vessels when British citizens are involved. Nautilus has joined in the renewed calls, including those from John Prescott, ex deputy Prime Minister and a former ships steward, for a British police investigation into the disappearance of Rebecca Coriam 24,who allegedly fell overboard from the Bahamas registered cruise liner Disney Wonder in March 2011 and Akhona Geveza, a cadet aboard a UK registered container ship.

Ms Coriam was employed as a child minder aboard the Bahamian flagged cruise vessel and her case is also being pursued by her local MP, Chris Matheson, who has called for a full investigation saying only six witnesses were interviewed by Bahamian authorities and the resulting police report, although released to the British force, has not been shown to Ms Coriam’s family. Nautilus points out that even aboard UK flagged vessels, suspected crimes at sea are often not properly investigated by the UK.

According to Nautilus International General Secretary Mark Dickinson the UK can if it wants investigate crimes on British registered ships in any waters, but this does not always happen, and if vessels are flagged elsewhere investigations are often left entirely to foreign forces, even when the death of a UK citizen is involved. He elaborated saying:

”The disappearance of Ms Coriam is just one of a number of crimes at sea which fail to be properly investigated due to the complex nature of jurisdiction in the global maritime industry, which is made worse due to the lack of regulatory control by some ship registers including many Flags of Convenience.

”Nautilus International, the trade union for maritime professionals, believes that the British police should be required to investigate all serious criminal incidents on UK registered ships wherever they are; on all ships in UK waters; and any serious criminal incidents involving UK citizens at sea. In America, the FBI must be informed about any maritime incidents, in any jurisdiction, which involves US citizens, no matter where a ship is registered. We support Lord Prescott’s call for this kind of legislation to be introduced in the UK.

”In June 2010, South African cadet Akhona Geveza died after falling overboard from the UK-registered containership Safmarine Kariba off the coast of Croatia. On the morning of her death Ms Geveza was due to meet with the ship’s captain following allegations of sexual assault on board. She never made it to that meeting and we have never been convinced by the Croatian authority’s investigation which concluded that Ms Geveza committed suicide. The British Police were ready to investigate but they were never asked to do so.”

“Despite the incident taking place on a UK-registered ship, and following repeated calls from the Union, the UK government claimed it had no jurisdiction to launch a separate investigation.”

The case of nineteen year old Ms Akhona, one of several young women on a Transnet sponsored programme aimed at involving more women in the industry, was pursued at the time by Nautilus and in March 2011 Baroness Jane Campbell put the matter before the House of Lords. Safmarine, operators of the Safmarine Kariba, established a Memorial Scholarship in the dead girl’s name.

Photo: The Disney Wonder at sea.

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