U.S. attorney lists Bahamas as ‘most dangerous’ cruise port
A U.S. attorney who authors a popular website on the cruise industry has labeled The Bahamas “the number one most dangerous cruise destination in the world”.
Jim Walker, a vocal Miami-based attorney with Walker and O’Neil, a maritime law firm, wrote on his Cruiselawnews.com website that his law firm receives more complaints about crime in Nassau than in all of the other ports in the Caribbean combined.
Meanwhile, the attorney described the “archaic” Bahamian legal system as “indifferent to the plight of U.S. crime victims” and added that the country is “inept at solving crimes in port or on Bahamian-flagged cruise ships”.
Walker, who has attended more than half a dozen Congressional hearings about cruise ship crime and passenger safety and appeared on numerous U.S. TV news programs to talk about cruise industry safety issues, placed The Bahamas ahead of Honduras, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua, the U.S. Virgin Islands, El Salvador, and St. Lucia (ranked second to ninth respectively on Walker’s cruise crime list) for its level of dangerousness as a port of call for tourists.
He did admit that his list is not based on “scientific facts”.
“It’s anecdotal in nature based on information we receive from cruise passengers who contact us and complain about being a victim of crime in a port of call,” he wrote on the website, which appears prominently in Google searches about The Bahamas.
Walker’s comments come after he told Guardian Business in an interview in January of this year that The Bahamas is “one gunshot away” from seeing cruise lines drop it from their itineraries.
He said at the time that he took an ominous view of a decision by Carnival Cruise Lines to issue a crime warning to its passengers about the Port of Nassau, and to reveal it had been in communication with the government about the issue of crime and the safety of passengers it brings to the city.
Meanwhile, Walker called the armed robbery of then-acting prime minister, Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis, in his home, a “real wake up call” which would not have gone unnoticed by the cruise lines.
In response, Michele Paige, president of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA), said that cruise lines are not considering pulling out of The Bahamas, but if visitor perceptions of the safety of the country were to deteriorate, or official lines of communication were to fade, this could prompt a re-evaluation.
In a more recent interview, Paige raised the issue of concern over crime on behalf of cruise lines as one of the reasons why she was particularly surprised to hear of a call from the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) for cruise lines to pay higher taxes to the government.
“On top of everything else, we are now being told we don’t pay The Bahamas enough taxes?” said Paige at the time.
In an April 21 post on his website, Walker suggests that while official United Nations statistics on crime would paint another picture, casting Honduras, Venezuela, Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis and Colombia as the worst offenders for crime generally, his experience suggests a different ranking.
Speaking of The Bahamas specifically, and why he ranked it in first place for crime against cruise passengers, Walker writes: “We have been warning about crime in Nassau ever since we started this blog in September 2009. In October 2009, two ‘vicious robbers’ robbed a group of 11 terrified cruise passengers from a Royal Caribbean ship at gunpoint in Nassau. In November 2009, 18 cruise passengers were robbed during excursions from Royal Caribbean and Disney cruise ships.
“Crime has gotten worse in Nassau, we receive more complaints about crime in Nassau than all of the other ports in the Caribbean combined. Armed robberies, the sexual assault of teenagers and young women and the murder of tourists makes this port a dangerous place to take your family. The second you step off the cruise ship you’re likely to be offered drugs.
“The U.S. State Department has issued multiple critical crime warnings for The Bahamas. The Bahamian archaic legal system is indifferent to the plight of U.S. crime victims and the country is inept at solving crimes in port or on Bahamian-flagged cruise ships.”
Pre-emptively responding to potential criticism of his rankings, Walker added: “We know what people will think when they read the list: Crime occurs everywhere. Just use common sense. Stay with the cruise line excursions ashore. I say nonsense to that. The fact is that crime occurs in certain places far more than others. No one has ever contacted us about crime during a Seattle/Vancouver/Alaska cruise. Common sense is no help when a port advertised as a peaceful getaway has a murder rate 25 times more dangerous than where you live and no one has bothered to tell you that,” he added.
In late March, the U.S. Embassy issued its second crime alert in two months, telling U.S. citizens traveling to The Bahamas to be vigilant.
“Armed robbery and violent crime remain major threats facing both U.S. citizens and residents of The Bahamas, including in areas frequented by tourists on New Providence and Grand Bahama,” said the notice.
The warnings come on the heels of over a decade of continuous growth in cruise arrivals to The Bahamas. Between 2000 and 2012, such visitors grew by 76 percent. In 2013, cruise passengers made up 79 percent of all visitors to this country.
Guardian Business attempted to reach a number of tourism officials for comment yesterday, but efforts were unsuccessful up to press time.