This is an interesting press release that came out on, March 2, 2014, from Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, discussing a statement that he submitted to the national transportation and safety board, which is currently holding hearings addressing cruise ship safety. Here is the link to the press release. The National Transportation and Safety Board hearings should also be easily obtainable as public it is information.
The press release states that Sen. Rockefeller provided a cruise ship crime report in July of 2013 exposing that there were critical barriers to public access of important crime and safety data regarding cruise ships. He has been a strong advocate for increased regulation of the cruise ship industry has advocated increased focus by the authorities on cruise ship dangers, including crimes onboard ships. Many recent safety and security incidents brought to light more concerns about safety aboard cruise ships necessitating various congressional hearings, as well as Sen. Rockefeller’s active involvement in getting legislation passed addressing cruise ship safety and prompting further hearings and investigation.
In fact I recently did a blog about the coast guard now starting to do surprise inspections of cruise ships because of these safety concerns that have been exposed.
I previously testified before the United States Congress during congressional hearings addressing cruise ship safety and security.
Sen. Rockefeller makes a good point. First he points out that cruise ships are very popular. The cruise line spends a ton of money advertising their cruise ships and what a fun filled, once in a life time vacation a cruise can be. They lure in passengers from all over the world believing it’s going to be a carefree, safe way of vacationing.
He also points out that there has been a “consistent string of problems aboard cruise ships”. He discusses fires, explosions, sewage problems, vessels remaining adrift without power, as well as the Costa Concordia incident that resulted in 32 deaths in January of 2012. He makes reference to the fire that developed in the engine room aboard the Carnival cruise ship Triumph last February. Passengers were at sea without air conditioning, without lights, water, food and appropriate bathroom facilities.
Sen. Rockefeller also points out that evidence was found during a commerce committee investigation that cruise ship crimes are under reported, and that it is difficult for passengers to receive assistance, and that crime scenes are not adequately preserved. It is also very difficult to pursue legal action against any perpetrator or the cruise line due to various obstacles created by the cruise ship operating a foreign flag vessel, in international waters, and having full and complete control over the crime scene once a crime occurs. In addition, the perpetrator of the crime is often times an employee of the cruise ship company.
An interesting statement by Sen. Rockefeller is the point he makes that Carnival has taken the position in recent litigation that it only owes passengers a duty of reasonable care and makes no guarantee for a safe passage, a seaworthy vessel, adequate and wholesome food, and sanitary and safe living conditions. This is quite disturbing.
The bottom line is Sen. Rockefeller remains unconvinced that the cruise ship industry is doing enough. He talks about his introduction of the Cruise Passenger Protection Act. However, he states constant diligence must remain to ensure safety of all passengers aboard cruise ships. He commends the National Transportation and Safety Board for their focus on these issues and the recent hearings that are intended to gain a better understanding of cruise ship safety and oversight. Of course, additional scrutiny by the NTSB, as well as the United States Coast Guard, to the degree permitted under the United States and International Laws, will go a long way in proving cruise ship safety, but the nature of the beast is hard to stop. These are large mega cruise ships, floating hotels, registered in foreign countries, and the cruise ship industry largely escapes regulations and has many loopholes in the laws that protect them against lawsuits by crew members and passengers.
As an advocate for those harmed at sea, I continue to strongly believe that holding the cruise ship industry liable for each and every incident that occurs, to the full extent of the laws, is one of the keys to improving safety on cruise ships. Our tort system was designed to shift the cost of injuries and deaths to the wrongdoer. The concern of being personally accountable for incidents involving injuries and deaths is suppose to encourage big corporations to implement additional safety precautions to avoid legal liability. By providing so many loopholes to the cruise ship industry with respect to lawsuits by passengers and crew members, our legal system has taken away a big watch dog of the cruise ship industry that in my opinion adversely affects the safety of all those who travel aboard passenger cruise ships.
Everyone should do what they can to assure that cruise ship companies, like all corporations should, be held fully accountable for each and every injury and death its negligence causes. The loopholes they enjoy should be closed, and the cruise ship companies should not only receive and increased focus scrutiny from agencies such as the National Transportation and Safety Board, and the Coast Guard, but the cruise ship industry should also not be permitted to contract away their liabilities and obtain favorable legislation protecting them from liability due to their vast resources used in lobbying Congress for these favorable loopholes.
My firm continues to help all those harmed at sea, including those harmed on board cruise ships.