Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Crimes

Cruise ships are finally showing improvements in their safety measures since the Costa Concordia disaster, as can be seen in an article published earlier today in USA today titled “Elderly cruiser kicked off Seabourn ship for skipping drill.”

An 84-year- old woman, along with her 90-year-old husband, was kicked off the Seabourn Sojourn this week. The woman refused to attend the mandatory safety drill that begins at the start of each cruise. According to the article, this was the second leg of a three-part trip for the couple, who had already attended a safety drill on the earlier part of the trip. The husband attended the drill but the wife claimed she was not feeling well.

It was recently reported in Rome that cruise ships are being asked to resume their ”sail-by salutes.” It stopped after the Costa Concordia disaster, which occurred while the captain was carrying out a “salute” in January of this year. According to an article published in the Telegraph titled “Calls for cruise ship ‘sail by salutes’ to resume after Costa Concordia tragedy,” salutes should be allowed ”safely and securely as it was fundamental to the tourist trade which Italy relies upon, especially in the summer, when it has more than 40 million visitors a year.” According to the article, tourism chiefs and hotel bosses are making this request to the cruise industry. They let some time pass since the tragic disaster and are now requesting this practice be resumed.

After the Costa disaster, cruise ships have been criticized for a practice that appears to be more common than was known when we first learned of the Costa Concordia disaster. The cruise ship company, Costa, continues to deny the captain had the permission to do the “salute” or that it was common practice. Notwithstanding the tragedy that occurred with the capsizing of the Costa Concordia, the President of the Federation of Hotel owners of Ischia ,Ermando Mennella, said that “the inchino (salute) should be allowed to continue but obviously with safety and security guaranteed for all. It is fundamental for tourism especially to an island like Ischia and if it does not continue then it will have severe economic repercussions and cost jobs in the long run. For many years now cruise ships and mega yachts have been sailing past Ischia, which has helped promote our island in times of economic crisis and last summer alone more than 7,500 cruise ship passengers came ashore.”

Some recently interesting developments in the maritime law field.

It was reported that there was a large settlement reached in the case involving a Philadelphia duck boat that was involved in a collision in the Delaware River. The collision caused the boat to sink in the year 2010, killing two Hungarian students who drowned when the amphibious watercraft sank after being struck by a 250-foot barge that was being pushed by a tugboat. The case was pending in a federal court where the owners of the vessels were seeking to take advantage of an outdated and harsh maritime law called Limitation of Liability. The owners of the vessels were seeking to limit their exposure to the value of the vessels after the collision, which was reported to be approximately $1.8 million. However, the settlement is reported to have been $17 million.

The Limitation of Liability law was enacted more than 150 years ago, and remains part of the maritime law of the United States. This federal statute simply has no place in today’s maritime world. The Limitation of Liability Act (LOLA) was brought into focus after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion incident that killed nine maritime workers. This ancient and archaic law allows the vessels to limit their liability to the post-voyage value of their vessel. Transocean was relying on LOLA to limits its liability for the Deepwater disaster to $27 million.

In the case involving the duck boat, the amphibious vessel was plowed over by a 250-foot barge being pushed by a tugboat in Philadelphia, and the owners were trying to limit their liability to $1.7 million.

The application of the Limitation of Liability Act results in harsh consequences, and hopefully our Congress will recognize this at some point in time.
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On April 23, I wrote about how in March boaters in distress were ignored by the Star Princess.

One of the boaters, an 18-year-old named Adrian Vasquez, survived after 28 days at sea but his two friends died, one only hour after the cruise ship passed. Today it is being reported that the one survivor has filed a lawsuit against Princess Cruise lines for failing to assist, and just driving by.

I have written about the former child supervisor, Paul Trotter, who admitted to police that he sexually abused children onboard the cruise ships he worked for and was arrested in February for these actions.Trotter worked for Cunard Cruise lines and today the 34-year-old man starts his four year sentence for the crime he committed.

Also according to USA TODAY, “The Daily Echo of Southampton, England reports that Paul Trotter of Pontefract, England also will be placed on the U.K.’s sex offenders’ register for life and banned from working with children.” He admitted to sexual assaulting 13 year old boys between the years of 2007 and 2011. He also admitted to “taking, making and possession of indecent images of the children, who were between the ages of 7 and 13.” It is still confusing how he was able to commit these disgusting crimes without detection. According to the president and managing director of Cunard Cruise lines Peter Shanks, they will be changing their recruitment process for youth centers onboard their ships. Maybe something they should have realized much earlier!

In March I wrote a blog about an assistant cruise director for Norwegian Cruise Lines on board the cruise ship Norwegian Star who was arrested for having sexual relations with a 16-year-old passenger. Senad Djedovic, a 29-year-old crewmember, was also found in possession of graphic photos the girl sent him and videos of child pornography. Yesterday the Tampa Bay Tribune informed us that Djedovic has agreed to plead guilty to a federal pornography charge. Senad Djedovic faces up to ten years in federal prison after he agrees to this federal charge of possessing child pornography. On Monday a plea agreement was filed in United States District Court. Djedovic met this 16-year-old girl from Minnesota on a seven-day cruise that went from Tampa to the Caribbean on January 29. It was discovered that the two had a sexual encounter on a staircase and Djedovic was aware of the young girl’s age. After the cruise ended they continued with a relationship via emails which included “naughty photos.”

Djedovic’s crime was discovered after he showed some of his crew members the pictures he received from the 16-year-old passenger.

Daunting news recently surfaced in regards to al Qaeda plans in a CNN article posted yesterday titled “Documents reveal al Qaeda’s plans for seizing cruise ships, carnage in Europe.” Through investigations obtained from an Austrian last year, it has been discovered that the terrorist group had plans to seize cruise ships. On May 16 of last year, an Austrian man named Maqsood Lodin was investigated by police in Berlin. The police found in his underpants memory cards and a digital storage device. After several weeks of trying to encode what was in these devices, the German investigators discovered over 100 al Qaeda documents which included some of their plans for future attacks. This included plots to seize cruise ships and initiate attacks in Europe.

Also discovered in these devices were terrorist training manuals. According to the CNN article, “one source says that they are the most important haul of al Qaeda materials in the last year, besides those found when U.S. Navy SEALs raided Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a year ago and killed the al Qaeda leader.”

In December of 2011, Patricia Elkins, 47, pleaded guilty to a bomb threat she made towards a cruise ship in June of that same year. Elkins, who is from Arkansas, called Carnival Cruise Lines to anonymously inform them that there was a bomb on one of their ships en route to Cozumel, Mexico. There were two ships, each with about 3,000 people aboard, which were immediately informed of this threat. A bomb was not found but police were able to track down Patricia Elkins who at first denied making the threat. She then later admitted that she called in the threat. Elkins told police that she was upset with a man she was living with at the time who was aboard one of the ships. She was mad at the man for not including her in his trip. This was a little too extreme for revenge.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kirk Schoenbein tried to get her a strict sentence, “citing the number of people affected, some 7,000 aboard two ships, and the time and effort spent by crew members to investigate the threat. The prosecutor also noted that Elkins had called in a threat in 2003 to a high school in Bloomington but wasn’t prosecuted.” Yesterday, Patricia Elkins was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.

It was reported that a cruise ship passenger onboard the Star Princess is still haunted by images from a recent cruise in March aboard the passenger cruise ship Star Princess, owned by Princess Cruise Lines. The haunted images obviously are not what this passenger expected when taking a cruise onboard the Star Princess. I am sure the passenger expected to come back with lots of images, but of pleasant and beautiful experiences during the cruise.

However, the image that is haunting Judy Meredith is her observing boaters that were in distress in a small fishing boat in the open waters off the Pacific Coast of Panama. Judy Meredith, along with other passengers, were looking for seabirds. What they spotted was frantic gestures coming from a small fishing boat that was adrift a couple of miles away. Despite the passengers’ efforts to contact the United States Coast Guard through the internet service onboard the ship, and despite reporting the distressed boaters to a crewmember, the passengers are trying to figure out how this large cruise ship failed to initiate any rescue efforts. The Star Princess kept sailing and made no efforts to rescue the distressed boaters.

I continue to receive phone calls on regular basis from attorneys throughout the United States asking whether the one year statute of limitations to file a lawsuit for a cruise ship passenger who has been injured onboard a cruise ship (which include those operated by Carnival Corporation (Carnival Cruise Lines), Celebrity Cruise Lines, Costa Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), Regent-Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCL), and Silver Sea Cruises).

This one year time limitation to file a lawsuit for a cruise ship passenger that has been injured onboard a cruise ship is authorized by a Federal statute. The passenger tickets that contain this one year limitation to file a lawsuit has been held enforceable by our Supreme Court of the United States. Frequently, I receive a phone call from an attorney who wants to refer a cruise ship passenger case but has failed to recognize the one year time limitation, and it has been too late to help the cruise ship passenger. Other times I have received a phone call that an attorney has learned the hard way about the one year time limit when a lawsuit that has been filed is met with a motion to dismiss on statute of limitations grounds.