Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Law and News

We previously reported about another instance of a major cruise line absolutely disregarding the law, and attempting to cover up their intentional violation of international laws involving contaminating the waterways. This past Wednesday, a United States District Judge sentenced Princess Cruise Lines, owned by Carnival Cruise Lines, to pay $40 million dollars in penalties, which is the largest penalty ever imposed for crimes involving deliberate pollution by a vessel of the waterways.  Princess Cruise Lines, as other major cruise lines have in the past, was found to have illegally dumped overboard oil contaminated waste, and then attempted to cover up the violations by falsifying official records. As I have stated before, intentionally disregarding the law, and lying to authorities in order to cover up the violations, is not a first to the cruise ship industry. In the past, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line pled guilty to felony charges of also illegally polluting the waterways and falsifying official records to cover up the violations of the laws. In this most recent example of another major cruise line disregarding the law and lying to authorities, U.S. District Judge also ordered that $1 million be paid to the British engineer aboard the Princess Cruise ship who first exposed the illegal dumping of waste into the waterways.  He initially reported the illegality to the British maritime and Coast Guard Agency, who then provided the evidence to the United States Coast Guard.

gavel-300x200Princess cruise lines reached an agreement last December to pled guilty to the seven felony charges stemming from illegally dumping oil contaminated waste at sea and then intentionally covering up the violations.  Thus, Princess is another cruise line with felony convictions, making it a felon.  As I have said before, if an individual testifies in a court of law, a prior felony conviction involving dishonestly may be used to attack the witnesses’ credibility.  I see no reason why these felony convictions of the major cruise ship companies should not be admissible in a court of law to attack the credibility of the cruise ship companies when they come into court and make representations as to how safe their cruise ship is, and testify about their safety records.  How can we trust that the representations made by the cruise ship companies, who are convicted felons, are indeed truthful?

We have warned that the public should not take as necessarily true representations made from cruise ship companies regarding the safety of their vessels.  In fact, recent legislation, the Cruise Ship Vessel Safety and Security Act, and recent legislation being proposed at this time, the Cruise Passenger Protection Act, is legislation that is designed to require more truthful disclosures on the part of the cruise ship industry to the public can be more aware of safety issues aboard cruise ships.  Public awareness of these type of issues occurring onboard cruise ships is critical to the public making informed decisions regarding their travel plans.

I first met Kendall Carver in 2005 in Washington D.C., when we were both testifying at Congressional Hearings addressing cruise ship safety and security. He was a very passionate man, having recently lost his daughter Merrian when she went missing during a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. At the time, I was representing the family of George Smith. George Smith had also gone missing on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship during his honeymoon cruise. Mr. Carver and I instantly formed a bond, which remains to this day.

This past Friday, my daughter and I attended the annual National Crime Victims’ Service Awards Ceremony in Washington D.C., where Mr. Carver, deservedly so, received the Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award from the United States Department of Justice. It was a very moving ceremony, where well-deserving recipients of the awards were honored for their achievements in devoting their lives to helping victims of crimes. Mr. Carver was recognized for his relentless pursuit of justice for the victims of cruise ship crimes, and  the support he has provided to the families and friends of the victims. He has had a very meaningful impact on the safety of the cruise ship industry. He started the International Cruise Victims Association, Inc., and he was instrumental in helping to enact the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.

ken-300x225The International Cruise Victims Association (ICV) was formed shortly after his daughter went missing, following the Congressional Hearings we both testified at. I had the honor of helping Mr. Carver form the International Cruise Victims Association. I have watched ICV grow leaps and bounds since its inception, increasing its membership, and gaining international recognition. It has helped many victims of cruise ship incidents, including crimes of sexual assaults.

MIAMI, Florida–Two spring-breakers quickly saw the fun and thrill of riding a jet ski turn to the terror of almost getting run over by a cruise ship. This past Saturday, two jet skiers were riding on these personal watercrafts right by the mouth of the Port Canaveral harbor in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, when their jet skis flipped them over into the water. At the same time, the Carnival Magic cruise ship was navigating out of the Port Canaveral Harbor. This meant that the two teenagers, ages 19 and 20, were now in the water, watching the approaching cruise ship come at them.

jetski-300x225Imagine a 130, 000-ton cruise ship coming at you, and imagine the horror of the pilot knowing there was no way to maneuver out of the way of the two girls. There is little ability to quickly maneuver a large passenger cruise ship, which in this case was the cruise ship owned by Carnival Cruise Line. Not only is it hard to quickly maneuver a large cruise ship but it was also hard for the girls to swim out of the way, as a breeze was pushing the woman more into the path of the approaching cruise ship according to the Port Canaveral Harbor Pilot Capt. Doug Brown. Capt. Doug Brown quickly alerted the Brevard County Sheriff’s Deputy who was at patrol boat nearby to come help. Luckily the deputy was able to rescue the two girls, as Brown tried to change the ship’s course.

This jet ski incident is unfortunately one of many, as we have reported on many accidents involving these personal watercrafts, including fatalities. Jet skis are dangerous instrumentalities. They are hard to keep under control, as they are very powerful and can go very fast.

MIAMI, Florida–The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released their findings regarding the horrible parking job by the captain of the passenger cruise ship Carnival Pride on May 8, 2016, when the cruise ship collided into the pier and an elevated passenger walkway in Baltimore, Maryland. The crash resulted in more than two million dollars in damages.  The Carnival Pride was returning from a 7-day trip to the Bahamas and Florida when this happened.

baltimore-300x225Although we were thankful to report that there were no personal injuries resulting from the collision with the pier, it did raise eyebrows and questions as to why the cruise ship did collide with the pier, with the expert navigation staff onboard and of course the most sophisticated navigation equipment.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the incident, and  released its accident report yesterday.  According to the report, Carnival Pride’s staff captain, was maneuvering the boat at too fast a speed and at too steep of an angle. The captain then took control, but at the point, it was too late to prevent the ship’s bow from striking the pier. The report found that the probable cause of the Carnival Pride’s allision with the pier was due to the captain’s oversight and the staff captain’s error, as the cruise ship was traveling at an excessive rate of speed at the time and at an angle that was too steep.  We have all experienced parallel parking where we either bang into another car or scratch our wheels, but here we are talking about a mega cruise ship and over $2,000,000 worth of damages.  It is alarming to know that the captain was faulted for not properly supervising, and that the cruise ship was found to be operating at an excessive rate of speed.

MIAMI, Florida–Royal Caribbean Cruise lines is now the second cruise lines to step up to the plate and implement the use of lifeguards at their swimming attractions. I commend them for this move, even though there has been reluctance in the past to do so. We have written numerous times about tragic drownings that have occurred on board cruise ships in the swimming pools scattered throughout these mega cruise ships, mostly involving small children. In fact, in the last three years we have heard about at least four other drownings on board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. This does not include the other cruises, in which we have also heard about multiple drownings occurring in the past few years on board their ships. Although the cruise ship companies seem to feel that a simple warning sign about swimming at your own risk is sufficient safety precautions for their cruise ships, Disney Cruise lines had previously been the only cruise ship company to step up to the plate and utilize lifeguards on board their ships, and even at their private island.

lifeguard-1363200-300x225It’s about time Royal Caribbean has employed lifeguards, becoming only the second major cruise line in the world to have lifeguards. We have learned from recent news reports that all the lifeguards hired by Royal Caribbean will be licensed and trained through StarGuard elite. In addition to employing lifeguards, the cruise line plans on implementing a few more water safety updates to their ships, specially targeted towards young cruise passengers. This includes signs reminding parents that they have swim vests available for young children and there will also be a water safety presentation during the orientation of the Adventure Ocean kids program.

We have always advocated for lifeguards on cruise ships because they are trained in recognizing signs of a drowning about to occur, as well as responding to a drowning situation It is easy for children to get separated from their parents on a large cruise ship with so many people and distractions, and it only takes seconds for a drowning to occur. A trained lifeguard monitoring the pools would be in a much better position to spot a drowning situation about to occur, as well as recognize a situation demanding an immediate response. The lack of lifeguards on board the ship has been, in my opinion, a major source of the tragic drownings we have read about with the major cruise line companies who do not utilize lifeguards. Studies show how fast a child can drown, and often times to the untrained eye, a drowning situation is not as obvious as one may think. Time is critical, and the expertise of a lifeguard observing a problem and responding immediately is critical to the chances of survival.

I have reported in the past on the many dangers present on cruise ships such as the risk of being the victim of a sexual assault or some other type of crime. I have also reported on the potential dangers of shore excursions, which take passengers to unknown areas in different foreign countries, that present risks unknown to passengers, as well as the dangers involved in activities onboard cruises that have exploded with the addition of fancy water parks, zip lines, rock climbing walls, surfing pools, and many other activities historically developed for land based parks and recreational areas, which have created many challenges, including having the proper set up on the high seas, proper personnel with the proper training, and just plain old general safety control over these activities. Now, in recent developments, breathing can be a danger on cruise ships?

breath-192x300A recent study by a German environmental association, Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU), concluded that a passenger can be subjected to more toxins on a cruise ship than on land. The German association published their findings on a French documentary TV series after a journalist secretly went onboard a cruise ship and took samples of the air. After testing the air quality, they found that the concentration of harmful particles was 20 times worse than it would be in a crowded city.  According to NABU, the air quality was a result of bad fuel and filters on board the ships.

I have seen almost everything that could happen on a cruise ship but never thought the air passengers are breathing on these cruise ships could be more harmful than the air we breathe on land. I am sure we all remember how smoking used to be allowed on airplanes and no thought or concerns were given to the air passengers breathed on airplanes. After decades, it was finally discovered that not only did tobacco cause cancer, but second hand smoke was a danger to the non-smokers breathing the air as well.  Now the air on cruise ships potentially poses similar dangers as inhaling these harmful particles can lead to strokes, heart attacks, and lung diseases according to the study.

On Friday January 6th, a passenger who traveled on an airplane to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, picked up his luggage at baggage claim, went into the bathroom and removed a firearm from his checked bag, and then proceeded to start shooting people in the passenger baggage area. The shooting resulted in five people killed, and six others injured. The shooting suspect is a 26-year-old Iraq war veteran named Esteban Santiago.

file000728465303-300x225While this tragedy is another example of needless deaths caused by some psychotic troubled individual, it would normally not be an incident discussed on a maritime news blog. However, this incident actually ended up having a direct impact on the cruise ship industry. Four of the passengers killed at the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting were about to go on a cruise. Cruise ships were also delayed in their departures. Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas, Carnival Conquest, Holland America’s Eurodam and Coral Princess left several hours later than they were supposed to. The mood aboard the ships was also affected, as many of the passengers had either witnessed or heard about the deadly attack.

In fact, Holland America Line offered free counseling to the passengers on its ships because of the incident. Fort Lauderdale is a popular hub for passengers flying into Florida to board a cruise ship at the Port Everglades port. Passengers fly in to the airport, and then are transported to the cruise ship by representatives of the different cruise lines.  Holland America’s ships frequently depart from the Port Everglades port, and this traumatic event affected several of the passengers who were on their way to a Holland America cruise that day. The cruise line contracted with Empathia, an emergency management company, to offer free counseling to those affected passengers via a hotline.

MIAMI, Florida– 2017 is approaching which means that cruise ship giants Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises will soon be taking their cruise ships to Cuba. Two of Royal Caribbean’s ships, Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Club Cruises, are scheduled to set sail around late April. All three of Norwegian’s ships, Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Ocean Cruises, are scheduled to start sailing to Cuba in May.

cuba-300x225In fact, on Tuesday Norwegian Cruise Line opened up its bookings for its four-day trip to Cuba starting May 1 on the Norwegian Sky. The Norwegian Sky is the biggest United States ship to make its way to Cuba holding 2,004 passengers. Additionally, according to recent reports, the Norwegian Sky is the cheapest cruise ship to Cuba out there at the moment. The Norwegian Sky is scheduled to make five trips to Cuba in May, leaving from the Port of Miami.

It remains to be seen how popular these cruises to Cuba will become. Even though Fidel Castro has passed, Cuba continues to be a communist country with Fidel’s brother currently running the country. Of course, the cruise ship industry always brings a lot of money to the ports it travels to, and what impact this will have on the United States public remains to be seen. It also remains to be seen how our new president, Donald Trump, will handle the new relationship with Cuba that has developed under the Obama regime. Will we revert back to the restrictions? If he does, cruising to Cuba may be short-lived.

MIAMI, Florida–In alarming news, Princess Cruise Lines, owned by Carnival Corporation, plead guilty to seven felony charges arising as a result of illegal dumping of oil into the ocean. This is not the first time a cruise line has been found guilty of illegally dumping oil into the ocean and covering it up. In fact, Carnival, was previously guilty of dumping oil into the ocean and covering it up. A huge fine was assessed back in the late 1990s against Carnival. Other cruise ship companies, including Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International, have also been guilty of oil dumping and cover up. These major cruise lines have felony convictions, so they should be referred to as felons, with the associated cloud over their credibility that is justified from being a felon.

enchantment-of-the-seas-panama-thumb-450x321-14364-300x214An engineer involved in the operation for Princess Cruises resulting in another huge fine of $40 million dollars, summed up the motivation behind violating international laws and covering up the violations: “It cost too much to properly dispose of oil waste.” Apparently, the cruise line puts profits ahead of the environment, disregarding international laws and covering up their actions, while polluting the waterways. Can we trust these convicted felons when they tell the public their cruise ships are safe when in fact there are in fact a number of reported sexual assaults and disappearances happening on cruise ships?

During Congressional Hearings addressing cruise ship safety and security, I was requested to come to Washington D.C. to testify. I was questioned about safety and security issues on board the cruise ships and what particular laws govern the cruise ship companies. I was surprised that Congress had very little knowledge as to how the cruise ship industry was being regulated, and  that the Congressional committee was not aware that there were no mandatory reporting requirements for the cruise ship companies when a crime happens on board their cruise ship. As a result of these hearings, there has been increased safety legislation and regulation of the cruise ship industry.

Despite growing awareness of cruise ship incidents, including sexual assaults, fires, disappearances, and a host of other problems, an article in the Miami Herald indicates that the cruise ship industry here in Florida is booming.big-ship-300x225 The article reports how major cruise lines are bringing the biggest cruise ships in history to the ports in both Port Everglades, Florida and Miami, Florida. This includes Royal Caribbean International’s Harmony of the Seas, Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Vista, Holland America’s ms Koningsdam,and Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Explorer.

This brings us to the question of whether these mega cruise ships are better than the average-size cruise ships. Is bigger really better? The larger cruise ships will provide a lot more variety as to entertainment, restaurants, and other activities, as well as increased profits to the cruise lines. However, how safe are these huge cruise ships out in the high seas with thousands of passengers and thousands of crew members? What happens in the case of a fire or other disaster where an evacuation must take place? I do not believe anyone has forgotten the images of the Costa Concordia lying on its side in Italy after striking rocks, causing it to capsize. The evacuation process after this happened was a mess. There were many deaths and injuries, with the incident being compared to the Titanic. Although what happened on the Costa Concordia was a rare incident, it does highlight the issue of how safe these new humongous cruise ships really are.

Over the years, with an increasing population on board cruises, we have seen an increasing number of passengers going overboard, as well as an increasing number of sexual assaults and other crimes. This does not include an increase in accidents on board the ships. Do we have sufficient laws and regulations to ensure the safety of all the passengers and crew members that will be traveling on these huge cruise ships? The amount of alcohol consumption taking place on cruises and the mix of nationalities of both the crew and passengers on board the ships are just a few of the many factors that present very challenging safety concerns to the cruise line industry and regulators. In addition, the cruise ship companies enjoy incorporation in a foreign country as well as flying a “flag of convenience,” which means registering their ships in other countries. This allow them to escape certain laws and regulations of the United States, as well as avoid United States tax laws.

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