Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Law and News

Recently, various news outlets have reported that Royal Caribbean Cruises was removing some of their ships from the port of Falmouth, Jamaica. However, it is not clear what is going to happen as several cruise ships of Royal Caribbean do travel to this port, and RCCL has invested money in helping to develop the port for bringing more cruise ships there.

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What is interesting are the reasons for the decision to bring less ships to Falmouth, Jamaica. One is harassment of the passengers by local vendors. One of the other reasons for bringing less ships to the port of Falmouth was the dangers of the tour bus operators. Tour bus operators have been an issue in the past. Last year a tour bus filled with Royal Caribbean passengers crashed, leaving one dead and many injured.  Again, this illustrates dangers at a port of call known to the cruise line, where the cruise line directed passengers to. These types of dangers are present at many port of calls, and we must rely on the cruise ship companies to do a better job of vetting these excursions to prevent further accidents and injuries during these shore excursions.

The question when something happens to a passenger injured during the shore side excursion is whether the cruise ship company will be held accountable if the accident was due to some unsafe or dangerous condition, or due to negligence of the shore side excursion company. Typically, for a company to be held liable for the acts of another company or individual, the company or the individual must be determined to be an agent of the company for purposes of imposing liability on the company. Therefore, it has been argued that the shore excursion companies are agents of the cruise ship company because the cruise ship companies hire the shore side excursion companies to take their passengers on excursions during a cruise. However, the laws become well-settled that because the cruise ship companies do not control the shore excursion companies activities, and a separate shore side company actually is conducting the operations, the excursion company is not considered to be an agent of the cruise line. In fact, the cruise line puts in their brochures and ticket that these shoreside companies are actually independent contractors, which the law has so held.

PART ONE

It was in 2005 that I first appeared before Congressional Hearings to address cruise ship safety and security.  I was invited to testify as a Maritime expert to assist the members of Congress in addressing safety concerns onboard cruise ships, and answer questions related to the type of problems most prevalent on cruise ships, and what laws govern the cruise ship industry when something does happen to a United States passenger.  At the Congressional Hearings, several victims on cruise ships also testified, including victims of sexual assaults, and other crimes.

congress-1-300x200At the time, I was representing the family of George Smith, whose son George Smith disappeared during his honeymoon cruise on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  His body was never located, and the FBI actively investigated the case for several years before closing the file without any resolution.  It was believed that his disappearance was a result of foul play, and it was suspected that he was actually murdered onboard the ship.  However, no body was ever found, making it difficult to establish and prove foul play, and no one was ever charged criminally with his disappearance.

PART TWO

The most recent legislation Congress has introduced is called the Cruise Passenger Protection Act, which would also amend the Death on the High Seas Act, an outdated law that denies family members the right to recover intangible damages for the loss of their loved ones due to negligent and wrongful death when the death occurs on a cruise ship in international waters.  Intangible damages are the type of damages that compensate family members for the grief, mental anguish, loss of comfort and companionship of their loved ones who are killed due to the wrongful conduct of another.

congress-300x200The Death on the High Seas Act was amended by Congress in 2000 to allow families of international plane passengers to recover damages for the loss of care, comfort and companionship.  However, the act was not amended with respect to deaths that happen on cruise ships.  There is no conceivable reason that can be advanced for this distinction, other than the cruise ship industry has been very successful in their lobbying efforts to prevent the amendment to the Death on the High Seas Act.

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.

gavel-300x200As 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.

Princess 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?

Today Norwegian Cruise Line has announced that they will begin employing lifeguards at their family pools this summer. I have been advocating for years that cruise ship companies should step up to the plate and pay the money to put lifeguards at the swimming attractions onboard cruise ships.  These days, mega cruise ships have major swimming attractions, and drowning is a serious risk aboard these cruise ships.  I have seen way too many drownings that could have been prevented.

lifeguard-263x300Previously, Disney cruise lines was the only cruise ship company that had decided to place lifeguards at the swimming attractions on board their ships after the near-drowning of a four-year-old on one of their cruises. However, despite the fact that drownings continued on board cruises, the other major cruise ship companies including Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess and Holland America Lines, continued to not have lifeguards on their ships.

We recently reported that Royal Caribbean stepped up to the plate and finally put lifeguards onboard their ships after additional drownings occurred.  Unfortunately,multiple cruise ship drownings had to occur to get the cruise lines attention regarding such an important aspect of safety when operating water amusements onboard their ships. As I have reported many times, the shipboard activities onboard these mega cruise ships pose serious safety risks, as many of these attractions are built for land.  Having these attractions on a floating hotel with thousands of passengers, including an environment where alcohol consumption is rampant and children are present, poses a serious safety risk.  This means that all reasonably available safe guards must be implemented by the cruise ship companies to protect the passengers, and they should not put profits ahead of safety.

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.

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