Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Safety

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.

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.

This past Friday the United States Overseas Security Advisory Council, managed by the U.S. State Department, posted warnings for United States citizens traveling to Nassau, Bahamas. It is well known that the Bahamas is a popular destination for cruise ships to take their passengers.  Over the years, I have written about the dangers of shore excursions in foreign countries, that cruise ship companies promote and sell tickets to.  Many passengers traveling to these foreign ports have no knowledge whatsoever about the potential dangers that exist at each of the ports.  Although the cruise ship companies point out that every city has dangers of crime and other problems, the fact is that these smaller ports have known dangers that the cruise ship companies know about, or should know about. However, the cruise lines fail to post warnings or inform passengers about these dangers because of how this will impact their whole persona of a fun filled cruise vacation, which includes these exotic foreign ports.

nassau-300x225The dangers that exist at some of these exotic foreign ports include known criminal activity.  For example, in this posting by the United States Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security, there is a warning about participating in jet ski operations in certain islands in Nassau because of the known danger of being sexually assaulted by jet ski operators.  This would surely be something that a passenger would not know, but clearly is obtainable information for the cruise lines. Cruise ship companies should be charged with investigation into each of the ports that they take the passengers to, in which they enjoy hefty profits by selling shoreside excursions in these foreign ports.

The posted warnings about Nassau also discuss that many criminal activities are the results of the excessive consumption of alcohol, as perpetrators look for easy prey victims who have become intoxicated. Criminal activity, including sexual assaults, can occur also onboard cruise ships.  The cruise ship companies have been aware of the numerous reported sexual assaults on cruise ships over the years, which have risen to such an alarming level that Congress intervened and passed safety legislations for passengers addressing sexual assaults onboard cruise ships.

MIAMI, Florida-A magistrate recently determined that Melina Roberce must stand trial on charges of importing cocaine on board the MS Sea Princess cruise ship back in August. Ms. Roberce was one of three passengers aboard the Princess cruise ship MS Sea Princess who had been arrested for attempting to smuggle over 200 pounds of cocaine aboard the cruise ship in a suitcase. The big question is how the drugs made it onto the cruise ship undetected.

gavel-300x200Ms. Roberce is only 22 years of age, and pictures show her crying when she was informed that she will stand trial. She was detained by Australian Federal Police along with fellow passengers Isabel Lagace, 28 years old, and Andre Tamine, 64 years old. The three were detained when the cruise ship arrived in port in Sydney Harbour.

All three have been charged with the crime of importing the cocaine. The cocaine is reported to have an estimated street value of $31 million and was found in locked suitcases during the search of passenger cabins. It is reported to be the largest drug bust of its kind on board a cruise ship.

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.

PART ONE

cruiseI started working on maritime cases in 1982. Since then, the number of cruise ships have multiplied significantly, and the sizes of the cruise ships have grown to sizes that would never have been anticipated many years ago. These mega cruise ships can now hold thousands of passengers in addition to the thousands of crew member they employ. Of course, with the increasing size of cruise ships and number of passengers, there has been an increasing number of crimes occurring on board cruise ships, which have included rapes, sexual assaults, theft, murder and other criminal offenses.

When I first started, there was very little acknowledgment of problems regarding cruise ship safety. As time went on, it was believed that cruise ships tried to sweep under the carpet any criminal activity that was occurring aboard their cruise ships in order to maintain their public image and reputation for being “fun ships.” It was bad for their public relations for the public to be aware that these types of crimes were occurring on board cruise ships, and that minors were many times the victims. Surprisingly, there was no mandatory requirements for the cruise ship companies to disclose or report crimes aboard their foreign flagged cruise ships.

PART TWO

cruiseAs I had started to discuss in PART ONE, I was requested to appear as a maritime expert to answer questions regarding cruise ship safety and security. Also in attendance at these hearings were representatives from the United States Coast Guard and the FBI. When I spoke at Congress, I had the pleasure of meeting Kendall Carver, who also spoke to Congress addressing cruise ship safety and security. Mr. Carver had lost his daughter on board a Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska in 2004.  Her disappearance also remains unsolved, although Mr. Carver strongly believes she was the victim of criminal activity and a cover-up by the cruise ship company.

One of the main topics discussed at Congress was the lack of any requirements on the part of the cruise ship industry to report criminal activity on board their ships. Without mandatory reporting requirements, the public had not been aware of the prevalence of crimes that occurred on board cruises. Therefore, Congress became concerned with the inadequate information available to the public.

lifeboatI have previously written about lifeboat accidents, safety boat accidents, and other types of rescue boat accidents, occurring with frequency on cruise ships. The most recent catastrophe has occurred on Royal Caribbean’s brand-new mega cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas. Unfortunately, I have handled many of these type of cases ranging from minor injuries to fatalities, as well as cases where the accident resulted in paralysis. Other lifeboat and rescue boat accidents have resulted in serious physical and psychological injuries.

I have determined that these accidents are occurring because of the faulty designs of the major safety equipment, inadequate maintenance, and a lack of proper procedures for conducting the safety drills. We had previously written about Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world. It measures about the length of four football fields, and is longer than the height of the Eiffel Tower, carrying 6,780 passengers and 2,100 crew members.

Although this is a brand-new cruise ship, apparently the lifeboat failed during an attempted lifeboat safety drill, breaking loose from its apparatus, falling 33 feet (10 meters) into the sea, resulting in the death of one 42- year-old Filipino cruise ship crew member and four others catastrophically injured.

wavesWith modern day technology, the cruise ship companies believe they can outmaneuver mother nature, and believe that the fear created by encountering rough seas and rough weather, as well as the unpleasantness and dangers that can result, is not enough to cancel a cruise. I have written many times about cruise ship companies deciding that their mega cruise ships are capable of withstanding storms, and their reluctance to cancel cruises, resulting in passengers being endangered when cruise ships are driven into severe weather, including tropical storms and even hurricanes.

I also have also written about the Anthem of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, too many times this year. This includes its decision to navigate into a storm this past February. For some reason Anthem of the Seas had not learned from its mistakes, and again, the ship decided to not to cancel its itinerary despite Tropical Storm Hermine warnings.

Often times, severe weather causes dishes, plates, furniture, and other items to fly across areas on the ship, creating dangers to passengers and crew. Of course, seasickness is also common during encounters with rough weather. There is also the danger of the ship losing power during a storm, and being at the mercy of strong season winds. In extreme cases, ships have sunk during hurricanes because a ship-owner decided to take a chance and outmaneuver a storm as was in the case of El Faro.

fireA fire at sea poses unique safety risks, risks passengers often do not consider before embarking on a cruise. When a fire breaks out on land, we have personnel who are highly trained in firefighting, responding with sophisticated equipment. When a fire breaks out aboard a cruise ship, we must rely on the crew members, in whatever training the cruise ship company has provided, responding with limited equipment.

Another obvious safety hazard present from a cruise ship fire is the inability to run somewhere for safety. Often times on land a quick escape is easy as there is a place to run to safety. On a cruise ship, there are limited areas where passengers can escape to, short of being evacuated off the ship. A shipboard evacuation of thousands of passengers is an enormous undertaking, which presents many safety hazards in and of itself. Most of us heard about the disaster with the Costa Concordia evacuation efforts.

Another safety issue is the fact that the crew members are often from different nationalities. During a fire, the language barriers that are present aboard cruise ships often make it difficult for the crew members  to communicate with each other, as well as the passengers, in order to safely perform a rescue effort.

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