MIAMI, Florida– Last Wednesday, a crew member who was working on board the Emerald Princess cruise ship was killed as a result of a gas explosion when the crew was re-inflating the ship’s lifeboats with a can of nitrogen. The Emerald Princess is a passenger cruise ship part of Carnival Australia and operated by Princess Cruises, that carries more than 3000 passengers and 1200 crew members on board its ship. What caused the explosion is unknown at this time. The accident caused the ship’s departure time to have been delayed about 18 hours, as WorkSafe officials investigated this tragedy on board the ship.
Crew members are exposed to very dangerous and unsafe conditions, and unfortunately, almost every single year we hear about multiple accidents involving crew members. The gas explosion occurred while the ship was docked in Port Chalmers during a twelve-night cruise from Australia to different places in New Zealand. Our heartfelt condolences and prayers are extended to the family members of this Filipino crew member who needlessly lost his life while performing his scope of duties on the vessel.
When an explosion occurs on board a ship resulting in injury or death to a crew member, there is absolute liability on the part of the cruise ship company for the incident, because an explosion that occurs during the normal operating procedures legally makes the ship unseaworthy under the maritime law. This creates liability on the part of the cruise ship company to the injured person, or to the surviving members of the crew member who was killed. Many such lawsuits arose out of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion where many crew members were killed when an explosion occurred. This explosion killed 11 workers and injured 17 others, and led to the largest accidental marine oil spill in history. The explosion is the subject of the motion picture Deepwater Horizon that was released this past September.
According to the most recent news on this tragedy aboard the Emerald Princess, Maritime New Zealand, a state maritime safety authority, is currently investigating whether Emerald Princess is liable for the crew member’s death. The investigation is supposed to take weeks and penalties can include a 100,000 fine or 12- month jail time. Emerald Princess is one of two ships that are currently under investigation after visiting New Zealand. The other ship is a French cruise ship that was reported to have hit a rock in Milford Sound.
The explosion on the Emerald Princess apparently was very significant, and it is fortunate more people were not injured or killed. According to reports, the explosion could be heard from afar as it was a 45 kg gas bottle that exploded. Of course many United States passengers travel on cruise ships that operate in the European countries, and the United States has a strong interest in making sure cruise ships are kept safe, equipment is maintained properly, and the crew is well-trained. It is not only the safety of the crew members at risk, but the millions of United States passengers, and passengers from other countries, who sail the board cruise ships annually.