Articles Tagged with Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010

It has been reported that a 3-year-old girl on board a Carnival Cruise Line cruise ship fell from a stateroom balcony to the deck below, suffering injuries which required her to be airlifted to a hospital in Tampa, Florida. The incident took place this past Friday aboard the Carnival Breeze. The ship was on its way back to Galveston, Texas, after cruising to the Bahamas.

carnival-300x186The nature and extent of the injuries were not known at the time, other than it was reported that there was severe bruising to the facial area, and a Coast Guard officer commented that he did not believe the injuries to be more serious injuries than facial fractures, although that remains to be seen. It is also unclear why the 3-year-old fell from the balcony in her stateroom.

It is concerning that only one day earlier a similar incident was reported aboard the Carnival Valor, another Carnival Cruise Line ship, Carnival Valor, where a 30-year-old passenger fell and injured her head requiring evacuation by the United States Coast Guard. The ship was just ten miles from Galveston, Texas, when she was medevacs from the ship. Details from her fall are unknown at this time.

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.

There is a report of yet again another passenger on a cruise ship reported to have gone overboard, and not found. The latest involves a 32-year-old male from Georgia, a passenger on the Carnival Liberty cruise ship, a Carnival Cruise Line ship, who reportedly went overboard in the early morning hours of Friday, April 7, while the vessel was in Bahamian territorial waters after having left Cape Canaveral, Florida.

carnival-liberty-300x225At this time, the reports are that the United States Coast Guard was participating in the search and rescue efforts, as it does involve a United States citizen, and the ship did depart from the United States port. The Bahamian maritime authority will also get involved since the incident did happen in Bahamian waters.

Statistics that are available indicate there have been a number of passengers who have been reported to have gone overboard on a cruise ship this year alone. Just two weeks ago, we reported on another carnival passenger who fell overboard from the Carnival Victory ship.

MIAMI, Florida–There has been another reported incident of a passenger on a cruise ship falling overboard. This past Wednesday, a 23-year-old male passenger from Florida was reported to have fallen from the eighth deck of the Carnival Victory, a Carnival Cruise Line ship, at around 3 a.m. Since the cruise ship was close to the territorial waters of Cuba, Cuban authorities got involved in the rescue efforts, as well as the United States Coast Guard. After thoroughly searching the area for 16 hours, the Coast Guard called off the search for the missing passenger.

carnival-300x186Unfortunately, we have reported about way too many instances of passengers falling overboard during a cruise vacation, specifically on a Carnival cruise ship. Just last month, a 24- year-old male fell off another Carnival ship. According to Ross Klein, almost half of the overboard incidents on cruises have actually occurred on Carnival ships.

Why do passengers continue falling overboard?

MIAMI, Florida–This past Monday, almost 3000 passengers boarded Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas for what was expected to be a fun filled vacation, a four-night cruise plying the high seas and traveling to different ports, engaging in all types of shipboard activities and shore side activities at the exotic ports. To their surprise, the first night of their cruise was spent at the port in Cape Canaveral Florida, where they boarded the cruise ship for their vacation! Surely not what the almost 3000 passengers expected when booking this cruise to the Bahamas.

lifevest-300x200What was the reason for the cruise ship being stuck overnight in Cape Canaveral? If you read the statement from the cruise ship company, it sounds like something minor, simply the fact that the United States Coast Guard had determined that there were life jackets on board that had exhausted their life span, and needed to be replaced. Not a big deal? I do believe life vest are critical pieces of safety equipment that we want to be sure will serve the intended purpose if needed. It obviously was a big enough deal for the Coast Guard to halt the leaving of the cruise ship on its intended itinerary until the problem was fixed. Only when the life jackets arrived the next day could the ship then set sail.

One could maybe excuse certain items from not being inspected on a regular basis, and only replaced when necessary. For example, light bulbs or a sofa could probably be replaced once the bulb burns out or the couch’s material wears out, rather than on a regular basis. However, here we are talking about life vests!  One must wonder how often proper inspections are done of all of the critical safety equipment on board the cruise ships that it gets to a point where the Coast Guard refuses to let the cruise ship sail because obviously there are ineffective life vests on board the ship.

MIAMI, Florida–The body of a female passenger who had gone missing from a Tirenia ferry has been located two months later in the ship’s ventilation shaft. The female passenger was aboard the MV Sharden, a ferry which can carry almost 3,000 passengers and 850 cars, back to Genoa after having vacationed in Sardinia, Italy with her husband. According to reports, the couple had been resting on sunbeds aboard the boat when his wife disappeared. The captain then ordered the ship personnel to conduct a search of the entire ship. Sadly, his wife could not be found, leading to the conclusion that she either had fallen overboard or had been the victim of a crime. However, two months later, her dead body has been found in the ship’s ventilation shaft. According to an autopsy report, she had died the night after she had disappeared

italy-300x225There have been incidences in the past where a passenger has reported something falling from above, believing it to have been a body falling into the water. The cruise ship company would then do an investigation on board the ship, determining that a passenger was indeed missing. However, at that point, precious time had passed before the authorities were notified and the search and rescue efforts started. This meant that usually the passenger was not found.

In 2010, President Obama signed into law legislation called the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, which in part addressed overboard passengers, what Congress believed to be a serious problem with the cruise ship industry. Not only did Congress address the problem that these incidents were not always reported, as there were no mandatory reporting requirements that applied to the cruise ship industry at the time, but there was also a concern with delayed search and rescue efforts once a passenger was reported overboard. The legislation called for implementation of available technology, which would enable ships to immediately detect when someone had fallen overboard, prompting quicker search and rescue efforts.

MIAMI, Florida–In the most recently reported cruise ship disappearance, the first reported overboard passenger for the new year, MSC Divina cruise ship, a cruise ship owned and operated by MSC Cruises, announced that a 74-year-old  French passenger was discovered missing. It was around 3 a.m. and the ship was just north of Puerto Rico at the time his wife last saw him. No eyewitnesses were reported to have seen the passenger go overboard. From early reports, it does not suggest that the cruise ship diverted and conducted a search and rescue effort in the waters for the passenger. However, it is reported that the missing passenger was reported to the U.S. Coast Guard, who then conducted a search and rescue effort. However, the exact timing of when the passenger went missing, when the cruise ship company notified the authorities, and when a search and rescue effort began, is unknown at this time.

puerto-rico-300x225The timing of an implementation of a search and rescue effort is critical when a passenger has fallen overboard on a cruise ship. There is a very small window of opportunity for the person to be rescued, and that window of opportunity closes each minute that passes. Often times, a passenger is reported overboard in international waters, and at night. This makes the window of opportunity even smaller.

In big cities, it is not uncommon to hear of a reported missing person. Over the years, missing passengers have also become much more common than ever imagined on cruises. Passengers going overboard on cruise ships have reached numbers that are now being documented so that the regulatory bodies can get a better idea of the problem, and so the public can become more aware of the dangers of falling overboard on a cruise.

MIAMI, Florida– We have repeatedly reported about the problem of sexual assaults and rapes occurring on cruise ships, focusing mainly on the big cruise ship companies Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line and Princess Cruises.  According to recent reports, a lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a 17-year-old girl who was allegedly raped aboard a river cruise that ran along the upper part of the Irrawaddy River, just north of Thailand, last year. One of the bartenders aboard the ship is alleged to have committed the sexual assault.

myanmar-300x225It is reported that the sexual assault occurred on the last day of the cruise, in a bathroom aboard the ship.  The lawsuit filed alleges that the cruise company did not take adequate precautions to protect the 17-year-old, despite knowledge of the problem of sexual assaults occurring on board cruises. It is also alleged that during the cruise, the bartender had been stalking the 17-year-old girl.

There was an interesting provision in the river cruise company passenger contract, which required that mediation take place prior to any lawsuit being filed. In this case, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit reported that the cruise company did not respond to demands for the mediation, so suit was filed. Whether the mediation requirement can be enforced or not is another issue. Most likely mediation will be unenforceable.

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.

fishingboatIn an amazing story, it has been reported that a passenger from Shangai, who fell overboard from a Royal Caribbean cruise from Japan to China, has lived to tell the tale. Last Wednesday, August 10th, the 32-year-old woman fell overboard when she leaned too far over a guard railing, falling four decks into the water. This is equivalent to about seven stories. Normally, the fall alone is enough to kill someone. Here is the first miracle; she survived the fall without any injury.

Once overboard, the chances of survival are also very slim, unless the cruise line detects the passenger going overboard promptly. In this case the cruise line did not detect that a passenger had gone overboard, so there were no immediate rescue efforts. Here is the second miracle; she survived 38 hours drifting at sea.

How did this 32-year-old female passenger survive? She reports that she stayed above the ocean water, and swam away from any large vessels she saw, because she was smart enough to know that she could be overcome by the wakes, or sucked into the propellers.  Amazingly, she survived for 38 hours before she was rescued by a fishing boat Friday morning.

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