Articles Tagged with unseaworthiness

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.

lifeboat-224x300Crew 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.

lifeboatThere is a big problem with rescue boats and lifeboats on board cruise ships. Although they are designed and intended to save lives, they too often result in losing lives due to mechanical failures. I previously reported about the tragic incident on the Norwegian Breakaway that occurred on July 20, 2016 in Bermuda. During a rescue boat drill on board the ship, the lifeboat broke from its tethering, falling into the sea. It has sadly been reported that another crew member, Ben Buenaventura of the Philippines, has died as a result of this tragic lifeboat accident. The crew member, after being in the intensive care at Jackson Memorial Hospital here in Miami Florida, passed away from his injuries.

The lifeboat on the Norwegian Breakaway crashed 50 feet from the upper deck into the seas. Under the maritime law, this constitutes unseaworthiness because obviously a rescue boat or lifeboat does not break away and fall 50 feet to the ocean if it is operated properly and in proper condition, unless there is a faulty design.

I have handled many of these types of lifeboat cases resulting in injuries that were not life-threatening, to catastrophic injuries such as paralysis, to cases resulting in death. These cases typically involve a life boat safety drill with crew members on board the life boats. However, these are the same boats that would be used to evacuate passengers in the case of a serious incident on board a cruise ship. Therefore, it is very alarming that there are so many reported accidents involving lifeboats and rescue boats on board cruises. There is clearly something wrong with the design of these boats, and the mechanisms utilized to lower and raise them. Of course, maintenance issues as well as procedure is often times an issue.

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