Articles Posted in Cruise Ship/ Maritime Law

The US, European, and UK based Cruise Industry Associations have finally signed a policy stating that muster drills must take place prior to departure. Following the devastating cruise ship accident crash of the Costa Concordia last January, wherein 23 cruise ship passengers were found dead, scores of injuries, and 7 others are still missing concern about how the evacuation process was handled emerged. 6 weeks later, a second disaster occurred on board the Costa Allegra during an engine fire, disabling the ship and leaving its’ passengers stranded in the Indian Ocean. Again, questions arose about why there was such mass chaos on board during these emergencies.

Since, cruise ship laws did not require that passengers be briefed immediately before the ship sets sail, many on board the Concordia and Allegra cruises were never informed about how to proceed when a true emergency occurred. The main reason why in the case of the Concordia, was because almost 700 new passengers boarded the ship after it had been sailing for 3.5 hours. However, the next briefing was not scheduled to take place until the next day.
Miami Martime and personal injury lawyer Philip m. Gerson of Gerson & Schwartz, PA says “its about time the cruise lines start taking a more proactive approach towards passenger safety.” In fact, the U.S Cruise Lines International Association, Passenger Shipping Association, and the European Cruise Council have all agreed to a new policy which requires every cruise ship in the world to conduct safety drills within 24 hours of embarkation. Stricter policies, are currently in place, and were implemented by the International Maritime Organization. Consequently, if a passenger is unwilling to participate in these safety drills or briefing he or she will be asked to leave the ship immediately. Passengers are told all of this during the pre- drill announcements.

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Carnival says “Safety issues are a major concern for the Carnival Cruise line and the full costs for Carnival will include passenger refunds, potential litigation and repair” But do they mean it? Especially the part about “full costs.” So far, they have only offered trivial payments to victims from the highly publicized accident aboard the Concordia disaster. Here is what they OWE passengers and crew – full and just compensation.

On the night of January 13, 2012, while passengers were in the dining room the crew misinformed them about the seriousness of this disaster. Apparently, the ship’s Captain, Franscesco Schettino, “unapprovingly deviated from the route it was initially programmed for, and; the Captain ever activated any alarms.

More problems for Captain Francesco Schettino and Carnival lie ahead, as evidence is compiled shockingly showing that the “captain was not wearing his reading glasses when the shipwreck occurred, and is said to have asked his first officer to check the radar.” What has not been explained is what Schettino was told and what he and his crew members did next to save the passengers and crew members. Everyone knows what he did to save himself.

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A Princess Cruise Lines ship returned to a South Florida port with an alleged outbreak of norovirus for a second week in a row. This week, the Crown Princess returned to dock at Port Everglades two days early after approximately 250 people on the ship became ill with vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pains. Last weekend, the same ship was disinfected for several hours after returning to port with about 400 sick passengers and crew members. This week, the nation’s Centers for Disease Control will be on hand to sanitize the Crown Princess before its next scheduled departure on Saturday.

Last week, two other cruise ships also returned to port with a suspected norovirus outbreak. The Ruby Princess, a sister ship of the Crown Princess which also sails out of South Florida, and Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas, which sails out of New Orleans, were sanitized after returning to port with hundreds of sick passengers and crew.

The Crown Princess is capable of carrying more than 3,000 people and more than 1,000 additional crew members. Although the norovirus is quite common, the purported outbreak generates considerable worry because of how close quarters the cabins, common areas, and ventilation systems are on cruise ships. The virus is highly contagious and spreads easily from person to person through both surfaces and contaminated food. Industry experts warn that the virus is tough to eliminate once it starts to spread on board a ship.

According to Princess Cruise Lines, the company has additional cleaning crews on hand to assist with the disinfection of all of the ship’s public areas. All furnishings, carpets, and any surface a passenger is likely to touch will purportedly be sanitized. Additionally, each state room will be cleaned repeatedly prior to being prepared for the ships’ next departure. At this time, the cruise line expects the Crown Princess to depart as scheduled on February 11th.

An accidental personal injury may arise unexpectedly in any number of settings, including on a cruise vacation. If you were injured on a cruise ship as a passenger or crew member, it is important to seek assistance from a qualified personal injury attorney. A variety of state, federal, and international laws may apply to personal injury claims associated with cruise ships and other vessels at sea. The amount of time you have to file your claim may be limited and the claim process can be cumbersome. If you were injured on a cruise ship, an experienced personal injury attorney can help you assess your claim and negotiate a reasonable settlement.

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The cruise ship accident this past weekend aboard the Costa Concordia is inexcusable. With modern technology including sonar and GPS which average people have in their cell phones and recreational boaters almost universally use it is extraordinary and gross negligence for a professional sea captain, with thousands of lives in his hands to make errors which would cause a cruise ship with state of the art navigational tools, run aground. What is even more remarkable about this cruise ship accident is that this could happen in familiar waters just hours from one of the major cruise ports in the world. It is criminal that a captain would leave defenseless passengers and crew behind to avoid injury to himself.

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MIAMI, FL—U.S. District Judge William H. Steele of the Southern District of Alabama ruled on Nov. 15 that a Mississippi man who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl during a Carnival cruise voyage will not only spend 10 years in prison, but also serve a subsequent life-long probation sentence in connection with the attack. According to information provided by the Press Register, the defendant, whom prosecutors referred to as a “serial rapist,” sexually abused the teen while aboard the Carnival Elation cruise ship.

Gautier man Dylan Cole Bloodsworth, 19, apparently forced the unidentified 13-year-old girl to have sex with him on March 6, during a Carnival Elation cruise vacation to Mexico. Reports suggested Bloodsworth lured the young victim to his cabin by convincing her that he was merely going to retrieve his jacket.

Prior to the cruise ship assault, Bloodsworth also allegedly raped another 13-year-old girl in Mississippi. In that case, Bloodsworth apparently used photos the girl posted online to determine where she lived and subsequently showed up at her house unannounced.

Bloodsworth, who found that girl hitting a soccer ball in her yard upon arriving to the home, seemingly attempted to kiss her and left. Nevertheless, he called her later that night and contended he would murder her family if she didn’t agree to get into his car.

Bloodsworth is accused of taking the young victim to a secluded area, raping her and then disposing of the condom, as well as the clothes he was wearing at the time of the attack. The Mississippi man faces charges in connection with that case as well.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Murphy, “I don’t know any other way of putting this: He’s a serial rapist. He preys on underage girls.”

Statistics posted on the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) website stated that the FBI regards sexual assault as the leading crime reported on cruise ships, accounting for 55 percent of all maritime crimes reported to the bureau.

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MIAMI, FL—Officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission appear to be investigating a recent boating accident in which a child suffered critical injuries upon being struck by the vessel’s propeller. According to information provided by Tampa Bay Online, the injurious propeller accident occurred in Tampa’s Lake Magdalene on Oct. 22.

Reports suggested family and friends gathered at Lake Magdalene to go tubing when at approximately 6 p.m., something went horribly wrong. FWC spokesman George Wells said a boat propeller struck an 11-year-old girl’s leg as she was in the process of climbing back aboard the vessel.

Although reports did not specify what kind of injuries the child sustained in the Florida boat accident, she was reportedly transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital in critical condition. It was not clear if the young victim, who remained unidentified, remains hospitalized. A full probe into the propeller injury was expected to be underway.

Statistical data provided by the U.S. Coast Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission indicated 668 boat accidents occurred during the year 2010. Those vessel accidents resulted in 79 boating deaths and 389 injuries. Statistics suggest Florida has more boating accidents than any other state in the nation.

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MIAMI, FL—Two scuba divers found themselves treading open water approximately three miles off South Florida’s Key Biscayne, upon discovering that their charter boat abandoned them at sea on Oct. 2. According to information provided by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the two stranded men were rescued from the shark-ridden waters of the Atlantic a few hours later, when the occupants of a passing vessel noticed them.

Reports indicated a commercial dive boat was used to transport several scuba divers to a region of the Atlantic Ocean, about three miles off Key Biscayne on the afternoon of Sept. 2. Two men aboard the vessel, Paul Kline, of Texas, and Fernando Garcia Puerta, of Spain, swam to the surface after diving for some time, only to discover that the Big Com-Ocean charter boat had left them.

The two forgotten scuba divers were forced to tread water for over two hours before the crew of another boat pulled them from the ocean and transported them back to shore. According to victim Kline, “We were in shock… We could easily have died.”
Robert J. Arnove, owner of Miami-based RJ Diving Ventures Inc. (the charter boat’s operator) contended, “I do not know how the two divers got checked off without them being on the boat or who is to blame… We are still trying to figure that out while devising a further failsafe system to prevent this from ever happening again.”
While Arnove explained that divers are checked off on a roster as they climb back aboard the charter boat, Fort Lauderdale-based Underseas Sports owner Matt Stout told reporters, “I’ve been in this business for 23 years and I can remember just a couple of occasions of this happening… Normally, it’s a result of somebody not doing roll call properly.”
Officials from the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) are expected to conduct a full investigation into the incident.

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MIAMI, FL—Crew members aboard a U.K. ferry that was traveling through rough waves in the North Sea, approximately 20 miles off the coast of England’s North Yorkshire, rescued a 23-year-old female ship passenger who fell overboard on the night of Sept. 5. According to information provided by the Daily Mail, the Princess Seaway DFDS ferry was en route from North Shields to Ijmuiden in Holland when the ferryboat accident occurred.

Following the horrific ship accident, victim Jeni Anderson told reporters that although she could recall falling over the vessel’s railing, she was unsure of what caused her to do so. Anderson, who explained that she had been socializing and drinking with friends before the fall overboard, stated she had no memory of herself actually hitting the water.

Reports indicated the ship passenger spent approximately 30 minutes working hard to keep herself above the North Sea’s forceful waves before Princess Seaway crew members were able to rescue the distressed victim using the ship’s lifeboat. An RAF medical helicopter subsequently responded and transported the ship accident victim to Scarborough Hospital.

Amazingly, Anderson, who contended, “The captain said to them [her friends] that in 20 years he has never found anyone who has gone over and my chances were very slim of being found,” suffered serious bruises. She was released from the hospital within hours of her arrival.

“I remember there suddenly being people around me and light and I think that was when I was lifted up to the helicopter. I don’t remember the moment they found me… I do not think I can really put it into words how grateful I am to everybody involved, the Coastguard, the staff of the ferry, the RAF helicopter and the people in the hospital,” Anderson noted.

Not all people who fall overboard are as fortunate as Anderson, however. U.S. Coast Guard statists regarding watercraft accidents suggested 431 falls overboard were reported in 2008. Those incidents resulted in 188 boating deaths and also left an additional 257 accident victims suffering from various injuries. Statistics also suggest that the main cause of death related to boat accidents and wrecks is drowning. In 2008, recreational boat accidents resulted in 510 drowning deaths.

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MIAMI, FL—A young boy was airlifted to a Jacksonville Beach hospital as a Trauma Alert following a horrific boating accident that occurred on the Intracoastal Waterway. According to information provided by First Coast News, a 6-year-old boy fell off a boat and was struck by its propeller around 6 p.m. on August 17.

Reports indicated officials from the Jacksonville Beach Police Department (JBPD) were dispatched to a boat ramp in close proximity to the 2500 block of Second Avenue North upon being notified of a boat accident on the Intracoastal Waterway. According to Tom Bingham, a police spokesman, authorities were informed that a child had fallen off a moving vessel and was subsequently hit by its propeller.

Although details concerning the Florida boating accident remained scarce, investigators from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) are expected to conduct a full probe into the incident. The child, who was rushed to Baptist hospital via medical helicopter, suffered a boat propeller injury was deemed to be non-life threatening.

According to statistical data provided by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), 4,730 boating accidents occurred nationwide during the year 2009. Those boat crashes and incidents resulted in a total of 736 boating deaths and 3,358 injuries. Florida accidents resulted in 68 boating fatalities in 2009 and 79 deaths the following year.

Drowning was deemed to be the main cause of death for victims involved in fatal accidents recorded statewide in 2010. Sixty-two percent of the 79 casualties recorded that year (49 victims) were attributed to drowning, while 34 percent of fatalities (27 victims) were attributed to trauma-related injuries. The cause of death for the last four percent of statewide boating deaths (3 victims) recorded that year remained unknown.

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MIAMI, FL—By examining various FBI reports and U.S. court cases involving cruise companies, a Canadian researcher determined that the number of sexual assaults that occur on cruise ships is approximately 50 percent higher than the number of sex assaults reported on Canadian land. According to information provided by Canadaeast News Service, the Atlantic researcher who conducted the study is a professor at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s, Canada and has long payed close attention to the closeted side of the cruise ship industry.

Memorial University Professor Ross Klein assessed Federal Bureau of Investigation reports filed between Oct. 2007-2008, as well as cruise line-involved court cases that took place between 1998 and 2005, as a means of determining the rate of sex assaults aboard cruise vessels.

Upon conducting his research, Klein not only concluded that the sexual assault rate on cruise ships was 50 percent higher than the rate of forcible sex crimes in Canada, 15 percent of the cruise ship sexual assault victims were said to be younger than 18.

Furthermore, Klein’s research indicated that in the past, the majority of onboard sexual attacks consisted of crew members assaulting passengers. Updated data appeared to suggest approximately 50 percent of the cases included passengers assaulting passengers or cruise ship employees assaulting their own co-workers.

According to the Washington State Department of Commerce Office of Crime Victims Advocacy (OCVA), “Sexual assault is a form of violence that uses unwanted sexual actions, contact, pictures and words in ways that are harmful and traumatic to another person.” Sexual assault is defined by the Canadian criminal code in a similar matter.

Professor Klein contended, “The cruise industry is a microcosm of society in a lot of ways… I think most people would find ways to ignore it… I know they have video cameras, but not all of them work. Rarely are they watched in real time. It’s not really surveillance so much as just keeping information.”
The Miami rape victim lawyers of Gerson & Schwartz added that the cruise line industry is in dire need of reform that will ensure the safety of both passengers and ship workers. Cruise ship companies must provide travelers and crew members with adequate protection from rape and sexual violence, as well as other crimes that could potentially occur on the high seas.

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