Carnival at the Forefront of Maritime Disaster Yet Again as Triumph Breaks Free of Mooring

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

It appears as though 2013 isn’t going any better for Carnival Corp. than 2012 did following the Costa Concordia capsizing tragedy that led to the deaths of 32 people. This year, the company’s “Fun Ship” fleet, of all lines, has experienced more issues in the first quarter of the year than some cruise lines do in their entire history of operation. Beginning with the highly publicized Carnival Triumph cruise ship fire, the line has been at the forefront of news reports and criticism by the maritime industry for a lack of safety across its vessels and a string of cruise ship accidents.

Just days after the Triumph became disabled because of a fire in the ship’s engine room, three other vessels, the Elation, Dream and Legend, also experienced technical problems, mostly with propulsion units. One would think that after the Triumph debacle, which caused over 4,200 people to suffer in some of the most appalling and squalid conditions ever reported, the world’s largest and most popular cruise company would work diligently to correct any issues with equipment in order to prevent future accidents, but sadly, this did not happen.

Instead, a slew of other incidents occurred, adding to the already horrifying list of crimes, disappearances and deaths that have been reported – and those that will never become public knowledge.

Although cruise ships are required by maritime law to provide a safe environment for everyone onboard, not all vessel operators do so, creating a breeding grounds for injuries to occur. Several people and organizations – as well as each cruise ship lawyer at our firm – have come together to promote cruise ship safety, including Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller, who wrote to Carnival’s CEO, Micky Arison, urging him to improve protocols fleet-wide in order to protect passengers and crewmembers from harm, as well as asking him to honestly answer some troubling questions about the line.

However, the answer he got was far from transparent.

In response to Rockefeller’s accusations that Carnival has failed to offer a safe shipboard environment for passengers and crewmembers, Carnival’s Capt. James Hunn, Senior Vice President of corporate maritime policy, denied all allegations and adamantly declared that Carnival has maintained an excellent safety record throughout its 41-year history.

Apparently, having an excellent safety record has little to do with the number of cruise ship accidents, injuries and deaths that are reported and the endless number of people who go overboard or are reported missing.

We have a working theory that the apparent increase in accidents coincides with the cruise lines putting arbitration clauses in the seafarers contracts so that they lose their access to the court system. The arbitration clauses are so one sided, that injured or overworked crewmembers have little or no chance of bringing short comings to light since they cannot go to court which is a public proceeding. The Carnival contract requires the seafarer to arbitrate in Panama, Monaco, London, or Manilla, whichever is closer to their home country. The seafarers cannot afford to travel to those countries, or pay their share of the arbitration costs. The deck is stacked against them, so the ship owners know that they can overwork their employees without having to worry about legal liability. This makes for an extremely dangerous situation.

Despite Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill insisting that the company is working on a “comprehensive review” of the entire fleet to improve shipboard safety, and days after this response was issued by Hunn, tragedy has struck yet again on the Carnival Triumph.

After being towed to Mobile, Alabama, where it has been docked for the past few weeks, the crippled Carnival Triumph, still replete with sewage and waste that had overflowed following the loss of power in the fire, broke free of its mooring on Wednesday before repairs could even be finished.

As if that wasn’t a testament to the line’s lack of maritime safety, 800 crewmembers and workers were on the ship when it came loose and could be seen looking out the vessel’s windows and on the deck as the Triumph drifted away. According to the line, all of the crewmembers and contractors who were working aboard the Triumph were safe, but since the incident occurred just yesterday, we have yet to see if anyone will come forward with injuries or reports of negligence.

Additionally, a shipyard worker has gone missing after his guard shack was blown into the water due to strong winds. Authorities have yet to find an official cause for the Triumph breaking free, but believe the high winds are likely to have caused the ship to become dislodged.

The National Weather Service reported winds between 35 and 65 mph in the area, causing two shipyard workers to fall into the water. One of the victims was rescued and transported to a nearby hospital. He is in stable condition, and was said to have suffered from mild hypothermia.

Coast Guard crews are still searching for the missing worker, an employee of BAE Systems, which runs the shipyard, and are not entirely sure where he was when the Triumph became dislodged.

Although officials said there is no likely correlation between the Triumph coming loose and the guard shack falling into the water, who’s to say the victim did not get injured as the Triumph bobbed freely in the waters.

Cruise ships are built to withstand stronger winds than that, but it seems as though Carnival is just doomed to keep being at the forefront of maritime disasters. Hopefully the line will get its priorities in order soon to prevent any future tragedies from taking place. In the meantime, our cruise ship lawyers are here to offer help to those who have been hurt or the loved ones of those who have been killed because of negligent cruise lines.

Photo Credits:

Top Left: Carnival Triumph breaks loose from dock in Mobile, AL – gcaptain.com
Bottom Right: Carnival Triumph passengers struggle amidst unsafe and unsanitary shipboard conditions – news92fm.com