Cruise Industry Gives Back to South Florida Community, But Will it Give Back to Maritime Accident Victims?

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Miami cleanupWe usually hear all about cruise ship accidents in the news or about how 100 passengers contracted Norovirus, among other disasters, but rarely do we hear about the cruise industry doing something extremely selfless and positive for the community. Instead of focusing on profits, several cruise line employees are giving back to the community as part of a volunteer effort in South Florida.

South Florida is home to the two largest cruise ports in the world – the Port of Miami and Port Everglades. The vast majority of cruise traffic passes through these two ports and of course, undoubtedly leaves an impact on the environment. Though South Floridians may not complain of noise or pollution emitted by cruise ships the way residents of other pier communities do, we still experience the effects these massive vessels produce.

But now, over 100 employees from various cruise lines in the area are teaming up to beautify the town. As part of International Volunteer Day, Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Lines and Costa Cruises employees have joined forces to clean up the North Shore Park in Miami so locals can enjoy land-based activities as much as those onboard.

The volunteers were joined by some of the cruise industry’s local partners, including PortMiami, Intercruises, Waste Management, Lloyd’s Register, Survival Craft, MTN Satellite Communications, and HandsOn Miami. Those participating in the event did their part to restore the park throughout gardening efforts and by painting a fence that circles the perimeter of the park.

This is a great example of the industry’s efforts to make a difference for the better.  We can only hope that the good example continues to efforts making cruising safer for passengers.

Our cruise ship lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have long discussed the many ways in which maritime safety is ignored within the industry. Though some lines have incorporated new technology that can reduce the risk of accidents and injuries on the high seas and in port, most companies have yet to show any effort in utilizing the technology at hand to protect their guests from harm.

Disney Cruise Line became the first major cruise line to introduce lifeguards a few weeks ago. Though a valiant effort that should be commended, the line is several decades late. Employing experienced lifeguards is one of the simplest ways cruise lines can reduce the rate of accidents, so then why don’t all ships have them?

The answer is money.

It costs money to hire lifeguards; but, above that, lifeguards are crewmembers which take up space aboard the cruise ship.  Since there are a certain number of beds and seats on lifeboats – every crewmember brought onboard takes away from space for another potential passenger.  Crewmembers cost the cruise lines money and passengers bring the cruise lines money.  So, in the case of lifeguards – the cruise industry seems to have collectively decided that they will not be provided on most of the cruise ships.

Cruise lines have also failed to implement infrared radar detection technology on ships, which helps to locate passengers who have fallen overboard. The technology is optimal for saving victims, especially at night when it’s pitch black out on the open waters. Yet, the number of ships that have this technology can be counted in one hand.

Yes, it’s fantastic that cruise industry leaders want to volunteer and help out the community that has helped shape the industry into what it is today, but it’s just not enough. A valid effort must be made on each cruise line’s part to improve conditions onboard ships and to reduce accidents at sea and in port. The time spent volunteering could be spent inspecting ships for mechanical problems, setting up surveillance cameras, training crew members to handle emergency situations more effectively, and the list goes in.

Moreover, if the cruise industry wants to perceive itself as being so generous, why don’t they start by compensating victims who have been injured, assaulted or killed because of a crew member or company’s negligence? Maritime attorneys have to fight tooth and nail sometimes just to get the cruise lines to admit to wrongdoing. Perhaps the best way to give back to the community would be for cruise companies to amend their passenger ticket contracts and eliminate their liability clause so those who become victims of cruise ship negligence obtain the justice they deserve.

Will this happen? Highly doubtful, but it’s still nice to imagine a world in which the cruise industry will stop hiding behind its minimalistic  “good deeds”, flags of convenience and contract clauses and provide its loyal guests with the treatment they deserve. It’s high time for the industry to stop spending money on making ships bigger and start investing in ways to make them safer.