“Cruise Junkie” to Testify on Cruise Ship Safety at Senate Committee Hearing Tomorrow

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Life saver 2It seems as though every week there’s a cruise ship accident leaving a passenger or crew member injured or killed. For the past two years since the Costa Concordia capsized off the coast of Giglio, Italy in January, 2012, safety in the cruise industry has been questioned at an alarming and frequent pace. And with major accidents this year, including the Carnival Triumph fire, and disturbing incidents, such as the revelation of an 11 year old girl’s sexual assault aboard the Disney Dream, it has become apparent that safety is not on the industry’s list of top priorities.

Each cruise injury lawyer at our firm has been committed to helping maritime accident victims obtain justice for their pain and suffering at the hands of negligent cruise lines, but despite how hard we fight, and despite the many accidents that continue to occur, it seems as though nothing can convince cruise companies to improve onboard and offshore safety for their guests and crew.

Fortunately, we’re not the only ones who are fighting for cruise victims’ rights. Memorial University Sociology Professor Ross Klein, better known as “The Cruise Junkie,” is trying to make a difference in the cruise industry as well and will be testifying at a U.S. Senate committee hearing tomorrow to discuss the latest maritime tragedies and how improved safety aboard all vessels should be prioritized.

The hearing, titled, “Cruise Industry Oversight: Recent Incidents Show Need for Stronger Focus on Consumer Protection,” will review the current state of the cruise industry in light of the plethora of accidents that have occurred as of late.

Klein, who is considered one of the world’s top authorities on cruise line accidents, injuries and the industry as a whole, was asked to testify before the committee by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, another huge advocate of cruise ship safety, in hopes that the federal government will realize the growing need for safety improvements and overall reform in the industry and do something to inspire positive change.

On his website, cruisejunkie.com, Klein offers statistics and the latest news on maritime accidents, environmental issues, illness outbreaks, and any other incident that can happen at sea or in port. He will share his research on cruise ship fires, collisions, groundings, sanitation violations, and several other matters that affect the safety of those onboard a cruise ship.

While accidents on cruise ships have occurred throughout history, and some really are the result of unforeseeable circumstances, there really is no excuse for accidents resulting from overlooked mechanical problems, lack of security onboard a vessel, untrained crew members, and a liner’s failure to maintain a sanitary environment. There is even less of an excuse for cruise ship crimes, especially sexual assault – the number one crime in the industry.

These are some of the questions that will hopefully be asked at the hearing:  Where are security officials when guests are having their drinks spiked with drugs by a cruise ship bartender? Why aren’t the hundreds of surveillance cameras on a vessel recording sexual assault incidents when they are happening? And more importantly, why does the cruise industry continue to neglect these horrible situations?

Even when accidents occur that may have never been predicted, cruise lines often fail to report the incidents to the Coast Guard or federal authorities. The cruise lines know very well that once the incident is made public, their reputation will suffer – and so will their bankroll. A lawsuit – even if there is only one victim involved – can cost a cruise line millions of dollars. Thus, hundreds of accidents and crimes are believed to go unreported each year, leaving victims to suffer alone and without ever being given the chance at obtaining justice.

The irony of it all lies in the fact that preventing these accidents and crimes by investing in improved safety features, technology and staff training doesn’t even come close to what cruise companies end up spending when an accident takes place. It’s absolutely baffling that the industry would rather risk millions of dollars and the lives of their guests and crew than spend a little extra a year in ensuring all equipment is running properly and imposing better safety protocols.

Hopefully Prof. Klein’s assessment of  the increasing accident rate and lack of safety will help open up the eyes of Congress members  to the negligent practices of the cruise lines, so that at least here in the U.S., the federal government can better regulate the industry and protect future travelers from getting hurt.

The hearing will be broadcasted live webcast live via the Senate Commerce Committee website. Those who wish to tune in can watch the video here beginning at 2:30 PM EST Wednesday, July 24.