Holiday Blues – Cruise Ship Stuck in Ice Over Christmas

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Cruise ship stuck on iceMany people take holiday cruises with their loved ones to get away from the traditional celebrations and experience something exciting and new. These kinds of cruise vacations can be a lot of fun, but as we well know here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., cruises can sometimes be a bit…unpredictable. Accidents on the high seas and in port are common for passenger ships, especially this year, which saw one – if not the highest – rate of accidents, injuries, illnesses, and crimes. Most of these incidents are caused by cruise line negligence, including lack of crew training or failure to perform maintenance on machinery. But a recent accident this week has us wondering if crew members were even paying attention while navigating.

Fifty-seven people boarded the Russian-operated Akademik Shokalskiy this week, hoping to have a fun-filled holiday at sea. Little did they know that fun would be the furthest from what they would actually experience.

The ship’s passengers spent Christmas stuck off the coast of Antarctica when the vessel got stuck on a block of ice in a very remote region. So remote, in fact, any hope of rescue would take at least a day or two.  Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the passengers had to deal with.

According to reports on the maritime accident, the Akademik Shokalskiy, originally a research vessel built in 1984, is an ice-strengthened vessel, so it comes as a bit of a surprise that a ship built to withstand the harshest nautical conditions would get stuck in a block of ice. It’s also pretty shocking that a small vessel that travels back and forth in the Arctic does not have ice breaking capabilities. Is that poor oversight on the cruise company’s part? We certainly think so.

In an age where infrared technology can detect an overboard passenger the instant it happens, it would only seem logical that a ship that travels amidst icebergs would be well-equipped to handle a big block of ice if the situation presented itself.

Moreover, if the ice block was large enough to trap the ship, shouldn’t crew members have been able to detect it before the point of no return? Shouldn’t large blocks of ice be mapped out? Wouldn’t maritime authorities be in communication with crew members to alert of such a problem? The entire situation just seems very poorly handled and avoidable.

But while some passengers may take the news of being stranded on Christmas pretty badly, it appears as though the sentiment of those onboard was one of optimism. According to one traveler who tweeted about the incident, everyone on board was ok and that passenger spirits were high.

Well, it’s good to know no one was hurt and embraced their situation as gracefully as possible, despite the fact that the situation looked pretty bleak for those on board. Who would want to spend Christmas suck in a chunk of ice? Seems like the holiday spirit was definitely in full force.

We’re glad to hear that everyone was safe, but the truth of the matter remains; ships traveling in the arctic should be much better equipped to handle any possible emergency situation. Had the vessel had ice breaking capabilities, the ship would have continued on its itinerary without having to waste much time.

Alas, negligence and lack of oversight is a problem within the cruise industry as a whole. Had Carnival, for example, added spray shields on its fuel hoses when it was recommended (two months before the infamous fire in February), perhaps 4,000 people would have been spared horrid and unsanitary conditions that resulted from the incident.

As they say, hindsight is 20/20. It’s a shame though, because in an industry that thrives off of its faithful passengers, a lot more effort should be dedicated to preventing accidents instead of just dealing with them after the fact.