This week, Filipino Coast Guard authorities — alongside salvage teams — continued to monitor Forever Lucky, an inland cruise ship, for a fuel leak. Forever Lucky ran aground on January 7 in Cagayancillo, Palawan in the Philippines (while en route to the port of General Santos for dry docking and repairs). According to media reports, at the time of the grounding accident there were only 15 crew members aboard the vessel, all of whom were safely evacuated.
Though all the factors contributing to the accident are not yet clear, an initial investigation has revealed that while being towed towards its destination, Forever Lucky encountered severe weather. This broke the towing line, causing Forever Lucky to drift and run aground. Forever Lucky was being operated beyond inland waterways, and therefore may not have been equipped to handle the wind and sea conditions it encountered en route to the port of General Santos.
Had any crew members suffered injuries, they would likely have a cause of action for damages against their cruise line employer.
Vessels Must Be Reasonably Safe for Their Intended Purposes
Cruise lines (and other vessel operators) must provide a reasonably safe working environment for their crew members and a seaworthy vessel. Failure to do so could expose them to civil liability for their negligence or under the doctrine of “seaworthiness.” Simply put, the doctrine of seaworthiness empowers a seaman to sue and recover damages from their employer — here, the cruise line operating Forever Lucky — if some aspect of the ship is not reasonably fit for its intended purpose and thereby leads to injuries. The doctrine of seaworthiness does not only apply to the hull and ship’s equipment but it also applies to the crew and policies and procedures aboard the ship. The seaworthiness of a ship is an absolute duty of the shipowner for which they are strictly liable. Strict liability here means that if there is a breach of the duty of seaworthiness, the shipowner is responsible, regardless of whether they were negligent or not.
Though the towing line in the present case have been defective, it seems more likely that Forever Lucky was simply not meant to be operated on the ocean. The model of the ship was not intended for oceangoing, only for inland waterways, and was therefore not seaworthy (according to general maritime law principles).
We Can Help
If you’ve been injured in a cruise ship accident — whether you’re a crew member or just a passenger — then you may be entitled to compensation. Cruise operators have a duty not to expose their crew members (or passengers) to an unreasonable risk of harm. In the present case, the cruise line appears to have flagrantly ignored the risks of operating an inland ship in ocean waters, thus setting off a chain of events ending in an accident.
Here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., our nationally-recognized attorneys have extensive experience advocating on behalf of those who have suffered harm in cruise ship accidents worldwide. We are no strangers to the negligence and misconduct of cruise lines and other maritime employers, who often carelessly disregard the safety of their crew member employees.
Though our primary office is in Florida, we have successfully handled claims in courtrooms throughout the United States and worldwide. We are aggressive litigators who believe that each and every client deserves comprehensive legal representation from beginning-to-end of a dispute.
Contact Lipcon today to request an appointment with an experienced maritime lawyer.