We often hear about things going wrong on cruise ships, from the recent Carnival Triumph fire to the century-old Titanic sinking, but we rarely actually learn why these accidents happen. Cruise lines have a tendency to withhold information from the public so as to avoid scrutiny and liability, but in light of what appears to be a never-ending series of cruise ship accidents, one would think it’s about time the industry did something to make incidents more transparent to the public.
Unfortunately, the idea of cruise lines revealing the nitty gritty details of accidents onboard their vessels seems like a distant and unrealistic feat. It seems that the more accidents that take place on the high seas, the more mysterious the cruise industry becomes about these incidents. When lines do report injuries, illnesses and other incidents, it is either days after the accident occurred or an extremely succinct account of the matter that won’t even detail the victim’s name or nature of the accident.
Case in point: Just last week, a young crewmember was involved in a fatal accident while the vessel he was working on was docked in Greece. All that was revealed was that the crewmember was a 25 year old Filipino seaman working onboard the Norwegian Jade cruise ship. The victim died on Friday after being hit by a broken cable while the vessel was docked in Katakolo, Western Greece.
Allegedly, the crewmember was hit by the cable after it broke and knocked him overboard. The Coast Guard was called to the scene and after several hours, the crewmember’s body was recovered.
The crewmember wasn’t wearing any protective equipment while working on the ship. No life vest, no hard hat – nothing. The issue of cruise ship safety has been a sore subject for many years in the industry, but it seems like there is no accident so severe that will lead the industry to make fleet wide improvements to protect those onboard – both passengers and crewmembers – against harm.
Although maritime law requires all cruise vessels to provide a safe environment for everyone onboard, companies continue to disregard this basic maritime right that all passengers and crewmembers are entitled to.
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world’s largest organization dedicated to promoting maritime safety, whose members include all of the major cruise lines, has released several protocols over the years regarding safety improvements in the cruise ship industry, but the strength of these protocols is quickly shown by the fact that they have all been pretty much ignored. In fact, just last month, our cruise ship accident lawyers reported that five crewmembers onboard the Thomson Cruises vessel Majesty were killed during a lifeboat safety drill of all things.
The CLIA, in conjunction with the European Cruise Council (ECC), which represents the leading cruise lines that operate in Europe, released a series of specific policies intended on improving safety onboard vessels following the Costa Concordia tragedy last year. Among those policies was a regulation stating lifeboats must not be loaded with more than the absolute bare minimum number of crewmembers required to operate them. Additionally, the safety protocol stated that lifeboats must be raised empty, but Thomson operators blatantly disregarded the CLIA and ECC’s protocols, over-filling the lifeboats, which caused cables to snap. As a result, five crewmembers were killed and three others were injured.
It seems like there is no accident severe enough to get through to the cruise industry that something must be done to significantly improve safety across lines. While passenger accidents are infrequently reported, incidents involving crewmembers are even less publicized.
In the United States, there are strong laws in place that protect crewmembers who are injured while in the service of their vessel. Any crewmember that spends a significant portion of their time working on a vessel is considered a seaman, and as such, is entitled to certain benefits, including medical care, lost wages, and damages for injuries or disabilities. Unfortunately, because most cruise ships fly a foreign flag, these rights are often trampled on. The cruise lines have successfully been able to avoid the application of U.S. law by using foreign arbitration provisions which strip their crewmembers of their rights under U.S. law. We have been fighting against the enforcement of these arbitration provisions for years and will continue to do so. This is why it is so important for victims or their families to consult with a crewmember accident lawyer to fight for their due benefits and to protect their rights.
The Norwegian Jade, for example, is flagged in the Bahamas, but the vessel didn’t even allow the Bahamas Maritime Authority to conduct an inspection following the incident. Instead, the vessel took off from port, continuing along its scheduled itinerary as if nothing had happened.
This is just one of the many appalling incidents that take place across cruise ships. Hopefully something will be done in the near future to truly protect everyone onboard from serious and fatal maritime accidents.
Norwegian Jade – sodahead.com
Crew member accident – ekathimerini.com