Sen. Rockefeller Still Not Satisfied With Cruise Line Safety

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Last month, our cruise ship accident attorneys reported on a letter U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller wrote to Carnival CEO Mickey Arison regarding maritime safety and Carnival’s subsequent standoffish response. Following the Carnival Triumph cruise ship fire in February and subsequent series of cruise ship accidents, Rockefeller demanded to know what was causing all the equipment failures on Carnival ships and why nothing was being done to improve safety for everyone onboard. However, Carnival retorted by avoiding the question and contended it has maintained an excellent safety record throughout its 41-year history.

We weren’t – and still aren’t – sure what this “excellent safety record” could possibly be, given that Carnival Corp.-owned vessels have been involved in more cruise ship accidents than any other company.  In a period of less than one month, the Carnival Triumph, Dream, Ecstasy and Legend all were found to have suffered mechanical failure, but as is common practice, the “Fun Ship” company denied any wrongdoing.

Yet, shortly after the letter, Carnival announced it was undergoing a multimillion-dollar fleet-wide safety upgrade. This may very well be the closest thing to an admission of guilt Carnival has ever come close to, but hey, we’ll take it.

Unfortunately though, promises of an alleged safety upgrade are not enough to keep Sen. Rockefeller at bay.  Not one to back down, Sen. Rockefeller, who is also Chairman of the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, sent out a new round of letters on Monday and this time, he didn’t just target Carnival. The politician wrote to the nation’s three largest cruise lines asking for more detailed information regarding their passenger safety practices, including protocols for medical emergencies and security.

Along with his criticism of cruise lines’ lax safety protocols, Rockefeller also addressed the many loopholes the cruise industry has exploited – such as registering vessels in foreign countries –  that allow companies to avoid paying U.S. taxes and how lines are handing off responsibility for payments to U.S. tax payers, instead of coughing up the money themselves.

“The cruise industry enjoys many advantages operating out of the United States but the advantages to American consumers and taxpayers are less clear,” said Rockefeller.

In fact, our cruise lawyers explained previously in our blog titled The Truth Behind Carnival’s Multimillion Dollar Ship Safety Improvement Project how cruise lines are making money off of crew members, who are being overworked and underpaid. This is how cruise lines get the money they need. Not from their billions of dollars in sales, but from taking everything from hard-working crew members or tax-paying passengers.

Although Carnival has been at the forefront of the majority of recent cruise ship mishaps, Rockefeller is calling out all industry leaders to come together and work on truly improving safety aboard their ships for passengers and crew members.

“Recent cruise ship incidents underscore the need for a strong commitment to passenger safety and security from the entire cruise industry, not just those that wind up on the news most frequently,” said Rockefeller of his most recent letters.  “The responses from the cruise line companies will help Congress make sure the rules governing the cruise industry provide passengers with the safe and comfortable traveling experiences they expect and deserve, instead of giving the companies a free pass at taxpayer expense.”

A tell tale sign that a cruise company is not following through with their promises to improve safety for passengers is the fact that maritime accidents, injuries and crimes continue to happen.

One would think that it would be smarter – and cheaper – for cruise lines to do all they can to prevent a tragedy as opposed to doing damage control after the fact.  But the reality is that it is actually cheaper to pay for the consequences ( with insurance money and forced Arbitrations that result in minimal awards ) than it is to invest capital to upgrade crew and passenger safety before an accident happens. And until that changes cruise lines will continue to do the absolute minimum to get by.

In the meantime, our maritime attorneys here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. advise all cruise ship passengers to be on the lookout for safety violations and report any injuries or crimes as soon as they occur to protect their rights.