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Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. Offers Explanation for Recent String of Cruise Ship Accidents

Our cruise ship lawyers at Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. have several concerns regarding the increasing number of maritime accidents experienced at sea and in port, including onboard Carnival Corporation-owned vessels. Since the Carnival Triumph was disabled following a fire in the ship’s engine room in February, several other cruise ship accidents have occurred on Carnival vessels.

The need for improved maritime safety features is at an all-time high, and not only have our attorneys recognized this, but other maritime organizations, such as the Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, International Maritime Organization (IMO), and several instrumental government leaders, including Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-VA.

Last month, Sen. Rockefeller sent a letter to Carnival’s Chairman  Mickey Arison, detailing the horrific conditions passengers onboard the Triumph were subjected to after the fire, including non-working toilets, overflowing sewage and waste as well as meager food supplies. In his letter, Sen. Rockefeller discussed other cruise ship accidents involving Carnival over the last 10 years, the apparent and complete disregard for the well-being of those onboard the line’s ships and the lack of shipboard safety features in general fleet-wide.

In response, Carnival dismissed all negative claims lodged against it, claiming the line has maintained an “excellent safety record” throughout its 41-year history.

Our attorneys have also voiced our concerns regarding compromised maritime safety, writing to Sen. Rockefeller about a factor that has been contributing to the increasing number of accidents at sea – the line’s decision to cut operational costs by deteriorating crew conditions.

Our letter to Sen. Rockefeller appeared on the Wall Street Journal, and explains that one of the main reasons cruise lines have been involved in a disturbing series of serious cruise ship accidents over the past five years is due to the cruise industry’s use of foreign arbitration clauses in employment contracts. Because these clauses require seafarers to bring claims in foreign countries under foreign laws, hundreds of thousands of workers have been deprived of access to U.S. courts.

It has been reported that cruise ship crew members are facing an inverse relationship between their job requirements and the working conditions they are subjected to by their employing lines, which is leading to a greater number of maritime accidents in general. Seafarers are working longer working hours amidst declining working conditions, and are doing so without the protection of the U.S. court system.

“Sadly, we have connected the dots between an obscure legal maneuver made by the cruise lines and the increase in shipboard accidents,” said Jason Margulies, a cruise lawyer with our firm. “A few years ago, the cruise industry started placing foreign arbitration clauses in its crew contracts. While it may seem insignificant where disputes are resolved, we have drawn the conclusion that because worker’s rights are no longer protected by U.S. courts, dangerous conditions are not being properly defended and ultimately the cruise passenger suffers.”

By forcing its crew into foreign arbitrations, cruise lines can avoid responsibility for their own wrongdoings under U.S. law, which can lead to dangerous shipboard conditions and serious – and sometimes fatal – accidents.

The bottom line: Crew members are being deprived of their rightful protection under U.S. maritime law, compromising worker and passenger safety. By being immune to U.S. law and U.S. courts, cruise lines can provide horrendous and unsafe shipboard conditions within impunity, leading to an increase in the number of cruise ship accidents

Our firm’s letter to Rockefeller was also copied to New York Senator Charles Shumer, who has proposed a “Cruise Ship Bill of Rights” to “guarantee sanitary conditions, backup power and medical staff in case of emergencies” for everyone onboard a cruise ship.

Our letter regarding compromised cruise ship passenger safety was also discussed on Business Wire, breakingtravelnews.com, topix.com, and several other accredited news sources.

Links to relevant documents:

Letter from Senator Rockefeller to Mickey Arison

Letter from Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. to Senator Rockefeller

Carnival Crewmember Contract containing foreign arbitration clause

Study referencedFilipino-Members-of-Cruise-Ship-Crew-Brought-Action-Against-Ship-Owner in firm letter

Bautista decision referenced in firm letter

Lindo decision referenced in firm letter