KHON 2 reports that two Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) crew members were injured and hospitalized yesterday in an accident on the Pride of America.
The accident occurred when the NCL cruise ship was docked in Hilo.
The crew members, in their 30s, were reportedly lowering a lifeboat from the cruise ship when the cables broke. The video below says that the men ended up falling into the lifeboat which fell into the water.
July 30 2015 Update: A crew member contacted us and said that "they were raising one of the rescue boats after doing some routine maintenance on the boat. it was not a life boat. As the boat was going up it somehow detached and fell from deck 6 to the water(4 deck fall)."
The captain of the Freedom of the Seas, Captain Ron Holmes, I am told by crew members is a good man. He is well liked and respected by the crew, from what the shipboard employees tell me.
After the fire, Captain Holmes, via a closed circuit television loop, explains to the passengers what just happened. He is obviously not reading from a script.
Captain Holmes says that the fire erupted from what he describes as the engine spaces. It spread, he says, from the bottom of the ship to the top, above the Viking Crown lounge via an exhaust stack through the ship. He says that the crew had to fight the fire in what he says are "multiple parts" of the ship. He says that due to the sparks and hot spots, it took around an hour to completely extinguish the fire.
He appears to be forthcoming and honest to me.
His video is in stark contrast to the information which Royal Caribbean disclosed to the media and the misleading letter which the cruise line CEO Bayley sent to the crew members. The PR department and cruise executive said that the fire was allegedly "small" and contained in the ship's mechanical spaces, which are obviously untrue.
Royal Caribbean can't seem to help itself. Its shore-side PR team was so quick to spin the story that it directly contradicted what the good captain was telling the passengers. Captain Holmes makes an earnest appearance, in my assessment. The cruise line's PR department should have just uploaded the captain's brief explanation to YouTube, rather than try and bamboozle the public. This is a cruise line which lies when the truth would do it better.
A passenger on the Freedom of the Seas sent us a copy of the video that he took of the fire.
There are a couple of things to note.
First, as you can hear on the video, this passenger and his wife were on their balcony and had seen black smoke 15 minutes earlier. The ship is still at sea at this point, approaching the port of Falmouth Jamaica. It then took approximately 20-25 minutes for the cruise ship to finally dock at Falmouth. So the ship was burning for about 35 to 40 minutes before it reached port in Jamaica.
Many media outlets erroneously reported that the fire broke out when the ship was docked at port.
There are no crew members seen on or around the deck in the video, although you can catch a glimpse of one crew member with a wet vacuum cleaner at the very end.
The fire has obviously spread from the engine spaces at the bottom of the ship up to the top deck above the Viking Crown lounge.
A reader of Cruise Law News asked me last week what I thought of cruise lines sailing to Denmark's Faroe Islands (sometimes called Faeroe Islands) where they slaughter pilot whales. I didn't know anything about the issue, but I promised that I would look into it.
This weekend I read up on what I now feel comfortable calling the evil, murderous Faroe Islands. I am absolutely disgusted by what I read and by the horrific images I saw.
Around 1,000 pilot whales are killed each year in the Faroe Islands. But these are not far out at sea murders by huge Japanese ships away from civilization. These are well attended sporting events where the whales are chased into a harbor and killed by the locals with knives while their family members cheer them on. The locals call it the "Grindadráp Grind." I call it the killing of defenseless mammals for fun by sick sociopaths. Here's what one person described:
The whales "are dragged to the shallow water, where participants in the kill then wade in the sea to around waist height. There they are slaughtered with traditional knives whose blades are usually 16 to 19 cm (6.3 to 7.5 in) long. Usually two deep cuts are made on either side of the animal’s neck, just behind the blow hole, causing the head to drop forward; a third cut is then made through the middle of the neck down to the carotid arteries and spinal cord, which are severed. After a period of violent thrashing the animal is paralyzed and loses consciousness, dying of blood loss in most cases. With this the sea turns bright red with blood."
How do we stop this evil? One way is to boycott the islands. There are numerous cruise lines which still cruise there, notwithstanding efforts to persuade them to call on other ports.
Change.org has a petition to stop Carnival-owned Holland America Line from stopping at the islands. They have branded their efforts as #GRINDSTOP, a term started I believe by the Sea Shepherd organization. The petition is addressed to Stein Kruse who is, in my opinion, the epitome of a pompous, indifferent cruise executive if there ever were one. The petition is also directed to other uppity-ups at HAL who obviously could care less about whales as long as the money generated by cruise excursions to the islands is an issue.
Care2petitions also has a petition to stop cruise lines from supporting the slaughter in the Faroes. It is addressed to Carnival-owned Cunard and P&O Cruises, as well as Fred Olsen Cruises and Cruise & Maritime.
The Dodo also has a campaign against the hunt and a petition which you can sign.
There are other cruise lines which have scheduled port call in the Faroe Islands. Travel agents tell me that Royal Caribbean Cruises and Royal Caribbean-owned Azamara, as well as Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) sail to the Faroe Islands and showed me itineraries confirming that they sail there.
Pilot whales are highly intelligent. They sense fear when they and their pods are under such a vicious attack. Mother whales are gutted and their baby whales ripped out. The violence is unconscionable. So is cruising there on a family vacation.
Please take a moment and sign the petitions. Make a promise to yourself not to sail on a cruise there. Complain to your travel agent, and tell the cruise lines to stop supporting the Faroe Islands. It's the least we can do to stop the carnage and suffering.
A number of Royal Caribbean crew members have contacted me complaining that they don't feel safe because of ongoing construction on the Freedom of the Seas to install an advanced emission purification system (AEP), also known as a "scrubber system."
Contractors from Harris Pye Engineering have been aboard the cruise ship retrofitting the ship with the AEP system. Royal Caribbean routinely uses cheap fuel with high-sulphur levels. Instead of using expensive low-sulphur fuel, the cruise line made a decision to install the AEP scrubber equipment in and around the engine and exhaust systems in order to try and comply with new air emission standards of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
This type of work is routinely done when a cruise ship is not in service, but in dry dock when passengers are not aboard for safety reasons. There is a risk of fire and attendant danger of potential injury during the AEP installation.
One of the crew members sent me a copy of a letter that Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley sent to the employees on the ship shortly after the fire. The crew member, who wishes to stay anonymous to avoid being terminated, feels that the letter is misleading.
The cruise CEO says that the fire was allegedly contained within the ship's mechanical spaces.The crew members who I have communicated with say that is absolutely not true. The fire started down near the engine and exhaust system and spread from the mechanical spaces up to the top deck. The fire was clearly not contained. Photos confirm this and show flames actually burning through the top and erupting so that onlookers could see the exhaust superstructure on fire from ashore.
The crew members question their safety and the safety of their guests while this work is ongoing. Receiving a letter from a Miami cruise executive, which is inconsistent with the truth as they observed it on the ship, just increases their concerns.
A hoax is defined as a "deliberately fabricated falsehood made to masquerade as truth."
Royal Caribbean engaged in a hoax when it characterized the big, dangerous fire on the Freedom of the Seas which engulfed the little port of Falmouth with billowing black smoke as just a "small fire."
Cruise lines used to be able to get away with these shenanigans, before social media took over the internet and exposed the truth. Now everyone has an iPhone and can record what happens in real time for all to see.
The video of the fire which I posted on my YouTube page (taken by former Royal Caribbean crew member and Jamaican Kevin Chambers) has been viewed over 1,000,000 times on Facebook. It speaks for itself.
Some of the world's foremost maritime experts have chimed in on Royal Caribbean's misrepresentations.
Captain Michael Lloyd said: "There is no such thing as a 'small fire' except in the minds of the PR reps in the cruise line offices. At sea especially, every fire is serious regardless of the whereabouts and size. Any Merchant Navy officer or fire officer for that matter knows that. I suppose in cruise line jargon someone has to be killed for it to be serious."
A former officer at a senior level within the cruise industry remarked: "This practice is all to common. The crew may be drilled on a regular basis, when it boils down to it, safety will play second fiddle to profit and keeping the passengers onboard. Why the classification society would allow the vessel to sail without inspection I don't know - there is a genuine risk of deficiencies that may invalidate the vessels P&I coverage. How the senior officers onboard sleep when signing their names to the paperwork I don't know."
A Chief Marine Engineer said: "Judging from this image, that kind and size of smoke suggests a big and serious fire in the Engine Room. The vessel should have not been permitted to sail without a thorough investigation of the cause and the integrity of her sailing out once again have been established."
A reader of this blog sent us several photos of the internal damage to the Freedom of the Seas today. Take a look here.
A "small fire?" Ha!
July 28 2015 Update: The video below taken by Kevin Chambers has been viewed over 1,000,000 times on our facebook page.
There is an ongoing social media battle between the cruise industry and the proponents of improving the industry. This blog is part of that struggle. Our motto is "every thing the cruise lines don"t want you to know."
Every time there is a cruise ship fire, the cruise lines rush to send out the message that the fire was "small," "quickly extinguished," and no passengers were injured. In the world of social media, It is irrelevant to the cruise lines that the fire may have been large and prolonged and that crew members were burned or killed, as was the case in the fire aboard the Oceania Insignia.
Our former client Kevin Chambers used to work for Royal Caribbean and lives in the Montego Bay area. He rushed to Falmouth when the fire on the Freedom of the Seas broke out (the smoke could be seem for miles) and videotaped the spectacle. I posted it on our Facebook page and, later, on our YouTube page.
In less than two days, it has been viewed over 1,000,000 times on our Facebook page alone.
Royal Caribbean started spinning the story on the Freedom of the Seas fire yesterday before the ship stopped burning, saying things like:
It was just a small fire that was quickly extinguished. All systems are operational. Passengers mustered only as a precaution. No injuries to passengers. Guests able to leave the ship to enjoy Falmouth by 1:00 P.M. The cruise will continue with its regular scheduled itinerary. Next stop is George Town, Grand Cayman, tomorrow.
Some media outlets took the bait. The New York Times published a clueless article titled "Royal Caribbean Ship Has Small Fire in Jamaica" which characterized the fire as "small" and "brief" and showed a beautiful photograph of the cruise ship without the flames and dense smoke.
The truth of the matter is that this was a large fire that took one and one-half hours to extinguish (per the Miami Herald). When we heard of the fire yesterday, we immediately asked a former Royal Caribbean crew member to go to Falmouth from Montego Bay and photograph and video the fire. Over 900,000 people have watched his videotape on Facebook so far. Take a look yourself. It's hardly a small fire.
"That's one major fire! Why wasn't there a proper Flag state and Class post casualty survey done prior to sailing? That could not have been completed in the short time the ship was in that port. Also there HAD to be a large amount of expendable fire fighting assets used putting the fire out. Extinguishers, foam, CO-2, air packs and so many other expendable items. Was the ship restocked to proper level and breathing apparatus recharged in that short time or did ship sail in an unseaworthy condition for the sake of expedience?"
The U.S. Coast Guard is not going to inspect the Freedom until the ship returns to the U.S. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) can't do anything and is powerless to intervene to enforce the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) recommendations. The flag state, the Bahamas, is another feckless Caribbean flag of convenience that is too busy dealing with a run-away crime rate to bother inspecting another cruise ship that catches on fire. So the vacationing passengers will be herded like sheep on to the burnt cruise ship which will sail on to the Caymans because Royal Caribbean doesn't want to incur the expense of putting 3,600 passengers in hotels in Montego Bay, hiring twenty chartered jets to fly them back to the states, and giving refunds in the millions of dollars.
The cruise line's CEO's are in control here. Screw the IMO, SOLAS and the need for post casualty surveys. The show must go on.
*Captain Bill Doherty is a 1967 graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, a licensed US Coast Guard Master-Unlimited tonnage, and qualified First Class Pilot, Prince William Sound, Valdez, Alaska. Captain Doherty has served on numerous U.S. Navy warships and was the Head of Maritime Affairs for the Chief of Naval Operations during Operation Desert Storm. Over the course of his career, he has commanded tankers, container ships, research vessels, high-speed ferries, and was an instructor at his alma mater. Before retirement, his latest position was as Safety Manager for Norwegian Cruise Lines. Captain Doherty now serves as the director of maritime affairs for Nexus Consulting, and has appeared as a cruise safety expert before the United States Senate.
The Times of Malta reports that a 20 year old passenger from Scotland was charged today with raping a woman who he met on a cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection.
The newspaper says that the man allegedly raped the woman on the Celebrity cruise ship a year ago today. The man also faces charges of holding the woman against her will and committing "violent indecent assault" on the woman.
The young man and woman were on the cruise with their families. The alleged rape took place after the woman had her drink spiked.
Celebrity / Royal Caribbean registered the Reflection in Malta. The police is Malta issued an "European Arrest Warrant" to bring the alleged assailant to court. This is an unusual case insofar as most flag states, like the Bahamas, never issue warrants or even try to prosecute crimes committed on cruise ships flying flags of convenience.
Have a comment? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.
Photo Credit: Celebrity Reflection cruise ship by Moonik - own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
The Juneau Empire reports that a 40-year-old cruise ship worker from Honduras.was caught sexually assaulting a 26-year-old woman, also a crew member, from Ottawa, Canada.
On July 12th at 2:30 A.M., the woman reportedly had "left the crew bar and was walking back to her room alone when a man she didn’t know grabbed her from behind. He covered her mouth, groped her breast and behind, and attempted to force himself on her . . . "
Meanwhile, a comedian on the cruise ship stepped out of his cabin to search for Ibuprofen for an ear ache when he "heard a woman scream behind a door that led to the crew members’ stairwell. When he opened the door, he saw a man holding one hand over a woman’s mouth and his other hand across her waist."
The newspaper says that the comedian startled the assailant who was later identified as Eduar Klay Moran Bonilla.
The arrest of a foreign (i.e., non-U.S.national) attacking another foreign crew member is a relatively rare event in the U.S. If the incident occurred in international waters, U.S. local police would not have jurisdiction. The FBI and Department of Justice would have jurisdiction only if either the assailant or the victim were a U.S. citizen. Most of the time there is no arrest in these type of incidents. The offending crew member is simply flown home and the matter is swept under the rug. Here the Alaska state troopers had jurisdiction because the ship was in state territorial waters at the time of the crime.
Over a decade ago, we obtained through a court order confidential internal documents from Royal Caribbean / Celebrity where they studied the problem of sexual assaults in their fleet. Outside experts concluded that most crew members know if they are caught, the worst that can happen is that they will be flown home. The experts concluded that only when there is a real deterrent like being arrested and imprisoned will the cycle of sexual violence on the ships be reduced. The experts recommended improvements in ship security and human resource policies which the cruise lines ignored.
Update: The passengers were ordered to their muster stations. The cruise line says that the fire erupted in a "mechanical area." The initial reports are that there are no injuries to pasengers, which is good news. The question remains whether crew members were injured. Last December, a fire erupted on the Oceania Insignia when the cruise ship was in St.Lucia. Initial reports from the cruise line were that the passengers were not effected, but it turned out that three crew members were killed.
Incredibly, although not surprisingly, Royal Caribbean decided to continue on with the cruise, says the Miami Herald. The U.S. Coast guard is not going to inspect the cruise ship until it returns to the U.S.
You can see dramatic photographs of the fire here.
The cruise ship was approximately 90 miles northwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico when the passenger needed emergency medical treatment.
The Coast Guard helicopter hoisted the patient and a cruise ship nurse and transported them to the Isla Grande Airport, where emergency medical services transported them to the "Centro Medico" Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
A 41 year old man returning on a cruise was arrested on child pornography charges last Thursday after his cruise ended and the ship returned to Charleston, South Carolina, according to a report in the Post and Courier newspaper.
The newspaper reports that Eric Jason Blankenship of West Virginia was charged with one count of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. He disembarked from the Carnival Fantasy.
The Charleston Police Department, a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, acted on information that Blackenship had received child pornography.
The police detained him when he was disembarking the ship and found multiple images containing child pornography on his phone,
Blankenship was reportedly released on a $100,000 bail,
We have written about dozens of cases where cruise passengers and crew members have been arrested for child pornography.
Maritime & admiralty lawyer & attorney James M. Walker of Walker & O'Neill Law Firm, offering services related to injuries, sexual assaults, fires, negligence, rapes & disappearances on cruise ships, pirate & terrorist attacks, missing passengers, shore excursions, wrongful death and the Jones Act, serving cruise passengers, crew members, cabin attendants, utility workers, waiters, bar tenders, ship doctors and cleaners on cruise ships worldwide.
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