Recent Lewd and Lascivious Conduct on HAL Cruise Line Show Shortcomings of CVSSA Crime Reporting

Last fall, the Arizona Republic reported that cruise travelers for the first time can see what crimes are being reported aboard cruise ships operating in U.S. ports.

The newspaper commented on improvements once the Department of Transportation replaced the Coast Guard as the agency responsible for reporting crimes on cruise ships leaving US. ports. Consumers previously needed to check the websites of each cruise line to try and find out what crimes occur on which cruise line. Carnival Corporation bundled the crimes of its brands (Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, and Princess Cruises)  together under one name, HAl Veendamso that it was impossible for consumers to identify on which cruise line the reported crimes occurred.

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act ("CVSSA") of 2010  was supposed to provide the public with reports of certain crimes aboard cruise ships, such as deaths, sexual assaults, thefts and missing-person reports.

But the cruise-friendly agencies responsible for disclosing the crime statistics requested changes to the wording in the CVSSA which rendered crime-reporting provisions useless.

Language added before its passage altered the CVSSA bill so that only crimes "no longer under investigation by the FBI" were reported on the website. An Arizona Republic investigation in 2012 revealed the language was altered at the request of the FBI and the Coast Guard, apparently with pressure from the cruise industry

The problem is that the FBI often refused to open files when crime occurred on cruise ships or, when it did, the FBI often kept it files open long after it has decided not to investigate the case. So any crime that the FBI didn't investigate - or when it technically kept its investigation files open - was not included in the Coast Guard database.

These changes resulted in far more crimes, particularly sexual assaults, being reported by the DOT in the first six months of 2016 (39) than during the same period in 2015 (6) when the reporting was disclosed on the Coast guard portal.  

You can see the DOT's portal here.

But a major problem remains.  The cruise lines are the one which determine whether an incident constitutes "sexual assault." Many cases of sexual molestation of minors are mis-classified as "groping" or as "inappropriate touching," neither of which is a crime under the CVSSA .

The same is true regarding the sexual offense which the HAL waiter was arrested for on the Holland America Line Veendam last week. The CVSSA does not include "lewd and lascivious" conduct with a child as a reportable offense. 

Cruise expert Professor Dr. Ross Klein, who has testified regarding the issue of crime on cruise ships Gede Sukrantara, HAL Veendambefore the U.S. House of Representative and the U.S. Senate, pointed this problem out on his website last October. Dr. Klein has reviewed hundreds of incident reports submitted by cruise lines and has observed a tendency for cruise lines to report incidents of sexual assault as either "sexual contact" (which is not reportable under the CVSSA) or as "molestation" or as "groping" or "inappropriate touching" or "lewd and lascivious conduct" (none of which are reportable pursuant to the specific language of the statute). 

The crime that occurred on the Veendam when a 26 year old Indonesian HAL waiter (photo right) locked himself in a bathroom on the cruise ship and engaged in oral sex with a fifteen year old girl is exactly the type of sexual misconduct that families need to understand happens all too often on family cruise vacations, no matter how hard the cruise industry tries to parse words to keep it secret.

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Photo credit: Top: Fletcher6 - CC BY 3.0, commons / wikimedia. ; bottom: Gede Sukrantara Facebook page.

Polluting Princess Cruises Named "Best Ocean Cruise Line?"

Yesterday, Princess Cruises isued a press statement via PR Newswire that it had been voted the "Best Ocean Cruise Line" in the USA TODAY and 10Best Readers Choice cruise travel awards. 

The press release highlighted comments made by Princess Cruises president, Jan Swartz: "We're incredibly proud to be named 'Best Ocean Cruise Line' by the experts and readers of USA TODAY as it's our goal to provide our guests memorable and inspiring cruise vacation experiences."

A panel of cruise experts (cruise bloggers, travel agents, & industry friends) picked the initial nominees; the top 10 winners were then determined by popular vote.

The judges who nominated Princess are notable people in the world of cruising (I'm friendly with some of them) who author high quality articles and operate popular sites about the cruise industry: Carrie Finley Princess Cruises Pollution Bajak - Cruise Buzz; Fran Golden - USA TODAY; Sherry Laskin Kennedy - Cruise Maven; Jason Leppert - Popular Cruising; Chris Owen - Chris Cruises; Doug Parker - Cruise Radio; and Aaron Saunders - From The Deck Chair.  But, quite frankly, I am embarrassed for them.

Last month, the Department of Justice leveled a fine of $40,000,000 against Carnival Corporation for Princess Cruises' deliberate discharge of oil via "magic pipes," alteration of oil logs regarding at least five of its cruise ships, and lying to the Coast Guard over the course of nearly a decade. Ms. Swartz was featured in a video trying her best to appear apologetic as part of Princess' multi-media response to the revelations.

Its an embarrassing indictment of the cruise industry for a corporate felon to be voted the "best ocean cruise line" after it polluted the oceans and lied about it for so many years.  A better approach would have been for the judges to have disqualified any company which is on probation for environmental crimes or for the cruise executive to have politely declined the award, saying that the cruise line promises to do much better in the future.  

I posted Princess' patting-itself-on-its-back PR statement on our firm's Facebook page; we received these comments:

  • Should have been disqualified . . . 
  • Wow, I would have assumed "best ship", included due diligence on (environmental) issues but I guess not?
  • What a crock of s**t!
  • I agree they should be banned from these polls or disqualified.
  • . . . It's all a farce.

MSC Cruises DUMPINGThe other cruise lines voted in the list of "top 10 ocean cruise lines" have all been fined for polluting the oceans. Carnival was voted no. 3, even though it owns the polluting cruise ships operated by its Princess brand. Even MSC Cruises, which was voted no. 10, has a notorious reputation after a series of videos were released showing MSC crew members throwing garbage bags into a marine sanctuary at night. 

Yes, the award is a farce. The award should be embarrassing to the cruise industry, the cruise line "winner," the judges, and the cruise fans who voted for a corporate felon which intentionally polluted the oceans for years. 

Photo credit: Top - Department of Justice via CURT ANDERSON/AP via US News; bottom - anonymous via Cruise Law News.

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Waiter on HAL's Veendam Arrested on Charges of Lewd and Lascivious Conduct with Minor

HAL Waiter Yesterday, the Broward County Sheriff's office arrested a Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ship waiter for engaging in lewd and lascivious conduct involving a minor, according to Local 10-ABC.  

The case arises out of an incident on the M/S Veendam last Sunday when the HAL waiter, identified as Gede Sukrantara, age 26, convinced a 15-year-old girl to go into a bathroom on the 12th deck of the ship. He locked the door of the bathroom and the child is alleged to have then engaged in oral sex. She later reported the incident to the cruise ship staff. 

According to the news station, Broward County Sheriff detectives interviewed Sukrantara, who is from Indonesia, yesterday after the child's father said that he wanted to prosecute the cruise employee. 

The detectives arrested Sukrantara on a charge of committing a lewd and lascivious act involving a minor where the victim is between 12 and 16 years of age. He is current imprisoned in the maximum security jail facility adjacent to the Broward County Courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Photo credit: Broward Sheriff's Office   

Arrested in the Bahamas: Cruise Passenger in Jail for Statutory Rape of 15 Year-Old Boy

Two weeks ago, the Royal Bahamian Police Force arrested a French-Canadian woman from Quebec who was on an unidentified cruise ship (cruise schedules indicate it was the Norwegian Sky) in Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas for engaging in sex with a 15-year-old boy, who cannot legally give consent to have sexual intercourse under the law of the Bahamas. 

The case involved a rather bizarre situation where the 23 year old woman met an American, 15 year old boy in what a newspaper describes as a "casino and bar area" on the cruise ship. The boy reportedly told the woman, (falsely so) that he was 18 years old. He also reportedly is over 6 feet tall and he was wearing a beard, apparently giving her the impression that he was an adult.   

The two then allegedly engaged in sex in a bathroom on the ship. The boy's mother learned of the tryst and, over the protestations of her son, reported the alleged incident to the police in the Bahamas.

Section 11(1)(a) of the Bahamas' Sexual Offences Act, Chapter 99 reads: “Any person who has unlawful sexual intercourse with any person being of or above 14 years of age and under 16 years of age, whether with or without the consent of the person with whom he had unlawful sexual intercourse Bahamas Sexual assaultis guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for life.”

In the U.S., this is called "statutory rape;" it is irrelevant that the defendant was unaware that the child is underage. In Quebec, where the woman is from, 15 year olds can legally consent to sex.

The newspapers in the Bahamas have reported repeatedly on the arrest of the woman. They have published numerous photographs of the young woman in the custody of Bahamian police officers being led from the jail where she is imprisoned to the courthouse where she has attended several hearings in her criminal case. The photographs depict a obviously haggard woman, who has been kept in the harsh conditions of Her Majesty's Prison, being escorting to court by smiling police officers. 

The woman, who reportedly has three children aged 3, 4 and 5, had been given the cruise by her employer for her exemplary work performance. 

Grand Stirrup Cay is a private island in the Bahamas owned by Norwegian Cruise Line. 

The case, to me, appears to be, among other things, an indictment of the cruise line for allowing a unsupervised teenager into an area of the cruise ship limited to adults and apparently permitting him to drink alcohol. The Canadian woman's Bahamian defense lawyer was quoted in the Tribune newspaper as saying that "this defendant has a very strong defence as it may be negligence on the part of the cruiseline for allowing the virtual complainant to have access to activities reserved for adults."

I don't practice criminal law, but it seems highly relevant that the alleged victim apparently lied to the woman that he was an adult. It also seems relevant that due to the boy's height and facial hair, the woman may have reasonably believed that he was an adult, as he claimed before having sex with her. 

The Bahamas, which has the highest number of reported rapes in the Caribbean, seems to have a double standard in dealing with the issue of sexual assault. I have represented several women, both passengers and crew members, who have been sexually assaulted by crew members on Bahamian-flagged cruise ships in Bahamian waters where the police showed little interest in arresting the perpetrators or where the Bahamian prosecutors quickly dropped the charges.  

The Bahamas also has a deplorable case of prosecuting cases where children are sexually assaulted by crew members on Bahamian-Flagged ships, such as this case where a Disney crew member sexually assaulted a young girl on the Disney Dream. The police in Nassau dropped the case and permitted the cruise line pedophile to leave the jurisdiction. 

The Bahamas' interest in pursuing the case may also be, in part, political pay-back for Canada's prior warnings against travel to the Bahamas' due to its high violent crime rate.  

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January 20, 2016 Update: The family of the arrested woman, who is raising money for her legal defense via a Go-Fund-Me type of page, is denying that she ever left the casino/bar alone or that she engaged in sexual relations with the boy. 

Photo credit:  Tribune

Lifeboat Breaks Free From Grandeur of the Seas

Grandeur of the Seas LifeboatA lifeboat accident occurred this afternoon while the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas was in the port of Charleston.

A passenger aboard the cruise ship (who wishes to remain anonymous) informed me that a lifeboat had fallen from the cruise ship and was upside down in the water. He sent photographs of the lifeboat taken by other passengers. One photograph shows a cable which is are obviously frayed (bottom photo) and suggests that the cables may have broken and dropped the lifeboat into the water.

This raises obvious concerns that the other cables to the remaining lifeboats may be in a state of disrepair. These lifeboats carry as many as 150 guests. 

It is currently unknown whether the accident occurred during a lifeboat drill or whether there were crew members in the lifeboat when it fell. 

A newspaper in Charleston says that a "life raft" fell off the cruise ship, but this appears to clearly be an error. The photo above of the lifeboat upside down in the water which was sent to me can be compared to an online photo of a Grandeur lifeboat on davits (below); the metal rails on the side in both photos can be readily observed.  

The newspaper reports that the U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said "staff from the ship are attempting Grandeur of the Seas Lifeboatto retrieve the life raft and a team from the Coast Guard will assess any potential pollution impacts."

There are no reports at this time whether there are any crew member injuries at this time. The newspaper says that "there was no one was on the raft."

This is not the first lifeboat accident on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. In September, two crew members were killed and other crew members were critically injured after a lifeboat fell from the Harmony of the Seas, which was docked in Marseilles, France. Five members of the ship's navigation crew were on board during a drill when the lifeboat became detached and fell ten meters into the water. 

I boarded the Grandeur of the Seas last month with a maritime expert to inspect the lifeboats in a case where a crew member was seriously injured. One observation I left with was that this twenty-year old ship is a victim of deferred maintenance. You can see very heavy rust in the metal throughout the ship, particularly around the windows. Some of the rust is so serious that the windows near the upper, Granddeur of the Seas Lifeboatstarboard side near the stern have been replaced with temporary covers. (See photo at bottom). Earlier this year, another 20 year-old Royal Caribbean ship in the same Vision class, the Rhapsody of the Seas, suffered five windows on deck three breaking, injuring cruise passengers and partially flooding the cabins on decks two and three when the ship encountered rough weather. You can see the rusted windows here and on our Facebook page

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January 17, 2017 Update: The Grandeur of the Seas arrives today at the port of Miami, without a lifeboat. The Grandeur apparently left the fallen lifeboat in Charleston. Has the Coast Guard inspected the other lifeboats? Photo (above) via @PTZtv.behind  

Photo Credit: middle - shipspotting

Top - Kenneth Kozak via News2-Charleston.

Below - Anonymous.

Bottom - Jim Walker.Grandeur of the Seas

Grandeur of the Seas Lifeboat

Passengers Injured After Rough Seas Pound AIDAprima

I received the following information from a regular reader of this blog, who wishes to remain anonymous. 

"Today's Bild (translates to "Picture", Germany's largest circulation daily) reports cruise ship Aida Prima was hit by 23 ft waves in the North Sea as it was returning to home port Hamburg on Friday evening from a week-long European itinerary.

All passengers were ordered back to their cabins. Ship is now safely back in port in Hamburg. Per the AIDAprima stormarticle, Aida cruise line confirmed the incident, including injuries to 'three passengers, 'two bruises and a bone fracture.'

Per the article, The Elbe (river connecting Hamburg to the North Sea) had been closed in the hurricane for ships - but the authorities made an exception for the Aida Prima. 'She was allowed to enter and reached the berth at the cruise terminal Steinwerder at 7.45 am. The resulting material damage could not be quantified today.'

The Bild story with stills and video is here, entitled 'Our chaos night on the Aida.'

In the video, it appears that the ship rocked so violently that the chest-high glass barrier around the bar pool broke, sending water cascading onto deck 15. Furniture is being tossed as passengers and crew make their way across the deck."

Many thanks to the anonymous reader for the information.  You can watch the video on our Facebook page.  

Photo credit: Bild

Royal Caribbean Continues to Advertise for Lifeguards

Two weeks ago, we reported that Royal Caribbean was posting a job description for a lifeguard on an onboard crew TV channel on one of its cruise ship (Ovation of the Seas). 

We viewed this as good news after at least five passengers, mostly children, have drowned or nearly drowned in the numerous pools on the Royal Caribbean ships. Its refusal to previously acknowledge that its we-don't-use-lifeguards policy was literally killing children was particularly frustrating to see.  

It now seems clear that the cruise line appears committed to ending its ill conceived swim-at-your-own-risk policy. This weekend several people notified me that the cruise line is publicly advertising the lifeguard and lifeguard manager jobs on several sites on the internet, such as here and here

These job postings link to a program called Star Guard Elite, which touts a "complete Royal Caribbean Lifeguardaquatic risk prevention and lifeguard training system unmatched in the industry." Last month, the Star Guard Elite website offered the job of a cruise ship lifeguard manager with Royal Caribbean. Its Facebook advertisement says: "Have you ever wanted to live on a cruise ship and see the world? We are looking for the best and brightest Aquatics Managers to join our project with Royal Caribbean."

This program is a product of IAM Star Guard Elite. "IAM" is the acronym for Innovative Attraction Management, LLC. IAM offers aquatic services including the providing of lifeguards as well as management, consulting, and risk prevention services.  It consults with a wide variety of water parks in the U.S. IAM also provides litigation support as part of its risk management services.

Not coincidentally, at the end of this month, IAM is offering an aquatics conference aboard the Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas as well as at Atlantis, Paradise Island when the Royal Caribbean ship calls on the port of Nassau.

It seems that last year IAM StarGuard Elite joined the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association where it advertised CPR, AED, and water awareness services to cruise line excursion operators.

Although the cruise line has not publicly announced its association with IAM StarGuard Elite program, it seems that Royal Caribbean is finally headed in the right direction. So kudos to them.  It reinforces my opinion that today's gigantic cruise ships with multiple swimming pools, water sides and jacuzzis are much more like a water park (which require lifeguards pursuant to state law) than a hotel (which typically doesn't). Without lifeguards, future deaths of children on the increasingly huge Royal Caribbean ships with H2O parks, swimming pools and theme-park-like water attractions, seem certain. 

So Royal Caribbean will join Disney as the only cruise lines with a demonstrated commitment to keeping children safe around pools at sea. Hopefully, other cruise lines will quickly follow suit. 

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Photo credit: Boy drowns on Royal Caribbean - Jacab Priplett via Twitter via NY Daily News.

Passenger Medevaced Nearly 600 Kilometers from P&O Aurora

We regularly report on medevacs of passengers and crew members from cruise ships. 

The majority of the medevacs occur near U.S. ports courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard. But there are medevacs which occur outside of the United States, including those performed by the Portuguese Air Force.

The latest rescue involved the P&O Aurora, on January 8th of this year, regarding the medical evacuation of an 82 year-old patient nearly 600 kilometers from the Portuguese Coast. The air force sent a fixed wing ahead to support the helicopter. 

 

 

Cruise CEO's Cash In Carnival Stock

Caribbean PrincessThree cruise CEO's sold their Carnival (CCL) stock a week ago for a combined total of nearly $9,500,000, according to Market Digest.

On December 29,2016, Stein Kruse, the CEO of Holland America Group, Alan Buckelew, the Chief Operations Officer of Carnival Corporation, and David Bernstein, the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Accounting Officer of Carnival Corporation each sold 60,664 shares of Carnival stock at $52.11 per share for a total value of $3,161,201.00.  

Mr. Bernstein has been the CFO and Senior Vice President of Carnival Corporation since July 2007 with oversight of all finance, accounting, treasury, insurance, tax and investor relations functions. Mr. Buckelew, who was recently appointed to the Chief Information Officer of Carnival Corporation, previously served as the CEO of Princess Cruises from June 2007 to November 2013 and its President from February 2004 to November 2013.

The DOJ recently fined Carnival Corporation $40,000,000 for widespread discharge of oily substances, falsification of log books and lying to the U.S. Coast Guard regarding five cruise ships operated by Princess Cruises over an eight year period from 2005 through 2013. The Carnival owned cruise ship operated by Princess Cruises which were involved in the scandal are the Caribbean Princess, Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess.

The issue arises what the cruise executives knew about the long standing "magic pipes" and financial irregularities associated with certain Princess Cruise ships having lower operating costs associated with not having used the vessels' oil-water separators and avoiding the costs associated with offloading and disposing the waste oil in shore-side facilities. Did these executives really have no idea that these Princess ships were engaged in these environmental crimes?

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Recent Divina Overboard Reveals Flaws in MSC Safety & Security

A passenger who disappeared from the MSC Divina yesterday marks the first person to disappear from a cruise ship in 2017.

As usual, there are no facts released by the cruise line which indicates exactly when, or why, or where, or how the person went overboard.

Based on information released by MSC, the U.S. Coast Guard stated that the passenger was "last seen by his wife at approximately 3 a.m. going out to the couple's room balcony to take some fresh air." The Coast Guard says that the "circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the passenger remain unknown."  Accordingly, we have only the cruise line's version of when the wife allegedly last MSC Divinasaw her husband, but there is no indication when the passenger actually went overboard, or when the ship first learned that the passenger went overboard, or whether the ship promptly deployed a rescue craft or other watercraft to conduct a timely search and rescue, or when the ship notified the U.S. Coast Guard to begin search and rescue efforts.  

Yesterday I wrote that it sounds like MSC was not initially aware that the passenger went overboard, which is the typical situation. The vessel's online automatic information system did not reveal that the vessel slowed down, stopped or turned around to initiate a search for the missing man. MSC told the Coast Guard that, at some undisclosed time, it searched the ship and made call-outs through the public announcement system without success. This sounds like many other cruise lines which are told long after the fact that a person's loved one or friend cannot be found on the ship. This leads to ship personnel conducting a search or making announcements or reviewing closed-circuit television images to see if it they can figure out what happened to the passenger - an unduly time consuming process considering that the passenger may be struggling in the water as the cruise ship sails away.

Six years ago, President Obama signed the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act ("CVSSA") which requires cruise line calling on U.S. ports to implement automatic man overboard systems. Before the  CVSSA was passed into law, there was considerable testimony before Congress regarding Man Overboard Systemwhy people go overboard - suicides, accidents, excessive serving and consumption of alcohol, and foul play were all discussed. But whatever the reason for the person going overboard, our Congress determined that cruise lines needed to implement state-of-the-art systems to signal when passengers or crew members went over the rails and into the water.

Since the CVSSA went into effect, cruise lines have resisted implementing the technology. There are many companies which have good systems on the market.  Here is an example (photo left). Here is another. The best systems immediately alert the bridge when someone goes overboard and can track the person in the water via radar and thermal imaging so that the person can be located even when someone falls into the water at night. Many systems record the person going overboard so that there is no possibility of a false alarm.  

Man overboard systems also have an important feature of detecting when someone comes over the rails onto the ship. This is an obvious and vital security precaution in this age of terrorism. If someone can go overboard without the cruise line knowing it, then it is just as likely that someone can come onto the ship without detection. 

After my article yesterday, a PR representative from MSC sent me a barrage of emails demanding that I write that the "USCG was alerted by MSC Cruises as soon as the ship became aware of the potentially missing passenger; the ship, as per procedure, started search operations immediately as soon as she became aware of the potentially missing passenger; and the USCG launched its SAR shortly thereafter."  But the PR person refused to state basic facts such as when the passenger went overboard, or when MSC realized it, or whether it delayed notifying the Coast Guard until after it first searched the ship, or whether it conducted any type of timely search itself.  

Disturbing factual questions remain - did MSC even turn the ship around to search for the overboard passenger? Did it just conduct a search on the ship after-the-fact and finally alert the Coast Guard only when its onboard efforts were futile? Does MSC even have any type of man overboard systems in place?  MSC refuses to say.  

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein's research indicates that an average of over 20 people go overboard each year on cruise ships. Over 140 people have gone over the rails from cruise ships since 2010. When will cruise lines like MSC focus on implementing state-of-the-art technology rather than on PR efforts to create the illusion that passengers are safe at sea?

January 4, 2017 Update: The Coast Guard suspended its search last night at 9:55 p.m. The Coast Guard is quoted as saying that it "searched for more than 35 hours." If this information is accurate, this means that the Coast Guard initiated its search and rescue around 11:55 a.m. (i.e., 35 hours before 10:55 p.m. the next day), or a bit earlier, on the day the passenger went overboard.  This further means that notice to the Coast Guard was delayed at least 5 hours after the missing man's wife woke up several hours after last seeing him (around 3:00 a.m.) and realized he was missing from their cabin. The cruise line says that it searched the ship and made announcements for the man, apparently before notifying the Coast Guard.

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Photo credit: MSC Divina - Karl Borg - Albireo2006 - flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, commons / wikimedia; man overboard video - PureTech Systems.

Passenger Overboard From MSC Divina

The U.S. Coast Guard reports that it is searching for a passenger, from the MSC Divina cruise ship, who is suspected of going overboard early this morning in waters north of Puerto Rico.

According to the Coast Guard, a French citizen, Jeon Pierre Knorr, age 74, reportedly was "last seen by his wife at approximately 3 a.m. going out to the couple's room balcony to take some fresh air." The Coast Guard says that the "circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the passenger remain unknown."

Based on the Coast Guard statement, it does not sound like the cruise ship was initially aware of the passenger going overboard. Online AIS's do not show the Divina taking part in any type of search. MSC DivinaThe Coast Guard states that MSC Divina officials notified the Coast Guard that, at some undisclosed time, they searched the ship and made call-outs through the public announcement system without success. 

The Coast Guard indicates that it deployed aircraft, helicopters and a fast-response cutter to look for the man.

2017 begins with the same problem with overboards that has plagued the industry for many years. The Divina obviously was not equipped with an automatic man overboard which could be triggered with a signal to the bridge when a person crosses the rail. Such systems are now sophisticated with thermal imaging properties and radar capacities to track the person in the water at night so that the ship can initiate an immediate search and rescue operation. You can see an example here. President Obama signed automatic man overboard requirements into law in the 2012 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Law. Most cruise lines have ignored this law.   

Cruise lines say that such technology is not reliable or feasible, but the technology is readily available and highly efficient.

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January 3, 2017 Update:  Recent Divina Overboard Reveals Flaws in MSC Safety & Security

Photo credit: My Ken, GFDL, commons / wikimedia.

Passenger's Body Found in Cruise Ship's Ventilation Shaft

The body of a 74 year-old passenger who disappeared from the M/V Sharden, which can carry up to 2,908 passengers, has been located in the ship's ventilation shaft, according to AOL Travel's article Pensioner's Body Found in Cruise Ship Ventilation Shaft After Two Months.  

The woman sailed on holiday with her husband on the Tirrenia Sharden, which is technically a ferry (Ro-Ro) which carries cars in addition to passengers. The couple were from Munich, Germany and had vacationed in Sardinia, Italy. At the end of October, the couple took the ferry from Porto Torres in Sardinia back to Genoa on the Italian mainland.

The husband stated that "we rested in sleeping-chairs. When I woke up later, my wife had Sharden Ferry disappeared." The captain ordered the entire ship searched but the passengers could not be located, leading to speculation that she might have gone overboard or been the victim of a crime. The husband admitted that his wife sometimes became disorientated and could have wandered into the engine room and toppled into the ventilation shaft, but he criticized the crew for not carrying out a proper search of the ship.

There is no explanation regarding the extent of the crew's search of the ship.

An admittedly bizarre occurrence, this is not the first time this has happened. Four years ago, a 47-year-old Indonesian mechanic on the Costa Serena died after falling into a ventilation duct of one of the ship's engines, apparently while working on the maintenance of fan grids.

Photo credit: Cen via Mail Online

Happy New Year! And Thanks for Reading!

We take the beginning of this new year to thank our readers for following us over the past twelve months.

The motto of this site is "everything cruise lines don't want you to know." We rely on our passenger-and crew-member friends to keep us informed when things go wrong on the high seas and in ports of call outside of the U.S. 

We particularly appreciate those of you who have taken the time to stay in touch with us over Cruise Law News the course of this year. We have been kept informed of power losses, missing passengers and crew members, increasingly difficult conditions facing crew members and medevacs-at-sea. 

I have been in Miami, rightfully called the cruise ship capital of the year, for the past thirty years. To say that the cruise industry has grown considerably over the last several decades may be an understatement! Cruise ships have becone increasingly larger and larger over the years. Unfortunately, the legal rights of hard-working crew members have substantially declined over this time period.

1,665,242 different people viewed 5,636,038 pages of this blog this year, so thanks for following us!

We wish everyone the best of health and success for 2017!

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page. 

Seven Most Outrageous Cruise Stories of 2016

Al Roker BullfeathersAs the last few days of 2016 count down, it's time to pick the most outrageous stories of the year. 

Number 7 - The Year of Cruise Ship Power Failures? This year saw the usual number of power failures and propulsion issues which have plagued the industry for years. Cruise lines often use the euphemism "technical problems," if they say anything at all, about the problem.  

In May, Carnival's ill-fated "voluntourism" Fathom brand saw its sole cruise ship, the Adonia, experience a complete black-out loss in Government Cut. The U.S. Coast Guard ordered the cruise ship to return to the port of Miami.

Later that night, the Carnival Elation drifted for an hour in the dark as the ship was heading back to port in Jacksonville. The following month, the little-known Artic expedition cruise ship, Ortelius, experienced an engine failure near a place called Hinlopenstretet and had to be towed back to another place called Norwegian StarLongyearbyen. In the same month, Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas experienced problems with one of its engines in the Caribbean. 

In July, the Thomson Celebration suffered an engine failure as the cruise ship was leaving Valletta, Malta. In August, the Caribbean Princess lost power approximately 25 nautical miles southeast of Dublin in the Irish Sea. A week later, the Viking Sea lost power, for the first time, in Malta. The next week saw the Paul Gauguin cruise ship experience propulsion problems in Bora Bora. In September, the auto-pilot malfunctioned on the Carnival Legend causing it to violently list as the ship headed to Victoria. Shortly thereafter the Legend suffered a brief power loss. 

In October, the Thomson Majesty lost power following an engine room fire. Later, the Grand Princess lost power off of the coast of California. The Emerald Princess experienced propulsion problems the following day as it sailed to Thailand. November began with the Carnival Liberty suffering a power loss affecting its cruises to Mexico. The new Carnival Vista struggled through a series of propulsion issues in November as well. NCL's Norwegian Star experienced power problems and is now limping through Princess Drug Cocaine Bustits itinerary in Southeast Asia, much to the displeasure of cruisers who have waited for a year to cruise on the Star.  The Costa neoRiviera recently suffered a loss of all electricity during a port call in Abu Dhabi, and the Lindblad Expeditions' National Geographic Orion suffered a catastrophic power failure while leaving Antarctica. The year ends with the Viking Sea losing power (for the second time this year); the Viking ship finds itself stuck in Barcelona.

Number 6 - Year of Cruise Ship Drugs busts? 2016 saw drug busts involving literally hundreds and hundreds of pounds of cocaine smuggled on cruise ship by crew members and passengers alike. In January, the Department of Homeland Security busted four NCL crew members involved in smuggling cocaine from Roatan, Honduras to New Orleans aboard the Norwegian Dawn.  In March, the police in Ocho Rios arrested three MSC crew members from St. Vincent trying to board the MSC Divina Princess Cruise Drugs Smugglingcruise ship docked at the Ocho Rios Pier with a large quantity of cocaine hidden under their clothes. A month later, two Royal Caribbean crew members were arrested for smuggling cocaine aboard the Freedom of the Seas into Port Canaveral.

The Freedom of the Seas was again in the news in June when four female passengers were arrested for smuggling over 13 pounds of cocaine from Jamaica into Port Canaveral. In July, a Jamaican man was arrested at the cruise port in Falmouth, Jamaica when he attempted to board the Carnival Splendor with two packages, containing five pounds of cocaine.  In August, the Australian Federal Police hit the mother-load and arrested three cruise ship passengers, including a young woman formerly in the porn business, involved in smuggling 95 kilos (over 209 lbs.) of cocaine into the port in Sydney, Australia on the Sea Princess after they chronicled their 66-day world cruise on Instagram.  The record drug bust revealed serious shortcomings in Princess Cruises' shipboard security

While crew members and passengers used NCL, Carnival, Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise ships to smuggle large quantities of cocaine, the tourist police at the port in Nassau routinely busted cruise passengers for a couple of joints of pot seized during warrant-less searches of their cabins when they were off of the Cruise Ship Drowningcruise ship. 

Number 5 - Drowned Children But No Lifeguards?  2016 saw the predictable results of an industry of increasingly huge ships filled with swimming pools and water parks but few if any lifeguards. Children drowned or nearly drown in lifeguard-less pools throughout the cruise industry this year. In the last 2 to 3 years, numerous guests - primarily but not exclusively children - have been found at the bottom of cruise ship swimming pools: Royal Caribbean (4)( ages 4, 6, 8 and 8), Princess (4, 3 adults and one 8 year-old child), NCL (3)(ages 4, 6 and 10), Carnival (2)(ages 2, 6), and Disney (1)(age 4)(before hiring lifeguards).

The New Times published an in-depth story on cruise ship drownings in September, explaining that an outdated maritime law protects the industry from liability in deaths at sea. The archaic law remains in effect largely because of an indifferent Congress dependent on campaign donations by the non-tax paying cruise lines. 

Many people choose to instantly blame the parents whenever a kid is pulled lifeless from a cruise ship swimming pool. Cruise employees trained to sell booze but not in CPR or advanced life-saving measures are just one of the problems.  As the New Times article explains, people who instantly blame the parents miss the point: that "poolside safety is a shared responsibility of caregivers and cruise lines."

Disney Cruises, which paid a large settlement for the lifetime medical care of a four year old child who nearly drowned on the Disney Fantasy before it began hiring lifeguards, is the only cruise line who Anthem of the Seas Stormhas invested in lifeguards to keep kids safe around pools. Other cruise lines are flirting with doing the right thing. Celebrity uses "pools rovers" (crew members who are assigned to supervise swimming pools but have no formal training as a lifeguard).  Royal Caribbean recently advertised the position of a lifeguard on a TV channel on some of its cruise ships.

Number 4 - The Anthem of the Seas Sails Into a Storm.  Earlier this year, weather experts predicted the Atlantic seas out of New Jersey to be over 30 feet high with winds of hurricane strength. The Royal Caribbean Anthem nonetheless recklessly sailed into the storm, terrorizing the thousands of passengers and burning out the clutches of its azipods in the process. The Anthem returned to port in New Jersey with only one propulsion unit operating. Royal Caribbean initially denied any damage or injury to the ship or the passengers and then falsely claimed that the only damage to the ship was "cosmetic." Al Roker, the popular television weatherman on the Today Show, best summed up Royal Caribbean's claim that the storm was not predicted: "Royal Caribbean's claim that this was not predicted is bullfeathers." (photo top). USA TODAY chimed in with "Meteorologists: Royal Caribbean blew it on sailing into storm."

Number 3 - Carnival Outsources IT Jobs to India. This month, Carnival Corporation eliminated over 200 IT jobs across its brands, including Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Lines and Princess Cruises. The U.S. workers are now required to train their replacements employed by a consulting firm, Capgemini, with offices in India.  The fired cruise employees' lawyer stated that the "executives of Carnival should be ashamed and should have to face the families that they have destroyed merely days before Christmas." A Carnival PR spokesman said that the move was to improve performance and not save money. Asked if the employees were being asked to train others how to do their jobs, Carnival responded with this gobbledygook: "Not trained, but they will be involved in showcasing the processes related to the function in order for Capgemini to provide stronger and better service to Carnival Corporation and its brands.” Conservative publications protested the outsourcing, complaining to President-elect Trump and calling for a boycott of Carnival.

Number 2 - The New Carnival Vista Makes a Splash!  Carnival new mega-ship, the Carnival Vista,Carnival Vista came perilously close to small piers for recreational boats when leaving the port of Messina, Sicily. The thrust from its stern created a turmoil which turned over the piers and swamped smaller moored vessels, sinking several of the boats in the process. The destruction was so complete that you wouldn't believe it unless you saw it which is what happened when a passenger filmed the chaos from the ship. The Carnival captain made no announcements regarding what happened. According to passengers, the Vista didn't stop and sailed out of the port as if nothing happened.

Number 1 - Carnival - Enemy of the Environment?  Carnival and Princess Cruises pled guilty to multiple felonies for the operation of five Carnival owned and Princess operated cruise ships which illegally dumped oily discharge around the world for eight years. Princess used "magic pipes" which by-passed oil-water separator devices, falsified oil logs, and perpetually lied to the Coast Guard to save millions of dollars in treating and disposing of oil ashore by Princess Pollutiondumping it overboard for almost a decade. Carnival was under probation for installing magic pipes and lying to the Coast Guard when Princess began dumping oil overboard. Did the executives and senior management know? Of course. But Princess played the plausible denial game. Carnival was fined only $40,000,000 (million) but ended 2016 collecting record profits of $2,800,000,000 (billion). While the Princess cruise ships were dumping oil, the cruise line executives collected hundreds of millions of dollars in salaries, perks and bonuses.     

If you have a thought, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo credits:

Al Roker - NBC Today Show

Princess drug bust - Jonathan Ng via the Daily Telegraph

Norwegian Star - Pjotr Mahhonin, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Viking Sea Stuck in Barcelona

Viking Sea Power LossToday, I received a message that the Viking Sea was in Barcelona, Spain waiting for repairs to fix an unidentified engine problem. 

I received this message: "Don't know have you been informed about Viking Sea being stuck in Barcelona for more than 10 days, while all guests were disembark, almost same thing like Star last year in Talin . . . "

Online AIS shows the Viking ship at the port in Barcelona today after leaving the port of Barcelona last night heading (apparently toward its next port of call, Toulon) but then turning around and sailing back to Barcelona.

Viking has informed its guests that they are free to stay on the cruise ship until January 8, 2017.  The company is apparently assisting the passengers with excursions. The guests can leave the ship and catch earlier flights home although many seem inclined to enjoy their unexpected time in Barcelona. 

In August of this year, the Viking Sea lost power in Malta.

In August of 2015, the Viking Star lost power in an engine after leaving Tallinn and resulted in the cancellation of the cruise.

There is no indication whether future cruises will be affected nor is there any word regarding compensation to guests for the canceled cruise.  

 

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