Russel Rebello - The True Captain of the Costa Concordia

Today, the body of Costa crew member Russel Rebello was found in the salvaged wreck of the Costa Concordia. His remains were the last to be removed from the ill-fated cruise ship. 

Mr. Rebello was known to his fellow crew members as a warm, friendly and always-smiling young man. He was last seen going back into the sinking ship to rescue passengers.

Rusel RebelloTragedies like the Costa Concordia define a person. When disaster strikes, will the person shirk their responsibilities and run like a coward? Or will they rise to the occasion and help others? 

Maritime lore and tradition say that the captain always goes down with the ship. That's not exactly true, but the saying reinforces the notion that the captain must be the last person on the ship. He is required by maritime regulations to be aboard the ship in order to supervise the orderly evacuation of all aboard, before he exits.

Francisco Schettino fled the Concordia like a scared rat. He does not deserve even to be called a captain.

When the Concordia hit the rocks and eventually slipped into the sea, it was Mr. Rebello who acted as the true master of the vessel. He put the safety and well being of the guests before himself.  He honored the maritime tradition of a captain staying on the ship and placing himself in harm's way to help others.

 

Pay your respects below or on our Facebook page.

South Korea Ferry Disaster - Nearly 300 Missing

Earlier this morning we posted an article on Facebook about a terrible maritime disaster involving a South Korean ferry carrying 462 passengers and crew members.

The ferry is the Sewol and was carrying hundreds of school children. The official count was 325 students and 14 teachers

The ferry was sailing south to the resort island of Jeju. it apparently hit something, listed and quickly sank.

There is no indication yet what caused the disaster.  

Many students on the sinking ferry sent heartbreaking text messages to their parents.

A CNN video is below:

Troubled Waters: Are Large Cruise Ships Safe?

CBS News aired a short special this morning on its show "CBS This Morning: Saturday."

CBS says that safety experts are concerned over the safety of large cruise ships that have grown to unprecedented sizes. Jay Herring, a former Carnival Line senior officer and the author of "The Truth About Cruise Ships," joined the show and talked about how cruise ships are getting larger and larger.

He also talked about one of my favorite topics, namely the emergency evacuation chute on Royal Caribbean's Allure and Oasis cruise ships.  There are not enough life boats on these giant ships.  So crew members have to jump down a chute 60 feet down to a rubber life raft in cases of fire or sinking of the ship.  It's a waiting disaster if an emergency occurs in rough seas far from land.  

  

 

CNN's New Day Reports: Costa Captain Says "Not My Fault"

Yesterday morning, CNN's New Day aired a short program about Captain Schettino's testimony at his criminal trial. He claims that he is not to blame for the deadly Concordia disaster.    

CNN's Erin McLaughlin reports on the story.

I was interviewed briefly in the program.

You can read about the story here.

You can also read about my thoughts about Captain Schettino's testimony here.  

 

 

Captain Schettino Blames Helmsman for Sinking the Concordia

Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker - Cruise LawIn yesterday's criminal trial against Captain Schettino, the disgraced captain of the doomed Costa Concordia testified that the disaster was not his fault, but was due to the error of the helmsman who failed to promptly follow his orders to turn the cruise ship away from the rocks.

Schettino testified that when he arrived in the bridge, he told the officer at the helm to turn the rudder to the left, which would have pulled the stern to the right and possibly avoided the rocks. But there was a delay of around 12 to 13 seconds, and the helmsman turned the rudder to the right.

The problem with Schettino's defense is that it was Captain Schettino who decided to divert the cruise ship from its scheduled route and head the ship directly toward Giglio in the first place.  The cruise ship then sailed four miles off course heading dangerously close to the rocky island.  

Sailing a ship off course like this, at high speed, in the night is ill conceived. Its not much different than altering the scheduled course of a 747 aircraft and flying it toward a mountain to show off. It's hardly a defense to Captain Schettinothe captain's malfeasance by returning to the cockpit at the last second and telling a subordinate officer to try and make a last ditch emergency maneuver to avoid crashing the plane. Thar's just additional evidence of the captain's recklessness.

Captain Schettino also complained that Costa should shoulder some of the blame because the Costa nautical maps did not accurately depict the rocky shoals which the Concordia struck.  I say hogwash to that, because the cruise ship should not have been anywhere near Giglio. The granite rocks around Giglio are part of the geological structure of the earth and have existed for over a million years. If the maps on the ship are not perfect and miss a rock or two, Schettino nonetheless planned to head the ship directly on what essentially was a collision course with the island of Giglio.

The 32 deaths are due in large part due to the captain's delay in ordering the evacuation of the passengers and crew. The helmsman had nothing to do with that. My opinion is that the Italian court will find Schettino guilty of all counts: causing the shipwreck, manslaughter and abandoning ship.

Schettino's game of blaming everyone except himself must be particularly painful to the families of the Captan Schettino - Costa Concordia32 dead passengers and crew who are trying to heal from the horror of losing their loved ones on Captain Schettino's ship. It also reveals a lack of remorse and a continuing arrogance which hopefully the court will consider in sentencing the cowardly captain.

CNN interviewed me about Schettino's testimony this morning on its program "New Day." The images are from the CNN program this morning.

"Why Ships Sink" Tonight on NOVA / PBS at 9:00 P.M.

Tonight at 9:00 P.M. NOVA will air "Why Ships Sink" featuring the story of the recent Costa Concordia and the 100 year old story of the Titanic.

I'm in the program, interviewed at the Port of Miami. 

You can watch the online video here

Costa Concordia: Finally Upright, What's Next?

Lots of people thought that once the Costa Concordia was finally brought back from the dead and uprighted in Giglio, the cruise ship would be hauled off into the Italian sunset and taken to a scrapyard for dismantling.

That's not going to happen anytime soon. As much as we all hope and dream that this cursed cruise ship would simply vanish from our collective sight, unfortunately life is not as simple as this.

Here's what lies ahead:

More Salvage Work: The cruise ship will be secured so that it does not sink or topple over due to the rough weather of the upcoming winter.  As you can see from the photo to the right. the hull of the Costa Concordia Salvage ParbucklingConcordia is warped and mangled and needs to be stabilized and reinforced. Remember, the plan is to tow the cruise ship away. Given the cruise ship's screwed-up condition, that's not going to happen anytime soon. The consensus seems to be that work on the ship will continue until next spring. Yes, the salvage costs will exceed the $800,000,000 or so spent so far. Expect the final salvage tally to be over $1,000,000,000 ($1 billion).

Police Will Investigate the Crime Scene: There are two bodies of the dead which remain in the ship. There can be no closure until the bodies of cruise passenger, Maria Trecarichi, and Costa crew member, Russel Rebello, have been located in the ship. Engineers are popping champagne corks in the local bars in Giglio and drinking whiskey and beer after the technological & engineering success of righting the cruise beast. I say abate the party until the dead are recovered and the families are notified.   

Personal Effects Will Be Gathered: There are reportedly some 1,500 cabin safes which need to be accessed. Jewelry and any salvageable personal effects need to be returned to the owners.   

The Ship Needs to be Floated Way: At this point, the salvors will leave the cruise ship on the multiple underwater platforms. The ship will not be floated until later next year when weather permits. You will see the Concordia at the port in Giglio for at least another 6 of 7 months. Yes, expect another highly reported over-the-top media event when the ship is finally hauled away next year.

Criminal Trial: The criminal trial against Captain Schettino will start again soon.  The fun of raising the ship is over. Now the dirty work of placing the noose around the neck of the already convicted-in-the-media Captain Coward to hold him responsible for the deaths and suffering must go forward.        

The Cruise Lines PR War Will Continue:  The cruise industry will continue to say that his was a "freak accident" whereas the students of history and safety advocates will say that more accidents, deaths and mayhem will continue given the priorities of the cruise lines. Choose your side.   

Contentious Litigation: A representative of Costa states that the cruise line intends to leave the environment around Giglio in a "pristine" condition similar to that what existed before the dreadful shipwreck. If that means that the salvage costs and environmental costs exceed one billion dollars and the applicable insurance proceeds are exhausted and corporate money is spent, so be it claims Costa before the cameras and reporters. Protecting the environment and restoring it to its original condition is paramount according to the cruise line's PR team.

Unfortunately, the cruise line has exactly the opposite attitude toward the passengers and crew members it traumatized. Costa offered $14,600, take it or leave it, to its guests (not crew) for all of their belongings, clothes, electronics, and personal effects, and their pain and suffering and mental anguish, due to the horrifying events surrounding the Concordia's capsizing. Do you think that restoring the passengers and crew to their original, pre-shipwreck, "pristine" condition is a goal of Costa?  Hardly.

Over a billion $ for the cruise ship salvage but pennies for the dead and suffering. Costa / Carnival and their Miami attorneys are primed and ready to continue the dog fight against the victims.

It won't be pretty when the cameras are off and the reporters covering the exciting salvage efforts have gone home.                        

 

Photo Credit: Claudio Giovannini

Costa Concordia: The $800,000,000 Tilt

Its been an interesting two days watching the live streaming video of the "parbuckling" project which raised the stricken Costa Concordia out of the sea. The submerged, starboard side of the cruise ship, which has been underwater and resting on the seabed, is now strangely warped and disfigured.

It took some 19 hours to right the cruise ship. Much of the activity took place late at night.  Some say that it was like watching paint dry, although I found it interesting.

It's a rather amazing thought that although Costa (Carnival) offered less than $15,000 per passenger in compensation for the harrowing near-death experience of escaping from a sinking ship and leaving all of your possessions begind, the cruise line and its underwriters committed over $800,000,000 (and counting) to tilt the vessel upright.     

For those of you who didn't have the time or inclination to watch the raising of a ship over three football fields long and over 114,000 gross tons, below is a time-lapse video of the event. You can watch the Concordia being raised from the water in 30 seconds.

  

Costa Concordia Emerges from the Sea

Twenty months after the Costa Concordia crashed into the rocks and capsized off the coast of Giglio in a maritime disaster that killed 32 people and terrorized thousands others, the cruise ship emerged from the Mediterranean this morning following a spectacular "parbuckling" salvage effort costing over $800 million. 

With many millions watching via live streaming video, the stricken cruise ship was slowly pulled upright in the dark morning hours today.

As the sun rose over Giglio, you could see that the vessel was upright. It now needs to be re-floated and secured for its final voyage next year when it will be towed away to be cut into scrap metal. 

"The rotation has finished its course, we are at zero degrees, the ship is resting on the platforms," said Italy's civil protection chief, Franco Gabrielli, at a 4 a.m. news conference on Giglio island, where he was applauded and cheered by residents.

There is no word yet whether the bodies of cruise passenger, Maria Trecarichi, and Costa crew member, Russel Rebello, have been located in the ship.

Photo Credit: Giglio News

Giglio costa Concordia Upright

Costa Concordia Salvage Begins Now

Costa Concordia Parbuckling GiglioIts been over 20 months since the Costa Concordia sailed into the rocks near the little port of Giglio. Thousands of passengers and crew panicked. 32 souls perished. 2 bodies of the dead remain in the sea.

Here is my first blog about the disaster. Little did I know just how bad the situation really was that night.

Its been over 20 months since the eyesore of the capsized Concordia lay on her side at the port like a beached whale. 

Its been a crime scene ever since. Captain Schettino is standing trial for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship. The Costa organization and parent Carnival Corporation largely escaped liability, with all of the blame carefully heaped on the unpopular "Captain Coward."

I wonder where Captain Schettino is this morning?  What is he thinking?  

What are the families of the dead and missing feeling at these early morning hours?

I bet Carnival cruise tycoon, Micky Arison, is sleeping like a baby, without a care in the world. 

It looks like a beautiful morning in Giglio.

It's time to right the cursed ship and prepare to take her from her watery grave.

The "parbuckling" salvage efforts finally begins. 

 Giglio Costa Concordia

You can watch the Giglio News web cam here.

You can watch the Reuters live streaming web cam here.

Image Credit: Giglio News

One More Day Before the Costa Concordia Rises from the Sea

Monday morning the much talked about "parbuckling" project will finally start to try and raise the stricken Costa Concordia cruise ship from the port of Giglio.

I have clicked on the web cams at the port of Giglio hundreds of times since January of 2012 to see what has been happening with the Concordia at the little port.

There are high hopes that this extravagant and expensive project will finally rid Giglio of this Costa eyesore.  While there will be great excitement surrounding the event, the cruise ship  is still considered a crime scene. Thirty-two people died in the accident. Captain Schettino remains on trial for manslaughter, causing the wreck and abandoning ship. 

There are still two Concordia victims whose bodies have not been recovered and may be trapped on the ship somewhere.      

The removal of the shipwreck will in many ways be the removal of a watery graveyard.  It should be a serious and somber event. 

Costa Concordia Giglio Italy

Image Credit: Giglio News

Thomas Aquinas Ferry Collides with MV Sulpicio Express Cargo Ship: Hundreds of Passengers Missing

A maritime disaster is unfolding in the Philippines after the passenger ferry MV Thomas Aquinas sank after colliding with a large cargo ship, the MV Sulpicio Express, near the port of Cebu. 

The ferry was carrying 752 passengers, including children and infants, and 118 crew members. 

More than 200 people are missing after passengers were forced to jump into the water. Some managed to get into life rafts but many others were trapped into the ferry as it sank. Divers are combing through the sunken ferry, which rests at around 100 feet underwater, to retrieve the bodies of the missing. 629 people were rescued.

BBC News reports that maritime accidents are common in the Philippine waters because of badly maintained passenger vessels and weak enforcement of safety regulations.

The world's worst maritime disaster occurred in the Philippines in December 1987 when more than 4,000 people died after the Dona Paz ferry collided with a tanker and sank.

Photo Credit: Reuters (top) / Reuters (bottom)

Sulpicio Express - Thomas Aquinas Collision

Thomas Aquinas - Sulpicio Express

6 Years Later: Verdict in Deadly Sinking of Sea Diamond Cruise Ship

Long before Captain Schettino smashed the Costa Concordia into the rocks off of the coast of Giglio, another captain of a passenger cruise ship slammed his vessel into the rock and sank the ship.

Six years ago, the Sea Diamond cruise ship struck a reef and eventually sank off the coast of Santoniri. Two French cruise passengers drown. 

In both cases, the captain's poor navigational skills, recklessness and negligence in efficiently evacuating the cruise ship killed passengers.

Sea Diamond SinkingAfter a long legal proceeding, a  three judge panel in Piraeus sentenced the ship's captain to 12 years and two months in jail and sanctioned him €8,000 fine.  The judges sentenced an employee of DNV (Det Norske Veritas), which deemed the cruise ship seaworthy, to eight years.

The cruise ship, owned by Louis Hellenic Cruises, sank on April 6 2007 after ramming  a reef near the Aegean island of Santorini with 1,195 passengers and 391 crew on board.

A French man, Jean Christophe Allain (age 45) and his daughter Maud (age 16), died. 

According to a Greek newspaper, the judges also sentenced the navigation officer (two years and 10 months), chief engineer (two years and four months), company's legal representative (two years), an inspector/auditor (15 months) and a security officer (six months and a €600 fine).

The newspaper states that it is unlikely that anyone will serve actual jail time.

The judges acquitted the ship's first engineer officer, chief officer, chief steward and the cabin manager. 

After the verdict, Louis Hellenic vowed to appeal the decisions. 

Shameful: Costa Concordia Plea Deals Pervert Justice & Disrespect Victims

The big news this weekend in the on-again off-again Costa Concordia trial was the announcement that five Costa employees were sentenced to jail time for manslaughter in the death of 32 Concordia cruise passengers and crew members.

But you will see no photographs of the five men in court in handcuffs because there will be no actual jail time to be served, according to most news accounts. They will be serving suspended sentences. There appears to be no fines levied against the men in question:

Helmsman Jacob Rusli Bin:

Captain Schettino Costa ConcordaHotel Director Manrico Giampedroni:

Bridge Officer Ciro Ambrosio:

Crisis Coordinator Roberto Ferrarini; and 

Bridge Officer Silvia Coronica.

The bridge officers and the helmsman were sentenced to between 20 and 23 months in prison, while the hotel director received a two-year sentence, The crisis coordinator received a 34-month sentence.

Lawyers for the victims expressed their disgust with the sentences:

"The plea bargains are unacceptable, they shouldn't have been proposed or accepted. These sentences are ridiculous in the face of 32 dead,' said Gabriele dalle Luche in the Daily Mail, who represents a group of Russian passengers.

The BBC reports that Massimiliano Gabrielli, lawyer for the group Justice for Concordia, compared the "shameful" short length of the sentences to the seven years given to Emilio Fede, who was convicted of procuring prostitutes for former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The plea bargains leave disgraced cruise ship captain Schettino as the sole defendant. 

Many have criticized the legal proceeding, saying that Costa itself should also be on trial.  The cruise line previously agreed to a fine of $1.3 million to avoid all criminal charges. 

Domnica Cemortan Costa ConcordiaAs soon as the trial began, it was interrupted by a national strike by Italian lawyers. The trial has been again delayed after the lawyers for Schettino requested an opportunity to conduct tests on the cruise ship which remains capsized in the port of Giglio.

The trial itself has been a bizarre spectacle.  It is taking place in a large theater which may be an appropriate venue for such drama.

Captain Schettino has appeared in his sporty blue coat and sunglasses.  His alleged paramour, Moldovan dancer and former Costa hostess Domnica Cemortan, made an appearance to support Schettino. She was wearing attire suitable to a cocktail party and disrespectful to the dead passengers and crew members, while posing for the cameras. Her appearance added to the scandalous nature of the proceedings, given the fact that she is suing Costa for hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to newspapers, "for the damage to her reputation after it became known that Mr Schettino, who is married with young children, had wined and dined her aboard the Concordia." 

The soap opera is expected to resume in September.

 

Phorto Credits:

Schettino: The Independent

Ms.Cemortan: news.au

Another Judge Dismisses Costa Concordia Lawsuit Filed in Florida

Costa Concordia Last September Carnival won its first battle arising out of the January 2012 Costa Concordia disaster when U.S. District Court judge Robin Rosenbaum held that the lawsuits against Carnival should be filed in Italy.

In that case, a thousand businesses on the island of Giglio where the Concordia cruise ship ran aground near the harbor tried to sue Carnival in Florida because it is the parent company for Costa which is based in Genoa, Italy.

Yesterday another District Court judge dismissed a lawsuit by cruise passengers against Carnival. Federal Judge William Dimitrouleas held that the passengers' lawsuit should be filed in Italy.  

The ruling was expected from my point of view. The case involves an Italian cruise ship, operated by a company based in Italy, flying an Italian flag, captained by an Italian officer, which crashed in Italian waters and is being investigated by the Italian authorities.  

The case was filed on behalf of Massachusetts residents Adrian, Amanda and Brian Warrick and their parents, Wilhelmina and Ceilito Warrick. 

You can read other articles about this issue here.

L.A. Times Asks: Is Cruising Safer One Year After Costa Concordia?

The L.A. Times has an interesting article today about whether the new cruise safety proposals marketed to the public after the Concordia disaster are really making a difference.

Entitled Questions Linger One Year After the Costa Concordia Disaster, the article by L.A. Times reporter Mary Forgione asks some tough questions whether the cruise industry has taken the steps necessary to make cruising safer for the public.

Interviewed in the article are two cruise ship survivors who give the issue some true perspective. Weighing in for the cruise industry is former travel agent Christine Duffy, who is now head of the cruise Cruise Ship Safetytrade organization Cruise Line International Association, as well as cruise fan Carolyn Spencer Brown, who is the editor of the pro-cruise website and Expedia & Trip Advisor owned Cruise Critic.  

Ms. Forione interviewed me as the critic of the cruise industry, I suppose.

My take is that the proposals are rather modest. Plus there is no regulatory agency of any type which can actually enforce the proposals. The proposals are mostly happy-talk to try and convince the public that it's safe keep buying cruises. 

There are more pressing cruise safety issues to worry about that no one is talking about.

The risk of terrorism against a cruise ship is frightening, Consider this. But no one is discussing the inadequate, skeleton crews of security guards on cruise ships.

Nor is anyone focusing on the greatest risk to your family if you cruise. Sexual assault of children, girls and women. Just last week two officers aboard a Princess cruise ship were arrested on allegations that they raped a woman on the Grand Princess. No one is talking about that either. 

Cruise Ship Sinks in Egypt

King of the Nile Cruise Ship Sinking News sources in the Middle East are reporting that a cruise ship carrying 112 Egyptian passengers sank in the Nile River yesterday evening after striking large rocks. The Al-Ahram's news website report that the incident took place near the Egyptian cities of Kom Ombo and Aswan.

Reports are that all passengers safely disembarked the sinking vessel which is called the King of the Nile.

In November of last year, we reported on another cruise ship which caught on fire on the Nile.  77 tourists were aboard but got off safely.

You can read the article Fire Breaks Out During Cruise Down the Nile

Please contact us if you have any information or photos of this latest incident.

 

Photo credit: Ahram Arabic News Website

Titanic Redux? Can Royal Caribbean Safely Evacuate 8,500 Passengers & Crew from the Oasis of the Seas?

Oasis of the Seas - Viking Dual Evacuation Chute SystemA retired U.S. Coast Guard official called me last week about issues of cruise ship safety. We had an interesting hour and one-half discussion about whether modern cruise ships are designed to safely evacuate passengers and crew members in times of emergencies like fires or sinkings.   

Our conversation began with Royal Caribbean's biggest cruise ships in the world, the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas.  

Royal Caribbean touts these news ships as technological marvels of the world. But the evacuation procedures are strictly old-school.

Some aspects of the emergency abandon ship systems are flat-out dangerous. 

The cruise line's press releases mentions that the cruise ship has 18 lifeboats each with a 370 passenger capacity. It says that "lifeboats on Oasis of the Seas have been entirely redesigned and approved as part of a holistic evacuation concept."

But the truth of the matter is that Royal Caribbean had a major problem when it designed the largest cruise ships on the planet. There is a regulation stating that the maximum number of people permitted aboard a lifeboat is 150. There is no way that the cruise line could build a ship with over 55 lifeboats carrying 150 people each. So in order to cram enough people into lifeboats, the cruise line obtained a waiver to increase the maximum lifeboat capacity up to 370 people. 

Oasis of the Seas Canister Chute SystemRoyal Caribbean not only has the largest cruise ships in the world, but it has the largest lifeboats in the world.

But does it have enough?

18 lifeboats with a capacity of 370 equals only 6,660 people. Oasis has a total maximum population of around 8,500 when you count its capacity of around 6,300 passengers and 2,200 crew members. That means that there are around 1,850 people without the lifeboats which Royal Caribbean raves about.  

Royal Caribbean's press statement makes no mention of it, but those who are not assigned or cannot fit into the limited number of lifeboats must use "emergency evacuation chutes."  The term used on the Royal Caribbean ships is "Viking Dual Evacuation Chute."  What is this you may ask?  You won't find Royal Caribbean talking much about the chute system.   

If you look at photographs of the Oasis (or the Allure), along the side of the ship at deck 4 you will see three large lifeboats in-a-line leading from the stern. Then you will see a row of canisters (others may call then cylinders), looking like old depth charges, positioned one on top of the other on deck 4.    

Oasis of the Seas Emergency Evacuation Chute SystemWhen these canisters are opened (see video bottom), a life-raft inflates in the water below. (We are talking about life-rafts - not lifeboats). These life-rafts are connected to a series of chutes running up to deck 4. The passengers and/or crew evacuate the cruise ships by jumping into the entrance to this emergency evacuation apparatus on deck 4. They then rapidly slide / fall down a steep, vertical drop into the inflated life-raft below.

These type of devices are dangerous. There have been a significant number of people killed or seriously injured while trying to evacuate 4 or 5 stories down steep chutes like this. 

In November, I wrote an article about 20 crew members seriously injured in a drill using this type of system who suffered broken bones, sprained ankles, and friction burns during the steep descent. Further injuries were avoided only when other crew members refused to jump. A union representative characterized the evacuation system as "unsuitable and dangerous."      

PBS aired a documentary on behalf of "Inside Nova" which looked at the Oasis of the Seas' evacuation procedures. PBS videotaped the operation of the chutes. In the video below you can see crew members tugging on the chute when suddenly a crew member comes flying out - landing violently on Oasis of the Seas Chute Evacuation Systemhis buttocks. After catching his breath, he exclaims "I got stuck!"

Now the first reaction to the video may be that it seems funny. But if you think about it for a second, it is actually terrifying. The placard on the cruise ship shows families with little kids and infants who are lining up to jump. The drawing on the ship actually show a mother clinging to her infant sailing down the chute a few feet above another passenger while a large man is jumping into the chute above her. I cannot imagine a more dangerous scenario.

Can you imagine what would happen if a 235 lb man lands on a 130 lb woman holding on to her 25 lb infant at the bottom of the chute?  Serious injury would occur.  Serious head injuries are likely if multiple people and children are in the chute at the same time. Far fetched?  Hardly. This scenario is actually depicted in the instructional drawings on the Oasis itself.

Royal Caribbean may say that only crew members are suppose to use this system. That's mentioned on the PBS video where you can see photographs of the chute system. That does not say much for the cruise line's consideration of the safety of its own crew.  

But why do the drawings of the chute system depict passengers with children and mothers clinging onto their infants descending the chutes?  These images are directly from Royal Caribbean's cruise ships. And if in fact only crew members are assigned to the chutes, why should they be subject to such dangers on a cruise ship which its owners tout as the safest ship in the world?

The other issue to consider, of course, is what happens if the Oasis suffers a Costa Concordia type of accident where the cruise ship lifts heavily to one side?  As we know from the Concordia, the lifeboats could not be deployed once the ship listed to 22 degrees.  Half of the Concordia lifeboats, on the port side of the vessel, were useless once the ship listed to the starboard side.  If anything like this happens on the Oasis, there will be a riot where passengers and crew fight to get into the remaining Abandon Ship Oasis of the Seaslifeboats and the rest will be left to take their chances jumping down the chutes hoping to land in a raft many stories below. 

Then there are the wind and sea conditions. All of the drills for the Oasis or Allure take place on sunny days in the calm waters of the Caribbean. Take a look here for an example.  Around and around the lifeboats drive in the protected waters of a beautiful lagoon in the Caribbean. What fun.

But what happens when these ships are re-positioned to Europe, Indonesia or Australia where there are high seas and unpredictable weather?  After all, Royal Caribbean is ordering more Oasis class monster ships right now. Trying to evacuate thousands of people down chutes into life-rafts in high waves and winds could be a disaster. There is also the risk of the tether ropes breaking, the chutes twisting, or the life-rafts ripping away from the chutes.

I for one would hate to think of anyone's spouse, or kids, or parents, whether they are crew or passengers, having to jump into an evacuation chute and fall 50 feet into a raft in rough seas.  

A chute and a raft are hardly a "holistic" approach to survival.  It's a disappointing and antiquated way of trying to save lives on the supposedly most sophisticated cruise ship in the world.

Don't forget to watch the video of the chute system below:       

        

 

What are your thoughts on this evacuation system?  If you are a crew member, have you ever been down a chute like this? Join the discussion on our Facebook page.  

Anger & Anguish Continue One Year after Costa Concordia

NBC News has an interesting article about the continuing struggle many survivors of the Costa Concordia disaster are experiencing one year later. 

The victims' anguish has been exacerbated by the insensitivity demonstrated by Costa and parent company Carnival.  

 A memorial service for the victims will mark the anniversary tomorrow. 

 

 

New Video Shows Perilous Last Minutes of Costa Concordia Evacuation

A newspaper in Italy has posted a video of the frantic last moments of the evacuation of the stricken Costa Concordia.  

The video obtained by La Repubblica is taken by a bystander from the island of Giglio. The cruise ship has already listed heavily to the starboard side and the water has risen to the deck where passengers and crew members are seen. I first watched the video today on Worldcrunch which describes the video as containing audio of the "panicked voices and the crashing sound of dishes."  

Click on the link here to watch the video. 

CEO Micky Arison & Other Carnival Directors Named in Costa Concordia Criminal Complaint

Micky Arison Costa ConcordiaThe Week magazine in the U.K. reports that Italian lawyers are filing a criminal complaint against Carnival CEO Micky Arison as well as other American and British directors of Costa's dual listed parent companies, Carnival Corporation and Carnival PLC. 

The article written by Andrea Vogt, "Costa Concordia: UK Directors to be Named Responsible for Capsize," explains that lawyers for Costa Concordia victims allege that the Carnival directors "not only tolerated but promoted" the ship salute that led to the disaster in order to entertain the passengers and boost profits. 

Ms. Vogt explains that new evidence to be filed in the case alleges that criminal responsibility for the deadly wreck does not stop with Captain Schettino, "but goes all the way to the top."

The criminal complaint will be filed in Grosseto, Italy, by an Italian law firm in Milan.

It names 14 Carnival directors, including Sir John Parker, chairman of Anglo American plc and vice chairman of DP World Limited; Sir Jonathon Band, former First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff; Arnold Donald, president and CEO of the Executive Leadership Counsel; Debra Kelly-Ennis, former president and CEO of Diageo Canada; and Micky Arison, chief executive of Carnival. 

Arison was roundly criticized for trying to distance himself from the Concordia disaster.  He is photographed above standing in front of the Concordia with Costa CEO Foschi. 

Countdown to One Year Anniversary of Costa Concordia Disaster

The one year anniversary of the Costa Concordia disaster is one week away.

You will begin to see daily stories about the survivors and families whose loved ones did not survive the disaster.  There will be a wide variety of articles about how the victims are handling their lives at this point.

Some people have seemed to have largely put the terrible incident behind them. Others are struggling emotionally and physically. Some passengers settled their case and have tried to move on. Some crew members resolved their differences and are back to work with Costa on other cruise ships. Other passengers and crew are Francesco Schettino just now pursuing legal action and face a different year or two ahead of them.

Here are some of the recent stories:

29 year-old Kentucky resident Lauren Moore was sailing aboard the ill-fated cruise ship with her friends when disaster struck. She says: "It's not easy for me to forget. I remember the sounds of the screaming. I remember the feeling of the boat going over on its side."

"People being shoved, people screaming, people fighting each other for a spot to safe their life. My friend and I grabbed hands and we never let go of each other until we were safe on land."  Lauren says that she remembers the sights and sounds of the horrible events that claimed the lives of 32 people every day. she chose to accept the cruise line's settlement offer last year.  One year after the disaster, she now wants to celebrate the fact that she and her friends are alive on the one year anniversary.  You can watch a video of Lauren here

Ian and Janice Donoff of London were among the last to escape the death ship. An article in Haaretz explains that the couple are religiously observant and spent the day in Rome, returning to the ship early to prepare for Shabbat. After dinner they watched a magic show when they heard a loud bang and scrape.  Around 11:00 PM the abandon ship order was finally made resulting in panic, Janice recalled "everybody was clamoring for the lifeboats."

The Donoffs found themselves stuck in an inner section with 400 other people and only one exit. Ian recited the confessional Jewish prayer before death.  They eventually made it to an outer deck, and crawled down a rope ladder to a lifeboat. Janice broke bones in her hands and feet. On dry land they recited the "Birkat Hagomel" (the blessing of Thanksgiving ).

Costa offered 11,000 Euros in compensation for lost property, but the Donoffs did not accept the sum. They have considered suing and are currently negotiating with the company. The article states that they harbor no ill will toward Captain Schettino.

Mylene Litzler, 23 and her fiancé Mickael Blemand, 24, from France, are two of the 32 people who perished.  The Telegraph published an excellent article entitled Costa Concordia survivors: "One Year On, Our Lives Are Still in Ruins" which included comments by Mylene's father: “I absolutely want to see the commander and a part of his crew in prison for this. It has broken a whole life – ours, as well as Mickael’s parents’ and that of Mylene’s brother. Justice needs to be done.”   

British victims, Rose Metcalf Amelia Leon from South London, suffer from flashbacks, nightmares and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They are some of the clients of the English law firm, Irwin Mitchel, who are representing crew members and passengers against Costa. One of the lawyers told a newspaper in the U.K.:  “We believe that the initial impact could have been avoided and that this was Costa Concordia Giglio Italyicompounded by the failure of the crew, the captain, and the carrier to exercise proper evacuation processes. Had they been carried out lives may have been saved.”

Newlywed couple Benji Smith and Emily Lau were on their wedding cruise when disaster struck. They scavenged a rope from the deck of the ship and rappelled down the hull. "I've never been so terrified in my life," says Smith. "When all the lifeboats left us behind, Emily and I truly thought we were going to die. This was our honeymoon cruise, but we actually said goodbye to each other." They recently announced that they are publishing a memoir of their experience escaping from the sinking ship and an album of original compositions inspired by the disaster.

Captain Francesco Schettino appears again in the news today, lamenting in his usual hyperbole that "I have been painted as worse than bin Laden."  

The cruise industry claims that the cruise lines have instituted improvements to avoid the next Concordia disaster. Carnival U.K. chief David Dingle explains to ITV in a video that the cruise lines have started more drills for passengers and staff, extra life jackets, fewer visits to the bridge, ships keeping to course and heavy objects being secured.  

Meanwhile the Concordia lies in the port of Giglio. It is expected to be removed from the port at the end of next summer.

 

Photo credit:

Top - Francesco Schettino - AP

Bottom - Costa Concordia - Giglio News (image dated September 2012).

Sixty Minutes Takes a Look at Costa Concordia

Tonight the Sixty Minutes television program airs a special on the Costa Concordia disaster. The program will discuss how the cruise ship capsized and will also examine the steps now being taken to salvage the ship. The plan is to right the cruise ship so that it can be floated out of the little port of Giglio and taken to a ship yard to be cut up for scrap. You can read more about the salvage project in our article: Removal of the Costa Concordia: What's The Parbuckling Project?  

The Sixty Minute preview is below:

 

Luxury Car Carrier Sinks After Collision With Cargo Ship, 11 Crew Members Dead or Missing

Corvus J Container Ship Collision Baltic AceBBC News reports that a collision between a cargo ship, the German owned and Cyprus-registered Corvus J, and a car carrier, the Greek owned and Bahamian-flagged Baltic Ace, resulted in the sinking of the Baltic Ace.

Eleven crew members from the Baltic Ace are lost or missing in the freezing waters of the North Sea. There are conflicting reports whether 3 or 4 crew members are confirmed dead.

The accident reportedly took place 40 miles off the coast of Belgium and the Netherlands, after the 148-meter Baltic Ace sailed from Zeebrugge heading to Kotka, Finland. The 134-meter Corvus J was sailing from Grangemouth, Scotland to Antwerp, Belgium. The shipping lanes in this area, some 60 miles from Rotterdam, are very busy. 

14 crew members in lifeboats were rescued notwithstanding high winds and heavy seas. Several Dutch Coast Guard helicopters and two navy patrol ships are searching for the remaining crew members.

The Corvus J is reportedly damaged but not in danger of sinking. Her crew of twelve are still on board.

A Dutch blog suggests that some of the cars on the carrier included a number of new ultra luxury automobiles, including 8 Bentleys, 6 Rolls-Royce drophead coupes, 4 Lamborghinis and 12 Ferraris.

December 6, 2012 Update: VesselFinder.com posted a video of the AiS info on the collision on YouTube which is below:

  

 

Photo of Corvus J: visserijnieuws.punt.nl 

Latest CLIA Safety Policies: Too Little & Too Late

Pacific Sun Storm - Cruise Ship MayhamTravel Weekly reports that the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) announced three new policies designed to supposedly improve cruise ship safety after the Costa Concordia disaster earlier this year. 

It's great PR for the cruise industry. But like the other post-Concordia CLIA policies, there's not much substance to the new procedures.

One policy talks about storing more life vests at the muster stations, but some cruise ships (like the Oasis of the Seas) store the life vests in the cabins.

A second policy is something about "standardizing bridge procedures across a brand's fleet, and across different brands under the same ownership."  Huh?  Not sure what procedures CLIA is thinking about. It seems like this means that all Costa ships, for example, or all brands owned by Carnival could have one procedure but there will be different procedures for other ships and other companies like Royal Caribbean or NCL.  Why not one uniform procedure for all cruise ships?

The third "new" policy mentions using "tie-downs or other means of locking down heavy objects such as pianos, televisions, treadmills and laundry equipment that could cause injuries if they shift unexpectedly."

Does this mean that cruise ships currently don't have such a policy?  That's remarkable.

Consider the CCTV images of the Pacific Sun cruise ship hit by rough seas where literally everything in sight was sliding violently across the cruise ship's decks.  The video was filmed in 2008.  It has been over 4 years since the video was filmed. The cruise industry is only now finally thinking of a tie-down policy? 

 

Removal of the Costa Concordia: What's The Parbuckling Project?

The cover photograph on my facebook page is a Reuters photo of the capsized Costa Concordia.  A number of people have said that they were tired of the photo and asked me when I plan to change the photo?    

I'll admit that I'm tired of seeing the Concordia lying on its side at the port of Giglio. But probably not as tired as the people in Giglio who have to see this stricken cruise ship every morning when they wake up and look out their windows.

I said that I'll change the photo when Costa finally tows the sunken monster out of Giglio port and takes it to a scrap yard.  

Some people didn't realize that the cruise ship has not moved since the fateful night of January 13th. Others asked how Costa planned to remove the ship.

Which brings us to the "Parbuckling Project," a/k/a the Concordia wreck removal project. 

Costa plans to float the cruise ship into a vertical position and then float the ship and tow it away. "Parbuckling" is the technical term for the process of rotation of the wreck to a vertical position.  Not as simple as it sounds, but that's the plan. 

In partnership with Titan / Micoperi, Costa has created a website which explains and illustrates the removal plans. You can see some interesting diagrams and photos which will be updated as the project progresses. 

 

Credit: Noticias de Cruceros

With HMS Bounty Sunk, Nothing Left But Bickering

HMS Bounty - Hurricane SandyWith the HMS Bounty falling victim to the wrath of Hurricane Sandy, an ugly spectacle is playing out on the tall ship's facebook page

Lots of people are leaving comments criticizing the decision of the captain (Robin Walbridge) to try and sail through the storm, while others are praising the captain (still lost at sea) as a skilled and brave mariner.

I am not going to wade into the debate, except to say that when I first learned that the Bounty was trying to make it through the hurricane I was shocked.  You can read our first article here.

Yes, there is a saying that it is safer for the ship to be at sea rather than at port (where the ship can sustain serious damage such as striking a pier), but there is no question that it is safer for the crew to be ashore rather than on the high seas trying to navigate around a monster storm like this.

Memories of the Fantome, lost in Hurricane Mitch in 1998, come to mind - A Cornered Ship, 32 Men and a Date With Doom

The Bounty's facebook page contains some eerie reading as communications from the captain were posted on line explaining his strategy as he tried to skirt the hurricane.  

HMS Bounty - Hurricane SandyHere's an excerpt of one of the captain's last communications

"I think we are going to be into this for several days, the weater looks like even after the eye goes by it will linger for a couple of days

We are just going to keep trying to go fast and squeese by the storm and land as fast as we can.

I am thinking that we will pass each other sometime Sunday night or Monday morning

All else is well."

The Tall Ships Organization issued a statement asking for there to be no speculation about the incident and for the public to support the crew and hope for Captain Walbridge’s safe return.

Notably missing from the statement is any mention of crew member, 42-year-old Claudene Christian, who died in the ordeal. 

 

Photo credits: Sunken HMS Bounty - U.S. Coast Guard

Weather - HMS Bounty facebook page

Hurricane Sandy Causes Cruise Ships to Scatter

While some cruise ships have elected to hunker down in port and ride out Hurricane Sandy, other ships such as the Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas and Carnival's Miracle are out at sea trying to skirt the high seas and high winds. ABC News reports: 

 

 

Hurricane Sandy Sinks HMS Bounty - 14 Rescued, 2 Missing at Sea

The HMS Bounty, a three masted sailing ship which was built for the 1962 movie Mutiny on the Bounty starring Marlon Brando and more recently was featured in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, sank in the Atlantic after encountering high winds and heavy seas brought by Hurricane Sandy.

The ship was reportedly sailing from Connecticut to St. Petersburg, Florida when it began taking on water and lost propulsion last night. 

According to the HMS Bounty Organization's website, the ship's position was off the coast of North HMS Bounty - Sank - Hurricane SandyCarolina, at N 34°22' W 074°15'. 

There were 16 people aboard the ship including crew as well as passengers.

Last night, the Coast Guard dispatched a C-130 aircraft to the area. This morning two Coast Guard helicopters arrived and hoisted 14 people who had abandoned ship and were in 25-foot lifeboats. Two individuals are missing.

The news accounts raise the question why the ship was sailing given the advance warnings of the storm.

The situation reminds me of the loss of the Windjammer Fantome, a tall masted ship which sank in 1998 during Hurricane Mitch.

October 29, 2012 Update:  ABC News is reporting that the two individuals lost at sea went overboard when they were attempting to transfer to lifeboats. "What we know is that the whole crew was getting ready to board the life rafts, and as they were about to board, three people ended up on the water. One was able to get out [of the water] and get into rafts, and the other two are still unaccounted," Lt. Junior Grade Brendan Selerno told ABCNews.com.

The survivors were taken to Air Station Elizabeth City in North Carolina. Two people were admitted to the hospital, one with a broken arm and another with an injured back.

Other news sources are reporting that one of two missing crewmembers, 42-year-old Claudene Christian, was found this evening but she was npn-responsive.  The 63-year-old captain, Robin Walbridge, remains missing.

A video of the Coast Guard rescue is below.  it is dramatic; you can hear one of the crew say the "raft flipped 2 PIW" (two people in water).

October 31, 2012 Update: The U.S. Coast Guard is continuing to search for the captain and is hopeful that he may still alive in his survival gear.

 

Costa Concordia Hearings: Looking Beyond Schettino

Today's hearing in the packed theater in Grosetto regarding the Costa Concordia disaster adjourned. It was a curious day.

Captain Schettino previously denied all of the legal charges which been mentioned in the press: manslaughter of 32 passengers and crew members, causing a shipwreck, and abandoning ship. But the Chicago Tribune reports that when Schettino met face-to-face with some survivors and families of the dead, believe it or not, he apologized to them.

There appears to be a tactic acknowledgment, it seems to me, that Schettino admits to his part in causing the accident, notwithstanding his insensitive and egotistic rantings over the past many months. Now his defense lawyer, Bruno Leporatti, wishes to spread the blame around.

U.S. personal injury lawyers who attended the hearing are eager to help with that task. Two American lawyers were mentioned in the press, Mississippi lawyer John Eaves and New York lawyer Peter Ronai. Ronai's comment outside of the hearings "there was no reason for anyone to die" was widely circulated. It resonated with me. 

The U.S. lawyers are on the scene looking to cull evidence that may help their lawsuits filed against Costa and parent cruise line Carnival in the U.S.  Eaves filed a highly publicized lawsuit against Carnival in Galveston and even temporarily seized a Carnival cruise ship earlier this year.  Ronai made the news by filing a lawsuit on behalf of 4 Hungarian dancers employed on the Concordia in which he sued for the astronomical sum of $200,000,000.

None of these lawsuits filed in the U.S. will make it to trial, as I have stated before, and will be dismissed with leave to re-file them in Italy.  But the focus of the lawyers for survivors and Schettino are united: point the finger at the executives ashore in Italy as well as in Miami where Carnival is based. Yes, Schettino's negligence is obvious and his attitude is maddening. But there many factors that played a part in 32 people dying unnecessary, just a few hundred feet from the little port of Giglio. 

Poor training, out-of-date maps which lacked detail, malfunctioning equipment, language barriers, and a corporate culture of recklessness have all been cited as examples of corporate malfeasance which may have played a part - perhaps a secondary part - in causing the deaths.

  

 

Video credit; AP

Who's to Blame? Costa Concordia Criminal Hearing Begins in Italy

Today the hearing begins in Grosseto, Italy to determine who should be named as defendants in the criminal trial involving the deadly Costa Concordia disaster.

The potential defendants from the cruise ship include infamous Captain Schettino who was at the helm when he maneuvered the ship into the rocks, as well as the ship’s second-in-command, three officers who were on the bridge, and a safety official who falsely told the Italian Coast Guard the cruise ship merely experienced an electrical failure.  

Executives of Costa are also being investigated for their roles in the accident.

The international press is closely covering the hearing. Maritime and scientific experts are expected to Costa Concordia Cruise Shiptestify based on their review of "black box" data and other information. The Italian judge will review the expert's' findings and opinions to determine who should stand trial. 

Hundreds of survivors and their counsel are expected to attend, 

Costa's plan has been to dump all of the blame on its captain, which is easy to do given his conduct. But there remains concerns that the cruise line supplied out of date maps and poorly trained the crew. How all of this plays out should be interesting.

The fact that hearings like this and a trial will take place are rather remarkable events. Most maritime casualties involving cruise ships do not end up with trials like this. Lots of information has already been "leaked."  If the disaster involved a cruise ship flagged in places like the Bahamas or Panama, there would be no hearings or trials whatsoever. Those countries would certainly exonerate their cruise line masters who choose to register their ships in and pay fees to third world flag states for friendly treatment.

Italy - where the Concordia was flagged and Costa is based - should be applauded for the efficiency and professionalism demonstrated by the Italian court system so far.

 

Photo credit: CNN

LPG Tanker - Ferry Collision Leaves 8 Passengers Dead

Bahuga Jaya SinkingEight passengers from the cruise ferry Bahuga Jaya are reported dead after a collision in Indonesian waters.

The LPG tanker Norgas Cathinka struck and sank the Bahuga Jaya, which is a Ro-Ro passenger cruise ferry vessel, near the port of Merak, Indonesia. 

The accident took place on Wednesday. Eight passengers on the cruise ferry were initially reported missing. Seven bodies were located and one passenger was found still alive but later died in the hospital.

The large LPG tanker is operated by IM Skaugen Group member Norgas Carriers Pte Ltd of Singapore.

September 29, 2012 Update: Vessl Tracker has this information:

"30 people were still missing on Sep 28, two days after the sinking of the 2Jaya Bugha" with more than two hundred people on board off Sumatra. Eight bodies have been recovered so far, while 207 people have been rescued. The number of passengers and crew was not accurately known. 30 people were reported missing by relatives. The possibility that they survived was very low. The ferry was carrying about 78 vehicles in which passengers might have remained trapped."

 

 

Photo credit: Harian Terbit

Costa CEO to Oversee Carnival Corporation Growth in Asia

Pier Luigi Foschi - Costa Cruise - Carnival AsiaThe cruise blog Noticias de Cruceros published an interesting article today about the former president and CEO of Costa Crociere, Pier Luigi Foschi.

It seems that Mr. Luigi, who supposedly "retired" last July following the Concordia disaster, has been selected by the Carnival Corporation as the president and CEO of a new business new unit in Asia to monitor the growth strategies of the company on that continent.

In his new position, Foschi will be responsible for setting up the new company's corporate offices in Singapore and to direct and assist the operating units of the company in its business ventures in Asia.

Currently, the Asian operations of Carnival Corporation include two ships of Costa Cruises, based in China and Singapore, as well as the Princess Cruises' Sun Princess which will will begin a series of routes from Japan next spring.

Mr. Foschi will continue in his current position as president and CEO of the Costa group, and will remain a member of the board of directors of Carnival Corporation.  As the president of Carnival Asia, he extensive experience in the Asian market, having overseen Costa entry in the region in 2006.

 

Photo Credit:  LaStampa.it

Italian Experts Criticize Costa Too for Concordia Disaster

Costa Cruise Line - Costa Crociere - Concordia Cruise ShipExperts selected by the Italian magistrate presiding over the investigation into the Concordia disaster have criticized the Costa cruise line in addition to the Concordia cruise ship's reckless captain.   

Notwithstanding the cruise industry's media campaign to portray the incident as solely the result of Captain Schettino's renegade conduct, the Italian experts included criticisms of Costa in their initial opinions submitted to the magistrate in Genoa.

The experts studied black box data, recordings of conversations of the officers, and nautical maps. 

The criticisms include:  

  • Costa delayed alerting coastal authorities of the emergency. 
  • Costa's "fleet crisis coordinator," Roberto Ferrarini, did not promptly inform Schettino to order the passengers and crew to abandon ship when he learned that three compartments were flooded which compromised the vessel's stability.  
  • The crew members were untrained, unprepared and not certified for emergencies.
  • Language barrier between crew members compromised the navigation of the ship and complicated the evacuation of the ship.  Indonesian helmsman at one point before the crash veered to the right despite being told to go left.

These criticisms seem rather restrained to me.  Costa did not even have a protocol to require muster station drills before sailing for goodness sake!  The cruise line has been criticized in the press for permitting and approving "fly-bys" or "salutes" which is the root cause of the disaster.

Costa categorically denied all responsibility for the deaths and dismissed all of these criticisms.

The next hearing is scheduled for October 15th.   

 

Logo credit: FunnyJunk.com

Will Costa Concordia Passengers Be Able to Sue Costa and Carnival in the U.S.?

Costa Concordia Lawsuit The Associated Press just published an article about the hundreds of passengers and crew members who have filed suit against Costa and Carnival here in the U.S. following the Costa Concordia disaster.

A number of newspapers are running the story, as well as TIME magazine which carried the article "Passengers Suing Carnival Cruises for Millions over Costa Concordia Shipwreck." 

Miami lawyer Gabrielle D’Alemberte, who represents five U.S. citizens suing in Florida, explains some of the drawbacks about trying to sue in Italy. She is quoted in the article explaining that Italy does not allow attorneys to work on a contingency fee basis in which the lawyer’s fee comes out of any settlement or verdict. She also states that compensation for pain and suffering and emotional distress are harder if not impossible to collect in Italy. “This was traumatizing at every level . . . That’s a cause of action in this country. It’s not in Italy.”

Travel Agent Central, in an article written by Susan Young, published an article today explaining the jurisdictional difficulties that the passengers will face suing here in the U.S.  The article is entitled Lawsuits Target Carnival Corp. in the U.S. But Will They Succeed? and quoted me extensively.

I would like to see all of the passengers and crew members obtain great success suing both Costa and Carnival here in the U.S. Costa's settlement offer of less than $15,000 is a joke, but I think that prospect of suing in Italy will be prohibitively expensive and time consuming and the outcome uncertain..  I think ultimately the cases here in the U.S. will be kicked out of court. 

I hope I'm wrong but I don't think I am.  You can read my thoughts about the prospects of successfully keeping the cases here in the U.S.in the article here.    

The Washington Post covered the story and included the video interview of lawyer D’Alemberte, as well as Miami attorney Robert Peltz below: 

 

 

 

Photo credit: Travel Agent Central

 

Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire

Recently released "black box" recordings from the Costa Concordia reveal that Captain Schettino deliberately misled his passengers, the Italian Coast Guard and even his wife about the true conditions of the doomed cruise ship.

Immediately after the collision at 9:45 PM, Schettino is heard saying: "Madonna what have I done?"

He then calls the engine room and asks: "Are we really going down?"

Three minutes later, after learning that the ship is sinking, Schettino instructs an officer on the bridge to tell passengers that "there has been a blackout."

Ten minutes later he calls the Italian Coast Guard and says: "We've had a blackout, we're just evaluating . . . at most we're going to need a tugboat."

For the next hour, he resisted his officers pleas to give an abandon ship order. 

As the delayed evacuation finally started, Schettino called his wife and told her that everything was "under control." 

The voice recordings are not particularly surprising. Remember this is the captain who made certain that his girlfriend was one of the first into a lifeboat.  He left the sinking ship before all of the passengers and crew were in lifeboats, leaving many to die. He tried to justify his abandonment of the ship by claiming that he "tripped" and fell into a lifeboat.  

 

Captain Schettino - Costa Concordia - Liar Liar Pants on Fire

 

“Liar, liar, pants on fire" is a paraphrased version of the 1810 poem “The Liar” by William Blake.

Deceiver, dissembler
Your trousers are alight
From what pole or gallows
Shall they dangle in the night?

When I asked of your career
Why did you have to kick my rear
With that stinking lie of thine
Proclaiming that you owned a mine?

When you asked to borrow my stallion
To visit a nearby-moored galleon
How could I ever know that you
Intended only to turn him into glue?

What red devil of mendacity
Grips your soul with such tenacity?
Will one you cruelly shower with lies
Put a pistol ball between your eyes?

What infernal serpent
Has lent you his forked tongue?
From what pit of foul deceit
Are all these whoppers sprung?

Deceiver, dissembler
Your trousers are alight
From what pole or gallows
Do they dangle in the night?

Six Months After Costa Concordia Disaster, Ship Remains Offshore

 

Video: CBS  "Captain Schettino remains the most reviled man in Italy." 

Costa Concordia Survivors Describe 'Goliath' Fight Against Cruise Industry

Captain Schettino: "I F---ed Up!" - Black Box Reveals the Truth

Yesterday, we discussed Captain Schettino's paid interview with an Italian news station where he blamed a junior officer for the Concordia disaster, claiming that he entered the bridge only after the cruise ship hit the rocks.  He says that he ordered the navigation to be manual in an effort to save the ship.

But today, investigators have leaked information to the Italian press which directly contradict Schettino's "I-didn't-do-it" excuse. The ship's "black box" shows that Schettino disabled the automatic pilot and took control of the ship at 9:39 PM that night - six minutes before the collision at 9:45 p.m. (photo shows Italian Coast Guard recovering black box from cruise ship). 

Costa Concordia Black BoxThe Corriere della Sera newspaper obtained the black box audio recordings which revealed panic on the Concordia's bridge.

According to the Vancouver Sun, an unidentified officer yelled: "Our ass is dragging along the seabed!." Schettino responded: "What did we hit?" to which the officer replied: "The reef."

Another officer said: "It was the salute that he wanted," apparently referring to the "sail by" Schettino tried to perform. At 9:56 PM Schettino telephoned Roberto Ferrarini, an officer at Costa Cruises:

"Roberto, I f-- up!" he said, according to the transcript. "Look, I'm dying here, don't tell me anything."

In the U.S., statements like this are called "excited utterances" and are admissible as evidence to show the defendant's state of mind at the time (before a defendant can begin to plot and scheme and come up with an excuse). 

A preliminary hearing remains scheduled for July 21, 2012 where additional technical information will be submitted to the presiding Italian judge.

 

Photo credit:  Reuters

NBC to Broadcast Special Report on Costa Concordia

On Thursday night at 10:00 PM, NBC will broadcast a special report on the Costa Concordia during an episode of Rock Center With Brian Williams.  The special will features a story about the survivors of Italy’s Costa Concordia shipwreck, and the rights that they unknowingly signed away when they boarded the ship. Here's the introduction to the NBC special called "Costa Concordia Survivors Battle Cruise Line for Settlements:"

Six months after the Costa Concordia shipwreck, many survivors are frustrated and angry. Only after their nightmare did they realize that cruise ships are far less accountable than airlines or railroads. In buying their cruise tickets, they signed away rights that Americans usually take for granted. Harry Smith reports on Thursday’s new episode of Rock Center on NBC:

 

Delusional & Grandiose: Captain Schettino Claims That He & God Diverted Disaster!

Captain Schettino - Costa Concordia Earlier today I blogged that the Italian judges released Costa Captain Schettino of the doomed Concordia cruise ship from house arrest. The judges also released him from the strict prohibition against speaking with anyone other than his lawyer and close family friends.  

So by this afternoon we have one of Captain Schettino's first statements.

It's a whopper.

AFP quotes Schettino saying that a "divine hand" guided him and saved lives. 

"A divine hand surely touched my head . . . If I had continued on that path the ship's prow would have hit the rock. It would have been carnage." 

"There are those who say the impact with the stern was caused because I was suffering from a hallucination. What hallucination! It was rather my instinct, my skills, the ability to know the sea and suddenly change direction."

Ah, a coward captain who killed 32 innocent souls but now thanks himself and his co-pilot God.

The Italian judges should send Schettino to a mental institution.   

Costa Captain Schettino Released From House Arrest

Captain Schettino - Costa ConcordiaReuters is reporting that yesterday Italian judges released the captain of the doomed Costa Concordia cruise ship  from house arrest. 

Francesco Schettino was arrested following his abandonment of the Concordia on on January 13th in a disaster in which 30 passengers and crew died and two people are lost and presumed dead.

The judges in Grosseto, Italy said Schettino would no longer have to remain confined to his home in Meta di Sorrento but would have to remain in his home town. He would also no longer be bound by the strict conditions of house arrest which prevented him from communicating with anyone other his lawyer and close family.

According to Reuters, the judges indicated that the time Schettino spent under house arrest had a deterrent effect and he would remain under supervision by authorities.

Schettino faces charges of multiple counts of manslaughter, causing the accident and abandoning ship prematurely. 

CNN's "Cruise to Disaster" Airs Tonight

CNN - Cruise to Disaster Costa Concordia DisasterTonight CNN will broadcast "Cruise to Disaster," a documentary into the Costa Concordia disaster. Here is the lead in to the CNN special program:

"What we found will be unsettling for anyone who has taken or is thinking of taking a cruise: allegations of inadequate safety briefings and chaos in the minutes after the collision; a captain who failed to sound a general alarm for almost an hour, meaning vital, lifesaving assemblies at lifeboat stations did not take place; and a crew that felt unable to act without clear orders from their captain.

In some cases, lifeboats were not able to be launched because by the time the general alarm finally sounded at 10:48 p.m., the ship was leaning over too far to allow the lifeboats to launch. Thirty-two people died in the Concordia disaster.

We learned that 6,000 tons of water entered the Concordia in just 20 minutes. For a ship three times the weight of the Titanic, it was fatal. Almost immediately, key equipment in the engine room was knocked out. The ship's backup generators were flooded.

Computers that monitor the ship's stability were also compromised. CNN's documentary team obtained remarkable footage from the ship's bridge that revealed Captain Francesco Schettino grappling with a situation that was already out of control. His ship had a hole below the waterline the width of a football field.

We also found compelling evidence that Schettino's decision to "salute" the island of Giglio by sailing perilously close caused the accident, but also that this wasn't the first time the Costa Concordia had sailed within a few hundred yards of the rocks.

Schettino is still awaiting trial on multiple charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship. Schettino escaped the ship on a lifeboat while the ship was capsizing. A transcript of his tense exchange with Port Authority officials can be read here, including their order to him to "Get on board, damn it!"

Here is the video introduction to the program tonight which airs at 8:00 PM EST:

 

Unapproved Maps & Faulty Instruments Add To Costa Concordia's Woes

A newspaper in Italy is reporting that the doomed Costa Concordia  was sailing with its sealed doors open, unapproved maps and faulty instruments, based on information leaked from investigators.

The Milan daily newspaper Corriere della Sera states that a court hearing is scheduled on July 21st when the full results of technical analysis will be revealed. Captain Francesco Schettino and eight others including three executives from Costa Crociere are under investigation.

Costa ConcordiaThe "black box" was also reportedly not working at the time of the capsizing. Emails cited by Corriere della Sera indicate hat the cruise ship was scheduled for repairs. "The Vdr (Voyage Data Recorder) has broken down for the umpteenth time . . . The situation is becoming unbearable," Costa Crociere's technical director Pierfrancesco Ferro is quoted as saying.

An officer on board questioned by investigators also reportedly said sealed doors were open at the time of the impact as "this was a practice used during the navigation to ease the flow of people who were at work."  I assume this refers to the water-tight doors in the lower crew decks,

Costa denies the black box was malfunctioning and blames its captain, Schettino, if the maps on board were not authorized.

When the full results of the technical investigation are revealed later this month, I am sure that there will be enough blame for everyone to be shared.

PBS / NOVA Cruise Special: "Why Ships Sink"

The PBS / NOVA cruise documentary "Why Ships Sink" is now available to be watched on line.  

The documentary takes a look at cruise ship safety from the time of the Titanic to the recent disaster of the Costa Concordia.  The story about the sinking of the Oceanos which was abandoned by the arrogant captain is interesting.  You would never imagine who the hero was who came to the passengers' assistance.

I am interviewed at various times on the program.

A short introduction to the program is below.   

  

Watch the entire video here.

 

 

 

 

 

The Cruise Industry is Now Officially Out of Control

Yesterday was one of the stranger days in the weird world of cruising.

Royal Caribbean reported a 40% drop in net income for the first quarter of this year.  Its net income was $47 million, down from $78.4 million a year earlier. Royal Caribbean's CEO Richard Fain attributed the decline in net income on the Costa Concordia tragedy but said that he doesn't think that the effects of the Concordia disaster would be long term. "We did not expect the impact of the tragedy to be long term and we are seeing evidence the effects are waning.”

Perhaps the effects of the Concordia may fade, but not if the the cruise disasters keep coming. A month after Concordia, the Costa Allegra suffered a disabling fire and floated around in waters where pirates lRoyal Caribbean - Reputationike to also cruise. Things like this make families nervous.  Satirist Andy Borowitz published an article "Citing Safety Concerns, Somali Pirates Refuse to Board Cruise Ships - Fires, Capsizings Top Pirates' Concerns, Spokesperson Says."  Lots of cruise fans thought the article was serious.

This last week, the cruise industry has been rocked with the Star Princess scandal, when the Princess cruise ship sailed happily by a disabled little fishing boat drifting 100 miles off coast of Panama. World opinion came crashing down on Princess Cruises (also owned by Carnival) when the public learned that 2 of the young men (one just 16) died due to Princess' nonchalant attitude while several passengers pleaded for the cruise ship to assist the stricken boat.  

Speaking of outrageous conduct, this month started out with news that a Carnival security officer and housekeeping manager (both male) were involved in the strip searching of a girl on the Carnival Sensation which included allegedly making her remove her tampon while they watched.

While Fain was quick to point blame his company's sinking profits on his competitor (Carnival), he didn't mention that one of his cruise ships, the Azamara Quest, suffered an serious engine fire which disabled the vessel last month.  He also didn't mention that he still pocketed $5,900,000. Poor bastard. How can he survive on that?  

But seriously, lets think about this for a moment.  One of Fain's ships caught fire last month and he still makes around $6,000,000 with declining bookings and increased fuel and operating costs while a cruise disaster happens every other week it seems.  Royal Caribbean pays its waiters only $600 a year working over 12 hours a day. So Fain still makes 10,000 times more than he pays a waiter to serve your family.     

CBS indicated that the declining profits at Royal Caribbean were because passengers may be "spooked by the high profile cruise problems."  

Later that evening (last night) an engine room fire broke out on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Sea. Cruise Law News was the first to report on the cruise ship fire yesterday.  This is the 80th cruise fire in the last 22 years. The Miami Herald, which is a supporter of the cruise industry and rarely covers negative cruise news, passed along the cruise line's PR statement that the fire was "small and quickly extinguished."  Why does that not make me feel any safer?  

The Allure is the largest cruise ship in the world with 7,500 passengers and crew.  All fires start small. Its a bad thing for a small fire to break out on the world's largest cruise ship in the middle of the sea. Like the Carnival Splendor which recently suffering an engine room fire, the Allure is a new ship.  Why are new ships catching on fire?  Most cruise fans could care less. The most important thing to them seems to be whether the fire will disrupt their cruise next week. 

The Miami Herald chose not to report on a blockbuster story which we reported on yesterday.  A Cunard cruise line youth counselor under arrest admitted that he sexually abused 13 boys on three Cunard Cruise Child PredatorCunard cruise ships which he worked on (Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth) over the course of four years.  A prolific child sexual predator running amok on the cream of the cream luxury Cunard brand of cruise ships for four years.  The sick pervert also videotaped himself abusing the children on the cruise ships, either for his viewing pleasure later or perhaps for trading with other pedophiles.

If there is a sexual predator on Cunard ships, do you think that there are no perverts taking your child into a bathroom alone on Royal Caribbean and Carnival brands?  Wait a second, Cunard is owned by Carnival here in Miami.  Why wouldn't the Miami Herald report on 13 little boys being diddled on one of the Carnival brands?  You think that your kids are safer on a Carnival fun ship running out of Galveston than a Cunard ship sailing from Southampton?

I shouldn't be so hard on the Miami Herald.  It sold out on any type of investigative journalism a decade ago, and it was not the only newspaper not to report on the cruise line sexual pervert.  Not one other media outlet in the U.S. covered the story.  Only Cruise Law News did.  Major newspapers alternate between being cheerleaders for the cruise lines to being indifferent to something as shocking as 13 little kids targeted and preyed on by a cruise ship employee whose parents entrusted their kids literally into his filthy hands.  

What is going on?

Cruise executives make 10,000 times more than a waiter who works 360 hours a month, and can still rake in $6,000,000 in the worst economy while cruise ships sink, collide and burn around them.  Luxury cruise liners like the love boats of Princess look the other way while people are dying at sea. Newspapers rush out the cruise line's talking points of a supposedly "small and short" fire, but refuse to mention 13 child abused on the most prestigious cruise ships sailing today. A strip search of a girl on the Carnival "fun ships?"

The cruise industry appears out of control to me.

Remembering Titanic

As we all know, 100 years ago today the Titanic struck an iceberg.  By the following morning over 1,500 people were dead.

The horror of the event, it seems to me, has largely faded by the passing of time.  Does anyone really stop and reflect on the fear and suffering experienced by the doomed passengers and crew?  Or the sadness of the families who lost loved ones in the disaster?

When someone says Titanic, most people probably think of the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.  Most people would rather think of a love scene between Jack & Rose than 1,500 soon-Costa Concordia - Giglio Italyto-be-dead people gasping for air in dark, deep and icy waters.   

At this very moment there are several cruise ships, on Titanic memorial cruises, heading to the spot where the cruise ship sank. There are many accounts of smiling passengers in period costumes similar to what the first class passengers were wearing in 1912, with women in corsets and men in top hats.  Lots of excited passengers enjoying their cruises; fine meals, cocktails, dancing, and laughter.

This seems rather macabre to me. When they find themselves at the watery grave tonight where 1,500 souls perished, will they be remembering the real event or celebrating the Titanic movie, now in 3-D?

Carol Burnett said "death plus time equals comedy."  And Angela Carter said "comedy is tragedy which happens to others."  Both thoughts, I suppose, are true.  One of my Dad's favorite saying when things went wrong was "other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?"  Yes, its funny as long as it's not your family and it happened long ago.

But the Titanic is not the last cruise ship where someone died.  Over the past 100 years, there have been hundreds of maritime incidents which have accounted for the deaths of thousands of passengers and crew members.  Many fires, collisions, and sinkings - not to mention over-boards, violence and crimes - have occurred during cruises since the Titanic sank. 

When I think of the Titanic, my mind goes to the tragedies suffered by hundreds of people whose have lost loved ones during cruises in the last decade or so.

In 1998, Amy Bradley disappeared during a Royal Caribbean cruise.  In 2004, Merrian Carver disappeared during a Celebrity cruise and Ashley Barnett died under mysterious circumstances on a Carnival cruise ship.  In 2005, George Smith disappeared during his honeymoon cruise.  In 2006 Richard Liffridge died in a fire on a Princess cruise. And last year, Disney youth counselor Rebecca Coriam disappeared from the Disney Wonder.  In the last 10 years, there have been over 170 people who have disappeared from cruise ships.  The families of the missing and dead are living through their own Titanic horror every day.  

This morning I clicked on the web cam on Giglio Porto, showing the Costa Concordia on its side, under dark angry clouds. There is nothing funny about this latest disaster.  A 100 years from now, will there be memorial cruises to Giglio? Will the cruise passengers be dancing and laughing then? 

Titanic Memorial Cruise Delayed By High Winds & Medical Emergency

Is nature trying to tell us something?

First high winds and rough weather delayed the "Titanic Memorial Cruise" as 30 foot winds forced the Balmoral cruise ship to turn around with a little over 1,300 passengers aboard.  Now news sources area reporting that a medical emergency involving a passenger has complicated matters.  The cruise is detouring closer to shore in order for a helicopter from the Irish Coast Guard to medevac the passenger to safety.

Titanic Memorial CruiseThe cruise set sail from southern England on Sunday and stopped in Cobh, Ireland  on a cruise to retrace the Titanic voyage.  On Monday, the cruise was delayed because of foul weather. 

Once the sick passenger airlifted off the ship for medical treatment, the cruise will continue to New York as scheduled.

Two special memorial services are to take place over the weekend (1) midnight April 14, when the Titanic hit the iceberg, and (2) early April 15, when the cruise ship sank.

I am wondering if the Balmoral has a web cam or whether other cruise ships or vessels will be streaming video live?

 

Photo credit:  ibiblio.org

Are Cruise Ships Dangerously Top Heavy?

Ever since the Costa Concordia disaster, questions have been raised whether modern day cruise ships are being designed more dangerously by increasing their size to pile more and more passengers aboard.

There is no question that cruise ship are getting bigger and bigger.  You need look no further than Royal Caribbean's Genesis class (Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas) which each carry more than 8,000 passenger and crew members.

But it is not just that the cruise ships are getting "bigger" that may pose a danger.  Its that they are designed to be much, much taller, with the hotel structure some seventeen stories high.  The "floating Orchestra Cruise Shipcondos," as some call them, seem to be out-of-proportionally tall, perched precariously on a hull which seems incapable of safely supporting a structure towering hundreds of feet into the air. 

Yesterday, I posed the question on Twitter and facebook:  Are Cruise Ships Top Heavy?"  I received some interesting response, including this one:

Yes. Over 30 years ago the shipbuilders built a ship then put a hotel on the inside now they build a hotel/resort first and try and wrap a ship around it second.....these ships and I use this term very broadly should all be tied up at next available port and used as hotels only.

If this issue interests you, I suggest that you read an excellent article by blogger "Teddy Sheperd" entitled "Why Mega Cruise Ships Are Unsafe: Opinion."  

Mr. Sheperd explains that in the past, there was a reasonable and safe ratio between a vessel's draft (below the waterline) and air draft (above the waterline).  The cruise ships today have lost the reasonable proportions between what's below and above the waterline, making the vessels dependent on stabilizers not only to battle rough weather but to stay upright with only slight to moderate breezes. 

Take a read of Mr. Shepard's article and ask yourself whether you really want to take your family onto one of these floating sky-scrapper hotels when, God forbid, it loses power while encountering rough seas?

I do not pretend to be a naval architect.  I studied English and History at Duke.  It remains a mystery to me how jumbo jets can take off or huge ships can even float.  But you don't need to be an expert to have an opinion on this issue.  Mr. Sheperd reminds us of the old saying in boat building, "if it looks right, it is right."

Well, these cruise ships don't look right to me.  They look like condominiums ripped out of Collins Avenue on Miami Beach and placed on a barge.  They look eager to tip over.

 

Have an opinion whether cruise ships today are inherently unstable?  Please leave a comment below. 

 

Photo:  MSC's Orchestra cruise ship - draft of 7.88 metres (25.9 feet). 

Has the Cruise Industry Already Forgotten the Costa Concordia?

Cruise Marketing - Costa ConcordiaI have been out of town for the past week with my family on spring break vacation, returning last night to Miami.  But I have been my usual self reading up on the latest cruise news.

It seems that the cruise lines enjoyed a great time last week of self-generated good news. The Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM) event ran its predictable course. The cruise convention broadcast the industry's post-Concordia talking points where the cruise executives and trade organization representatives competed with one another extolling on the cruise industry's great safety record.  Few facts, lots of self-serving opinions.  No independent thinkers challenged the false feel-good cruise prophets.  

Many of the cruise articles I read online contained cruise advertisements from Silversea Cruises showing a cruise ship sailing dangerously close to the rocks somewhere in the Mediterranean.

Have the cruise marketers learned anything? 

After the CSM propaganda extravaganza ended, the cruise convention attendees piled into cabs for a night out drinking.

Lots of private parties. Lots of laughing faces posted on Twitter.  Royal Caribbean's CEO Richard Fain Barbara and Gerry Heiljoked at the RCCL dinner about the first Costa Concordia question coming just 18 minutes into dinner. He had to delay sucking down his shrimp cocktail to think of the cruise talking points - this was a freak accident, caused by a renegade captain, which unfairly tarnished a cruise industry with a fantastic safety record.   

If you interviewed everyone at the cruise shipping convention, you would get one opinion - cruising is safe.  But ask them the names of the Minnesota couple who died in the disaster?  No one would have a clue.  

Is it that easy to forget the names of the drowned just two months ago? Or did the cruise executives ever bother to learn the names of the dead in the first place?   

Six Lies The Cruise Lines Will Tell You After The Costa Concordia Crash

Shortly after the Costa Concordia capsized, the cruise lines' PR committee assembled to try and figure out a strategy to minimize the disaster's effect on the cruise industry. 

A decision was made for the cruise lines to issue a series of "talking points" to the media. The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) and the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) distributed "cruise safety talking points" to travel agents, travel magazines and the media.  CLIA embedded the talking points into "updates" on the Concordia crash on its website. CLIA's president Christine Duffy released "open letters" which travel publications and blogs often published in their entirely, without questioning the accuracy of the information.   

Costa Concordia Cruise ShipTravel agents began pitching the talking points to the public in articles like this one from Travel Market Report entitled "What to Say to Clients Post-Concordia."  You can read "6 Talking Points" and other tips from travel agents on how to overcome reluctant clients' fears and talk them into buying a cruise. 

Here are some of the cruise industry's talking points: 

1.  "100 Million Passengers Sailed in Last Five Years and Only 16 Died"

This talking point is part of the "cruising is incredibly safe" message.  It's false and misleading.  It's based data from a private consulting firm for the cruise lines which excludes crew deaths and excludes cruises which don't call on U.S. ports.  This excludes the deaths in the last cruise sinking (the Sea Diamond).   Click on the cases under our section "Maritime Death" and "Disappearances" categories to the left.  You will see that there have been many more than 16 people who die during cruises each year.   

The information is further limited to "maritime casualties," like two ships colliding into one another.  But if you take into consideration the passengers and crew who died because of bad cruise ship medical care, murder, lifeboat accidents, deaths during excursions, deaths on Flow Riders and rock climbing walls, drownings, drug overdoses, drunken assaults, being dropped overboard during medical evacuations, and suspicious disappearances - there are far more than 16 deaths during cruises each year for each of the last five years.  

The cruise industry wants you to think that the Concordia is just a freak accident.  But read about prior similar accidents here and the problems with cruise ship fires here.  The Concordia is just the latest in a long list of catastrophes. 

Dayana Arlotti - Costa Concordia CruiseCruising is not just a means of transportation. Cruise ships are floating amusement parks and entertainment venues. Compared to Disney World (which attracts more tourists than all cruise ships combined) or any international hotel or resort chain, there is no place where you are more likely to die than on a cruise ship.     

2.  "Cruising Is Safe for the Family & Kids"

This whopper of a lie makes my skin crawl. Last week, the bloated body of Dayana Arlotti (photo left), a five year old little girl from Italy, was finally pulled from the wreckage of the Concordia.  

It's a sick joke for a travel agent to hawk cruises by telling parents "hey, I bring my children cruising - it's perfectly safe!"  Don't tell that to Susy Albertini, Dayana's mother (photo below right).

Read though my blog and learn of other dead children caused by cruise line negligence over the last few years. Read about cruise tragedies involving kids, and the extraordinary efforts the cruise lines take to avoid accountability, like this story.  And this doesn't include the kids who are sexually abused during cruises, including being molested by cruise line youth counselors.         

Susy Albertinni - Costa Concordia Cruise3.  "No Cruise Ship Has Sunk Since the Titanic" 

Some travel agents have taken the "cruising is safe" talking points so far that they are claiming that no cruise ship has sunk in 100 years.  

The Travel Market Report quotes travel agent Nancy Yoffe of Cruise Planners, in Spartanburg, South Carolina explaining how she sells cruise tickets in the post-Concordia world: “ . . I would say the last time a ship like this went down was 1912.”

These travel agents may be good salesmen but they are bad historians.  

The truth is that many cruise ships have sunk with loss of life.  The last sinking was the Sea Diamond,which nailed a charted reef, and sank just four years ago.

Then there is the infamous sinking of the Oceanos cruise ship (photo left), where the captain abandoned ship leaving women, children and elderly passengers to die (they miraculously survived). The sinking of the Oceanos is featured on my list of top 5 cruise ship disasters - watch the video here.
Cruise Ship Sinking - Oceanos

Other spectacular sinkings of cruise ships include the loss of the Sun Vista which burned and sank.

No one can forget the sinking of the Andrea Doria, which ironically enough was home ported in Genoa, Italy where Costa is based. It sank in the Atlantic after a collision with another cruise ship. The fire and sinking of the Yarmouth Castle resulted in nearly one hundred dead passengers and crew.  Add to this list, the sinking of the SeaBreeze I, the Majestic Explorer, the Al-Salaam Boccaccio, Achille Laura, Explorer, M/V Saurav, Queen Of The North, Senopati Nusantara, M/V Bulgaria, Estonia, and the Mikhail Lermontov (which sank in 100 feet of water off the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island after hitting a reef).

If a travel agent sells a cruise by misrepresenting that no cruise ship sank for the 100 year period between the Titanic and the Concordia, they should be sued for fraud.

4.  "The Cruise Industry is Heavily Regulated"

The basic business model of the cruise industry was perfected by Carnival's founder Ted Arison in the 1960's - incorporate the business in Panama and register the cruise ships there too in order to avoid all U.S. taxes and safety and labor laws, and then sell cruises to tax-paying U.S. citizens.  

There is no way that an U.S. incorporated business which pays income tax and complies with U.S. minimal wage and overtime laws can possibly compete with an offshore business like Carnival which collects nearly $15 billion a year, pays no taxes, and exploits workers from India and the Caribbean islands who earn as little as $550 working 360 hours a month.  

Ted Arison's son, current Carnival CEO Micky Arison, is carrying on this tradition of avoiding all U.S. regulation and oversight.  He and other executives understand perfectly well that the success of their cruise lines depends on avoiding U.S. oversight at every turn.  No wonder Micky is the richest person in Florida with a net worth of many billions.  

Flag states like Bermuda, Bahamas and Panama will never meddle into the cruise lines' business. Yes, there is the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and its "regulations."  But truth be told, the IMO is a weak and toothless U.N. entity.  It's "regulations" are mere suggestions.  If a cruise line ignores a IMO rule, there is no consequence. That's why you have have reputable journalists like reporters at Reuters who are characterizing the Concordia crash as a symptom of the cruise industry's "lax regulation and supervision," as explained in the recent article "How the Cruise Industry Sails Under the Radar." 

5.  "Cruising Will Now Be Safer Now Than Ever"

There is a warm, fuzzy and entirely naive sentiment expressed by travel agents that once a disaster happens, the cruise industry will quickly learn from its mistakes and make changes to improve safety.   The problem is that's not true with an industry which keeps things secret and does not invite regulatory scrutiny.

For example, two Costa cruise ships were involved in separate collisions in the years before the ConcordiaCosta Europa - Secret Report crash. The Costa Classica ran into a freighter and slashed a deep gash through the side of the ship. The Costa Europa slammed into a dock and killed several crewmembers. The flag state, Italy, investigated the incident but refused to turn the report over to the International Maritime Organization.  In the article "Costa Cruise Egypt Accident Report is Strictly Confidential," BBC News points out that the IMO cannot begin to assess the accident and consider potential improvements to safety without seeing the report.     

After the Concordia deaths, Carnival stated that it would be conducting a full blown audit of Costa to make certain that its operations were being conducted safely and responsibly.  Whether this is happening who knows. This was a PR move, to head off public demands that the cruise line should be investigated by the government.

There is no statement by Carnival that the results of the alleged audit will be released to the public or that it will permit its operations to be investigated by professional and independent maritime experts. That will never happen. If there is an audit, Carnival will keep the results secret. This is the wild west environment of the cruise industry, not the aviation industry which is squarely under the thumb of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).    

6.  "Excessive Drinking, Violence & Crime Are Rare"

Shortly after the Concordia disaster, ABC News aired a 20/20 cruise special.  I was in the special explaining how the Concordia drama unfolded.  You can watch the first segment of the program here

The second part of the program showed the problem of excessive drinking and violence.  You can see that segment here. I learned a new phrase watching the show - "cruise drunk."  It has been clear to me for years that there is way too much booze and way too few security personnel on cruise ships.  When I expressed these opinions on the 20/20 show, I received hate e-mails for a week after the program aired.

The ASTA and travel agents took it upon themselves to include talking points in response to the 20/20 program, believe it or not.  The talking points included assurances that passengers don't get out of line or drink excessively.

Two weeks later 16 drunken cruise passengers were kicked off P & O's Pacific Dawn cruise ship for out of control violence. 

Be Honest, Tell the Public the Truth 

The cruise industry's reputation has been tarnished with a lack of transparency over the years.

A post-disaster PR campaign of talking points should start and finish with "be honest" - which is absent from the CLIA talking points.  Instead, CLIA suggests that travel agents should require clients to sign a "waiver" releasing the travel agent from all liabilities, including misrepresentations of the cruises. Why would an agent need such a waiver if they were simply telling the truth? 

There is a certain irony about all of these false talking points.  Many life threatening situations Costa Concordia - The Situation Is Under Control - Go Back To Your Cabinswhich the Concordia passengers faced after the cruise ship struck the rocks can be attributed to false information provided by the vessel's officers and crew.  

Remember, as water poured through the 160 foot gash in the Costa Concordia's hull, the officers were dishonest with the guests.  As the cruise ship sank, they lied to the passengers - "everything is okay; the ship had just experienced an electrical failure."  Later, the Costa crew falsely assured passengers - "the situation is under control, go back to your cabins." And no one can forget the lie told by Captain Schettino after he abandoned women and children to die on his ship that he had somehow "fallen into a lifeboat."   

CLIA's talking points, like the lies told by the Costa captain and his officers, perpetuate the cruise industry's reputation as lacking honesty and transparency.       

There are travel agents who don't rely on someone else's talking points.  New Jersey travel agent and my friend David Stern has his own warnings and safety videos on his web site.  

If you are a travel agent reading this, don't get caught up in CLIA's cult of personality.  Be yourself.  Learn about the history of cruise ship fires, collisions, groundings, sinkings and crimes. And then tell your clients the truth.

 

Photo credits: 

Dayana Arlotti:  lego.it

Susy Albertini: Telegraph

Photos Located of Missing Costa Concordia Passengers, Gerald & Barbara Heil

Of the over 3,000 passengers aboard the Costa Concordia cruise ship when it capsized, two Americans were lost, Gerald Heil, age 69, and Barbara Heil, age 70, of Minnesota.  They are among fifteen passengers who were either trapped in the cruise ship or lost at sea. 

Over the last five weeks since disaster struck, I have wondered what happened to this couple.

They left four children and many grandchildren behind.  Why were these two souls so unlucky?  

Today, there are reports from a local television station in Minnesota, KARE 11, that another passenger took photos of the crowded decks as the passengers waited for lifeboats and captured a few images of the couple.  As you can see in the video below, Mr. and Mrs. Heil are shown wearing life vests as they stand side by side on the deck.  Mr. Heil wears his trademark cap; his wife a hoodie.

If there is any comfort to be had for the Heil children with the discovery of these photographs, perhaps its that their parents were together, undoubtedly holding one another, when they were lost.  But it seems cruel that they were on the deck, so close to getting off the ship.  You want to re-wind the video and keep playing it until they get on a lifeboat and make it safely ashore.

       

 

You can read the Heil family's blog here

 

Video:  KARE 11 

Cruise Industry's New Safety Drill Policy - Too Little, Too Late

Swamped from a tide of bad publicity following the Costa Concordia disaster, the cruise industry today announced a change to its safety drill policy.  The new policy?  Hold your breath:

All cruise lines will begin to provide a safety briefing to the passengers before the vessel sets sail. 

That's it?  Why wasn't this the law a hundred years ago, after the Titanic sank?

This should convince even the most hard core cruise fan that there is something seriously amiss Costa Concordia Cruise Chaosin the world of cruising when almost a month after the Concordia disaster, the cruise lines have finally proposed such a basic safety policy.

This should also reveal how lax the policies are under the International Maritime Organization ("IMO").  The IMO rules (suggestions I say) suggest that cruise ships can wait up to 24 hours after passengers embark to hold a safety briefing.  It's difficult to justify such an unsafe policy which undoubtedly caused or contributed to deaths of some of the Concordia passengers.  But what can you expect from an United Nations organization?  

The cruise industry has announced this simple common-sense policy with great fanfare.  USA Today's pro-cruise blog CruiseBlog quotes a cruise agent praising the new policy which was revealed in a joint statement by the Cruise Lines International Association, the European Cruise Council and the UK"s  Passenger Shipping Association. 

Notwithstanding the new cruise line voluntary policy, the IMO "rules" still permit waiting until 24 hours to have a muster drill.  And if the cruise lines don't follow their own voluntary agreement?  There is no consequence. 

Just what the public needs, a trust-us promise from an unregulated cruise industry which should not be trusted.  

Costa Concordia Survivors Face February 12th Deadline!

There is a lot of talk in the media about so-called "class action" lawsuits, arising out of the Costa Concordia cruise disaster, seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation and other far fetched claims.  Most of these exaggerated claims are being made by lawyers who have absolutely no experience handling maritime claims.

What is not being discussed in the media is that the Costa Concordia survivors are facing a deadline as early as the end of this week. The deadline pertains to the passenger's claim for their lost luggage, clothing, electronics, jewelry and other personal effects.

According to the terms of the Costa Cruises passenger ticket, passengers must provide written notice to the company identified in the ticket for all claims other than physical or emotional injury, Costa Concordia Cruise Lawsuit Deadlinesillness or death within thirty (30) days of the incident.  Here is the pertinent language: 

" . . . The Carrier shall not be liable for any claims whatsoever, other than for physical or emotional injury, illness or death of the Passenger, unless written notice of the claim with full particulars is delivered to the Carrier or its duly authorized agent within thirty (30) days after the Passenger shall be landed from the Vessel, or in the case the voyage is abandoned within thirty (30) days thereafter.  No legal proceeding whatsoever, other than for personal injury, illness or death, shall be maintainable in any event unless filed within six (6) months after the Passenger shall be landed from the Vessel, or in the case the voyage is abandoned within six (6) months thereafter, and unless valid notice or service is effected upon the Carrier within 120 days after commencement of the proceeding."  (emphasis added) 

Thirty days from the January 13th incident is next Sunday, February 12th.  All passenger intending to make a claim for their personal belonging must send a  "written notice of the claim with full particulars" and deliver it to the carrier identified in the passenger ticket, or its duly authorized agent, within the next week.

If you don't send the notice in timely and to the correct company, the passengers risk not satisfying one of the "conditions precedent" necessary before a lawsuit can be filed.

The fact that Costa has offered 11,000 Euros (around $14,600) for a settlement does not extend a passenger's obligation to provide the required notice within 30 days.

The deadline again is Sunday, February 12, 2012. 

If you need assistance in sending the notice to the correct company and correct address, do not delay.  We will be pleased to assist you free of charge in sending the property damage notice in.

Our firm and our co-counsel, Glenn Holzberg, are also assisting about two dozen passengers who suffered physical and / or psychological injuries during the Costa Concordia disaster.

Unlike many non-maritime lawyers rushing to file suit in the U.S. (and are probably filing suit in the wrong jurisdiction), we are recommending patience to our client once they send in the necessary notices to the cruise line.  We will be negotiating directly with the cruise line to obtain fair compensation for those who have suffering emotional or physical injuries.  We are not charging a fee on any portion of the first $14,600 obtained by our clients.  All passengers are offered this amount and it would not be fair to obtain a percentage of what is already offered. 

Claims for emotional anguish and personal injury and death must be filed within one year, and require a notice letter being sent within 6 months.  

Claims for property losses must be filed in six (6) month for the date of the incident, after the aforementioned notice letter sent within 30 days.

If you are confused about whether to accept the Costa $14,600 offer, or need assistance preparing the correct forms, please send me an email jwalker@cruiselaw.com or give us a call.     

Search for Cruise Victims Ends, Carnival CEO Arison Makes Appearance - at Miami Heat Basketball Game

Bard and Jerry Heil - Costa ConcordiaItaly announced that it is ending recovery efforts to locate the missing passengers and crew of the Costa Concordia due to the dangerous conditions which surround the stricken cruise ship.
 
Three crewmembers and thirteen passengers are confirmed dead.  One other body was recovered which has not been identified. 
 

The following passengers remain missing, either trapped in the cruise ship or missing at sea: 

Dayana Arlotti, William M. Arlotti, and Maria Grazia Trecarichi, from Italy.

Elisabeth Bauer, Christina Mathi Ganz,  Norbert Josef Ganz, Margarethe Neth,  Margrit Schroeter, Siglinde Stumpf, and Brunhild Werp, from Germany.

Michael M. Blemand and Mylene Litzler, from France.

Micky Arison - Carnival CEO - Miami HeatBarbara Heil and Gerald Heil, from the United States.

Two crewmembers are missing:

Girolamo Giuseppe, from Italy,

Russel Terence Rebello, from India. 

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Carnival CEO who is yet to make a public appearance following the Concordia disaster was seen at court-side watching his NBA basketball team play  the New York Knicks. 

 

Photo Credits:

Micky Arison:  Reuters/Robert Sullivan

Are Lawyers Taking Costa Cruise Survivors Into Dangerous Legal Waters?

As rescue and recovery attempts continue to try and locate the bodies of passengers missing from the Costa Concordia disaster, law firms in the United States are moving forward to file class action lawsuits against Costa Cruises and its parent company, Carnival Corporation, in Miami, Florida.

One of the firms advertising for such cases and taking a high profile position is the New York firm of Proner & Proner.  On its page "Costa Concordia Passengers: We Are Here for You," the Proner firm states that it intends to seek "at least $160,000 on behalf of each of the passengers aboard Costa Concordia Class Action Lawsuit - Miaimithe ship at the time of the wreck. Those who were injured, as well as those with wrongful death claims, may be able to collect multiple times that amount." 

In a telephone interview with a local reporter in Miami, the Proner firm said it intends to represent passengers of "all nations" from "Peru to Shanghai."  It will be seeking to recover "millions" on behalf of the dead or missing passengers.  During the interview, the New York lawyer said a lawyer was flying to Miami to file the class action lawsuit and would include Carnival as a defendant.

Whoa Nellie!  Lets slow down and collect our thoughts for a second. 

Cases against cruise lines are governed by a specialized area of maritime law which is different than land based law.

The courts have applied maritime law to uphold certain contractual limitations set forth in the passenger ticket issued by the cruise lines.  These terms and conditions of the cruise passenger ticket are quite draconian in nature.  Take a minute and read one of our articles about this issue: Top 10 Shocking Clauses In Your Cruise Contract.

One of the most important contractual terms includes what is called a "forum selection clause."  This clause specifies where the lawsuit must be filed.  The cruise lines identify a location that it convenient for them and inconvenient for the passenger.  The location is usually where the cruise line is located, which gives the cruise line a home court advantage so to speak.  It is inconvenient, time consuming, and expensive for passengers injured during a cruise to travel to the location chosen by the cruise line to file suit.

The cruise lines have been successful in enforcing these type of clauses.  In the case of Shute v. Carnival, the United States Supreme Court required a passenger who lived in Oregon, and injured during a cruise from California to Mexico, to file suit here in Miami.  No the passenger terms and conditions are not fair, but they are routinely enforced.  

For the Concordia disaster, the Costa passenger ticket contains a clause specifying Genoa, Italy as the location for the lawsuit.  Most tickests issued by cruise lines based in Miami like Carnival and Royal Caribbean select Miami as the place where the lawsuit must be filed.  But Costa's ticket is different.  For Costa cruises which call on an U.S. port, the lawsuit has to be filed in Broward County in South Florida.  If the cruise itinerary does not include a U.S. port, the lawsuit must be filed in Italy.

Last year, we wrote about a similar situation.  In Seung v. Regent Seven Seas Cruises, a passenger was injured while cruising on the Paul Gauguin cruise ship, operated by Regent Seven Seas Cruises, in the Pacific Ocean.  After Ms. Seung filed suit in South Florida where the cruise line is based, the defense lawyers moved to dismiss the case arguing that the forum selection claim required the lawsuit to be brought in France.  The federal court here dismissed her case.  The 11th Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal and held that the passenger, from California, had to travel to Paris to pursue her remedies.  Our article is entitled Cruise Forum Selection Clauses: Do You Speak French?

As soon as lawsuits are filed against Costa in this jurisdiction, the cruise line will move to dismiss the cases and will cite the Shute and Seung cases discussed above. 

The cruise line defense lawyers will argue that the lawsuits cannot be filed here.  The Costa company is incorporated in Italy and based in Genoa.  The cruise ship is flagged in Italy.  The disaster occurred in Italian waters.  The Italian Coast Guard responded.  The Italian authorities are investigating the cause of the crash and the casualties. The criminal proceedings are taking place in Italy.  The lawyers for the passengers will be hard pressed to explain why the cases should not be filed in Italy. 

The Costa cruise ticket has another curious twist.  It specifies that Italian law should apply.  For death cases, Italian law may actually provide for a more equitable remedy that the U.S. General Maritime Law and statutory law - particularly where the deceased passengers are retired. 

In the U.S., wrongful deaths on the "high seas" (non U.S, territorial waters, including territorial waters of other countries) are governed by a federal statute called the Death On The High Seas Act ("DOHSA").  There is no recovery under DOSHA for pre-death pain and suffering or emotional losses of the surviving family members such as grief and bereavement.  The only recovery is for financial losses such as lost wages of the decedent.   If the decedents are retired or children, then there are no recoverable damages except for burial and funeral expenses assuming the bodies are located. 

So if the wrongful death cases are filed in the U.S., and the court applies U.S. law, there may be no recovery in certain death cases.  Yet if the cases were filed in Italy, there could be recovery under Italian law.  A passenger could conceivably file suit in a more convenient forum in the U.S. yet receive no recovery; whereas if the passenger filed suit in a less convenient location in Italy there may be greater recovery in some cases.

Then there is the matter of Carnival.  Yes it is the parent company of Costa.  And yes, as the Proner lawyers mention to the news reporter, it collects over 14 and 1/2 billion dollars a year.  But  that does not automatically give anyone a basis to sue it in Miami every time one of its subsidiary company's cruise ships around the world suffer a casualty.  

There are often severe consequences of filing suit in the wrong location or against the wrong party, including the assessment of costs and in some circumstances attorney fees. 

We hope that the lawyers who are working faster than the recovery teams in Italy to file suit here in Miami know what they are doing and are not navigating their clients into dangerous legal waters. 

Unbelievable . . .

Click on "CC" on player for English subtitles: 

Costa Cruise Disaster: Spotlight Shifts to Carnival - Where's Micky?

Costa Captain Fransesco Schettino - Public Lynching It was only a matter of time before the public would realize that the crash of the Costa Concordia involved far more than just the actions of a reckless cruise ship captain.  Costa's quick smack down of Captain Schettino (photo left) was not an impulsive outburst by the Costa CEO Pier Luigi Foschi.  It was undoubtedly a decision carefully thought out with the involvement of the Carnival decision makers in Miami.  

If Schettino had to be lynched by public outrage to save the cruise corporations, so be it.

However, It seems that the much talked about "fly-by" of Giglio may not, after all, have been showboating of an unpredictable captain but initiated and approved by the cruise line itself back in Genoa.  And if Costa knew about and ratified the dangerous maneuvers which took over 4,000 lives perilously close to the rocks, then what does this say about the safe operations of the entire Carnival fleet with its fleet of over 100 ships carrying hundreds of thousands of passengers every day?

The spotlight has now moved from Captain Schettino to Costa in Genoa and now to Carnival Corporation here in Miami.  But where is Carnival's CEO Micky Arison?

Arison is trying to remain anonymous.  But that's hard to do.  After all, he is the smiling face of the Costa CEO Pier Luigi Foschi Carnival "fun ship" fleet.  He is the big name owner of a high profile NBA basketball team of superstars, seen at court side rubbing elbows with celebrities at the Miami Heat games.  But he obviously does not want to be identified with this mess.  Arison does not want his mugshot to be posted alongside the likes of bad guy Schettino or rat fink Costa CEO Foschi (photo right). 

Two days ago I wrote that Arison and other Carnival cruise executives are ruining their reputations by not flying to Italy and speaking to the surviving passengers  and crewmembers     

Now the international press is calling Arison out.

Cruise writer John Honeywell of the U.K.'s Mirror wrote a strongly worded article today demanding answers from Arison:  Concordia: Arison Must Act Now.

The London Independent followed suit by the article Concordia's Invisible US Owner Branded "A Disgrace."

Independent quoted Italy's La Repubblica newspaper asking: "Who is this mysterious boss and how has he managed to remain like a ghost since the tragedy?" 

Carnival CEO Micky ArisonBusiness Insider was to the point with Carnival Is Failing Spectacularly In The Handling Of Its Costa Concordia Crisis.

Where is Micky Arison?" asks The Wall Street Journal in an article Carnival CEO Lies Low After Wreck.

The Miami Herald, which will usually shy away from any critical issues which may embarrass the cruise lines which advertise with the newspaper, published the article Carnival Cruise Lines Faces a Hostile PR Tide

The Herald quoted two PR experts saying:

“Micky Arison should come out, and take ownership, and get in front of the story.

"I would have had him go to the scene.  Micky is a likable guy and pretty well known.  This is one of those cases where I think the presence of the CEO would have been helpful.”

These PR experts are right.  Arison is well liked by cruise fans and travel agents.  He is loved by the local NBA fans, particularly after he brought Shaq to Miami from LA and won the NBA basketball championship. 

Carnival CEO Micky Arison - Costa CEO Pier Luigi Foschi When the Heat won the NBA, Arison was photographed everywhere and with everyone, holding his prized trophy.  He even took his trophy on a world wide tour, including taking it on Costa cruise ships.  A photo (right) of Arison and Foschi, in happier days, show them with the NBA trophy aboard the Costa Allegra cruise ship.

But now with around 30 dead or missing from the Concordia wreck, Arison is nowhere to be seen.  Arison has never stepped up to the plate to address unpleasant issues, like sexual assaults on his fleet of cruise ships, Carnival's avoidance of taxes, or exploitation of foreign crewmembers.  

I don't see Arison appearing anytime soon before a microphone to discuss the deaths of his cruise guests either. 

 

Photo credits:

Captain Schettino:  Karl Ritter

Costa CEO Foschi:  Tano Pecoraro / AP

Carnival Ceo Arison:  Reuters

Arison & Foshi with trophy:  NBA.com 

"The Situation Is Under Control, Go Back To Your Cabin" and Other Lies From The Costa Concordia Disaster

When I first learned of the unfolding Costa Concordia cruise disaster ten days ago, I remember reading a statement attributed to the cruise line stating that the evacuation was proceeding "orderly" and the passengers were "not at risk."  

Initially there were no reports of deaths or injuries, but I knew that something was terribly wrong.  Elderly passengers are always at risk while transferring from a cruise ship to a lifeboat, even to a tender to shore on a perfectly calm day.  How possibly could there be no risk to passengers during during an emergency evacuation at night under these dire circumstances?

We now know that this was just one of many lies to be told by Costa and its captain.

What other statements will long be remembered from the Costa disaster?

"I slipped and fell into the lifeboat" by Captain Fransesco Schettino.

This is perhaps the biggest whopper I have ever heard in my life.   It takes great acting skills to deliver such a ridiculous explanation for abandoning a ship you just sank.  Being a liar does not erase being a coward.   If Schettino really slipped and fell, I offered on Twitter to represent him in a lawsuit against Costa (a bad joke on Twitter I suppose in a time of great sorrow).  But If I were his lawyer, I would file for a trademark on the "slipped-and-fell-onto-the-life-boat" phrase for its sheer comedic genius.               

What other cruise lies will long be remembered?

"The Situation Is Under Control, Go Back To Your Cabin" says a Costa supervisor to panicked passenger who assembled on deck with their life vests ready to be evacuated.  How many of the passengers were deceived by this false information?  The most compliant personalities were probably the first to follow these instructions, whereas the cynics didn't.  Did the deferential passengers die in the bowels of the ship? 

In an every-man-for-himself situation do the gentle souls die first?

Costa Concordia Cruise Ship - "Everything is Under Control"

 

Photo credit:  Reuters

Caption credit:  Costa Cruise Line 

ABC's 20/20 Covers Costa Concordia Disaster (Part 1)

Last night a cruise ship special aired on ABC's 20/20 about the Costa Concordia disaster.

Narrated by Chris Cuomo from Italy, the one hour program contains interviews with surviving passengers.  The 52 year old captain, Francesco Schettino, is seen dining with a 25 year old blond former crew member as the disaster unfolds.  ABC shows a computer simulation of the crash.  The passenger interviews include accounts of the chaos and confusion, the delayed Mayday signal, the false information to the passengers, the captain's cowardly abandonment of ship, and his subsequent refusal to comply with Italian Coast Guard orders to return to the stricken vessel.  Italian authorities arrested Captain Schettino who has been labelled the "chicken of the seas."

There are also 2 or 3 clips of me answering questions at the port of Miami, explaining how the disaster unfolded.

The segment below is about 8 and 1/2 minutes:

 

 

Watch the entire 20/20 "cruise confidential" program here.

Video credit:  ABC NEWS / ABC 20/20

Costa Concordia Captain Schettino - Chicken of the Seas

The captain always goes down with the ship, the saying goes. 

Or at least the captain is the last to leave a sinking vessel.

But not on the Costa Concordia.

Passengers aboard the stricken Costa cruise ship say that they observed Italian Master Francesco Schettino draped in a blanket aboard a lifeboat heading to safety as the vessel's crew and passengers struggled for their lives.  There is also talk that the captain intentionally deviated from course to "buzz the island," which if true takes this case from sinple negligence to recklessness or intentional misconduct.   

Arrested in Rome for manslaughter and abandoning ship, Captain Schettino talked about "lateral projections of rocks" and other phantom rubbish, rather than his own foolishness, which tore the hull apart and doomed his cruise ship.  He boasted that he saved lives and was the last to leave the vessel, apparently forgetting about his chief purser who was trapped aboard the ship.  

The captain of a vessel is the supreme master of his ship at sea.  The captain is ultimately responsible not only for the safe navigation of the vessel, but for the discipline and order of the crew and the safety of all crew and passengers.

Initial reports suggest that Captain Schettino failed on all accounts.  In an unregulated industry which looks for a scapegoat, the cruise line will focus on an irresponsible and renegade captain as the sole cause of the disaster which unfolded this weekend.

If passenger accounts are correct, Captain Schettino will long be considered a coward who abandoned his responsibilities and duties after wrecking the Concordia and killing scores of innocents in the process.      

  

Francesco Schettino - Costa Concordia Captain - Abandon Ship

 

Photo credit:  Enzo Russo / EPA

Passengers Panic As Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Begins to Sink

Costa Concordia Sinking - Evacuation Cruise ShipCosta Cruise Lines' Costa Concordia cruise ship has evacuated most of its passengers after a disastrous situation this evening near the island of Giglio in southern Tuscany, Italy. 

Media reports suggest that the cruise ship ran aground or struck a reef after departing from its regular course.   

The grounding ruptured the hull and water entered the vessel, leading to the forced evacuation of many of the 4,231 passengers and crew from the stricken cruise ship into lifeboats.  There are reports that passengers jumped into the water during the chaotic circumstances following the grounding. 

The official statements from the cruise line are factually vague.  There is no explanation regarding the cause of the grounding.  The cruise line proclaims that the passengers are "not at risk," but this is probably the usual misleading and false cruise propaganda.  Some media sources are reporting that there are passengers who are dead.  Media sources are reporting around 3  passegers died and up to 50 are missing. 

The Italian cruise ship carrying 3,200 passengers and approximately one thousand crewmembers.  The Costa Concordia had departed for a Mediterranean cruise includio ports in Civitavecchia, Palermo, Cagliari, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona, ​​Marseille and Savona.

News sources are quoting a passenger describing the mishap similar to the Titanic disaster, "with a scramble among the evacuees, screaming and crying."

January 14, 2012 Update:

Costa issued a statement that the cruise ship struck a "rock."   Other news sources are reporting that the captain was arrested for manslaugter and abandoning the ship.  

Canadian television CTV has an article about the grounding and cruise safety issues - Crime, Fires Compromise Cruise Ship Safety: Experts -  which you can read here.

Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Sinking

Do you have accurate information regarding this disaster?  Do you have photo or video to share? 

 Please leave a comment below.

 

Sinking of the M/V Spice Islander - Twitter Delivers Insight Over Mass Media Noise

This morning I was trying to find articles with real time and genuine insight into the ferry disaster off Tanzania.  

An old vessel called the Spice Islander grossly overloaded with over 1,000 passengers sank.  There have been around two hundred people pulled from the water dead and some 600 rescued.

I kept finding one detached articles after another from the mainstream press, many erroneously publishing a photograph of a ferry from the Philippines.  Finally I stumbled across an article "Tragedy Unfolds as Passenger Ferry Capsizes off Zanzibar" which was published by Storyful which aggregates content from Twitter.#Zanzibarboataccident #Zanzibar - Spice Islander - Sinking - Zanzibar

The Twitter hashtag following the disaster is #Zanzibarboataccident as well as #Zanzibar

I then began to follow @Tanganyikan who has been tweeting updates and uploading compelling photographs of children rescued from the water as well as tense families waiting for word on whether their loved ones are dead or alive.

I also ran across a tweet from @GregHuntoon "Thanks to those who've been trying to deliver the signal over the mass media's noise"  He referred to @mpoppel @Arabinizer @Rasahi as well as @Tanganyikan

@Rasahi uploaded an accurate photo of Spice Islander which looks like an old rust bucket.

Twitter has indeed delivered information and photographs over the mass media noise.  Images of children thought to be lost at sea yet held high above jubilant rescuers, some wearing wet suits. 

You won't find these type of stories and images of joy and sorrow in Reuters or the AP.

 

Survivor List

Zanzibar Outreach Program

 

Photo credit: @Tanganyikan

Passenger Ship Sinks - 9 People Dead

Eight people have been proclaimed dead and one is presumed to have drowned when a pleasure ship collided with a cargo barge. The accident occurred today in the Moscow River. There were a total of sixteen people onboard when the ship went down and only seven were rescued.

The ship, Lastochka, was registered to Russia. Its captain and owner, Gennady Zinger, had previously be fined (three times in the past year) for exceeding the passenger limitation aboard the vessel. According to Wireupdate, the vessel had several safety issues, including a broken engine and extreme overloading.Photo Credit: SeaNews

 

M/V Clipper Adventurer Sues Canada After Running Aground in Northwest Passage

CBC News in Canada is reporting that the owners of the M/V Clipper Adventurer, which ran aground last summer in the Nothwest Passage, is suing the Canadian government. 

Adventurer Owner Ltd. of Nassau, Bahamas, is seeking at least $15 million from Canada, including $12 million in repair and salvage costs for damage to the vessel's hull, $2.6 million for loss of business, and $350,000 in other costs.

Clipper Adventurer Sues CanadaThe ship's owners blame Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans for failing to inform the vessel owners and other mariners about an underwater rock shelf.

The nautical charts on board the Clipper Adventurer at the time of the grounding indicated there were 29 meters of water when in fact there there were only three meters of water at the location of the grounding. 

We blogged about this last year:

Clipper Adventurer Cruise Ship Runs Aground in the Arctic

"Uncharted Rocks" and Other Tall Tales - Clipper Adventurer Ran Into A Charted Hazard

Although Canada has an obligation to update maps and charts for its waters, this seems to be a difficult case for the vessel owners.  They were in the rugged waters of the Northwest Passage and apparently were not using a local pilot who was familiar with the waters.  Were they using a depth sounder?  Sounds like they were not exercising diligence sailing in these waters without a pilot or correct charts.

Some observers are suggesting that Canada should counter sue the vessel owners for the expenses of the Canadian Coast Guard for rescuing the passengers.

 

Photo: Canadian Coast Guard/Canadian Press via CBC News

Cruise Ship Sinks in Volga River in Russia - Up to 100 Feared Dead

Sinking of Bulgaria Cruise Ship - Volga River - RussiaNumerous news sources are reporting that a cruise ship carrying 173 passengers and crew sank in Russia's Volga river today. 

The sinking involved the Bulgaria cruise ship, which had 140 passengers and 33 crewmembers aboard.

To date, there have been reports of two confirmed dead bodies recovered and 96 people unaccounted for after the Bulgaria sank at 1358 local time (0858 GMT) in the Tatarstan region, 500 miles east of Moscow. 

A helicopter and two rescue vessels are reportedly at the scene of the sinking.

According to the Mail Online, the Bulgaria sank near the village of Syukeevo in the Kansko-Ustinovsky district near the region's capital, Kazan. The Bulgaria belongs to a local tourism company and was on its way from the town of Bulgar to the regional capital, Kazan.

The ship was built in 1955 in Czechoslovakia.

 July 9, 2011 Update

Russian authorities initiated a criminal investigation into the river sinking, according to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation.  This Russian website identified the operator of the river cruise as  "Argo Rech Tours."  

There are conflicting accounts of the number of people missing.  The Russian website states that 169 people have been rescued, although most news accounts state that there are 80 -100 still missing. 

Bulgaria Cruise Ship - Volga River Sinking- Russia

July 10, 2011 Update:

Russian website has heart wrenching photographs of the survivors.  Updated information from Russia regarding the recovery efforts can be located here.

July 11, 2011 Update The Rianovisti newspaper in Russia reports that although the Russian Transport Ministry stated that the vessel had passed a regular "technical inspection" on June 15th and was certified for further use, investigators discovered that the ship "had a list to starboard and its engine was broken" when it left port.  It was "heavily overloaded with passengers."  There now appears to have been 196 people on the cruise ship.  Only 79 were rescued.  The video below depicts disturbing images of some of the deceased passengers.


 

Photo credits: 

Top:  Survivors of Bulgaria sinking - Rianovisti newspaper

Bottom:  AFP, Mikhail Mozzhukin 

Video credit:  The Guardian newspaper

Fishing Tour Boat "The Erik" Capsizes in Mexican Waters

ABC News is reporting that a chartered fishing boat with 44 tourists aboard capsized and sank off Mexico's Baja California peninsula.  A 115 foot long vessel called "The Erik"  was reportedly struck by a storm and then capsized early yesterday 87 miles south of San Filipe, Mexico, in the Sea of Cortez

There are conflicting reports regarding the number of survivors. The ABC report states that  one person drowned and six others are missing. 

The U.S. Coast Guard sent a helicopter from San Diego to search for the missing.  A Coast Guard spokesperson said that the fishing boat "was close enough to shore that some people were able to swim to shore.  Other people were picked up by good Samaritan vessels that were in the area. Others were rescued by the Mexican Navy."  A Coast Guard press release indicates that the incident occurred around 2:30 in the morning on Sunday.

The ABC report indicates that the fishing boat was operated by Baja Fishing.  Other newspapers identify the operator as Baja Sportsfishing.  Internet advertising indicates that "Jig Stop Tours" of Dana Point California is the booking agent.   

Although the vessel capsized around 2:30 a.m., no distress signals were apparently sent from the vessel. 

The El Mexicano Newspaper released a list of the first 20 survivors, which included  crew members and paying passengers.  Photographs of the survivors ashore can be viewed here.

Erik Jaba Sportsfishing - Capsize - Mexico

July 5, 2011 Update:  The Dana Point Times reports that Jog Stop Tours did not book this particular fishing trip.  Seven U.S. citizens remain missing.  A news station in California reports that the "California Secretary of State website says Baja Sportfishing's business license has been suspended. It doesn't state a reason or give a date."

Photo credit:  bajasportfishinginc.com via CBSNews.com  

Creepy Dead Cruise Ship

This weekend I ran across an interesting tweet "Scuttled cruise ship on Google Maps" from Brian Major (@cruiseprguy) who handles PR for some of the cruise lines.  I could not resist clicking on the link.

His tweet linked to an interesting article in Geek O System about the World Discoverer, a German cruise ship built in 1974.  In 2000, the ship captain decided to ground the ship in Roderick Bay in the Solomon Islands after hitting an uncharted reef.  The ship was subsequently ransacked and its equipment and furnishings were stolen. 

Gizmodo originally ran the story pointing out the weirdness of finding a scuttled cruise ship on a Google Map.  

World Discoverer Cruise Ship  

 

Who's Responsible When a Cruise Ship Sinks in Antarctica?

The spectacle of the Clelia II cruise ship (photo below left) bouncing around by big waves and howling wind as it was trying to make its way back to Argentina from Antarctica continues to capture the attention of the American public this week.  The video of the stricken vessel on our Cruise Law's YouTube page has been viewed over 225,000 times in the last few days.

Unlike the images of Carnival's disabled-by-a-engine-fire Splendor cruise ship drifting peacefully off of the coast of Mexico several weeks ago, the photographs and video of the Clelia II show the violence of the Antarctic waters and provide a glimpse of the terror these cruise passengers must have been Clelia II - Antarcticaexperiencing.  Today USA Today's popular cruise blog, Cruise Log, carries the headline "Passenger on Storm-Tossed Cruise Ship Describes 'Terrifying' Ordeal."   

A Near Death Experience?

The Philadelphia Daily News reports a passenger's account of the little cruise ship "violently shaking and twisting," with winds reaching 100 mph and waves 30 to 40 feet high.  "I thought this was it," he said. "I never came so close to cashing it in."   The passenger contemplated what would happen if the ship went down: "they'd never find the bodies. You couldn't even think about putting out lifeboats in that sea."

Blame Game

Who is responsible if one of these small expedition vessels sinks in the waters of Antarctica?   The Clelia II ran into a bit of trouble a year ago when it scraped its hull on some underwater rocks.  In November 2007, another expedition cruise ship, the Explorer (photo below right), sank in Antarctica and the passengers bobbed around in lifeboats.  We discussed these events in an article earlier this year.  Fortunately, the weather and seas were calm when the Explorer sank, and all passenger and crew members escaped with their lives.  But if the  Explorer had faced rough weather or if the Clelia II needed to be evacuated earlier this week, the consequences would have been disastrous. 

Shell Game

When things go wrong in the freezing waters of Antarctica, one thing is certain - the ship operators, tour organizers, and travel companies begin to squirm.   

When the initial reports of the plight of the Clelia II began to emerge, numerous news sources reported that the cruise ship was operated by Polar Cruises of Bend Oregon, including CBS' Early Morning Show.   Polar Cruises' website represents on its web site that it vets the cruise ship and participates in the voyages and it seems (to me at least) to indicate that it controls and manages the Clelia II, all factors to be considered in determining the issue of the operation of the vessel.  Its website is silent (except for a disclaimer added two days ago) regarding the identity of the owner or operator of the cruise ships it promotes on its site.    

Polar Cruises - Not Us

When the story broke, Polar Cruises called and emailed us insisting that it did not operate the cruise ship. It left a comment on this blog indicating that it was just a "specialized travel agency" - a phrase never used on its own web site.  It identified Travel Dynamics International as the operator and a Greek company, "Helios Shipping" of Piraeus, Greece, as the vessel owner.  The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), a trade organization promoting the  Antarctica tour operators, also subsequently identified Travel Dynamics as the operator of the Clelia II

So is Travel Dynamics really responsible for the cruise?

Travel Dynamics - Read the Fine Print

Travel Dynamics' website, under "Responsibility" in its "Terms and Conditions" section, denies all responsibilities for the cruise and refers passengers to the ticket contract with the undisclosed vessel’s owner / operator which "constitutes the sole, legally enforceable terms of carriage."  Travel Dynamics identifies itself only as an agent for the passenger, not the owner or operator, for all transportation.  This is just the opposite of what IAATO is telling the public.

Grand Circle Travel - More Fine Print

In addition, a well known cruise community website and publication, Cruise Critic, indicates that the cruise ship had been chartered to another company called Grand Circle Travel.  Grand Circle also denies all responsibilities.  Its terms and conditions also refer to a separate owner and operator of the cruise ship but - like Polar Cruises and Travel Dynamics - it does not identify who explorer Sinking - Antarcticathese companies are.

Around and Around We Go

If any of the passengers aboard the Clelia II had been lost at sea, the families of the loved ones would face a hurdle to determine who was legally responsible.  Was this a suitable vessel for these waters?  Was the weather monitored responsibly?  Who actually employs the crew? 

The Greek vessel owner would undoubtedly claim that because it is a foreign corporation based in Greece, it is not subject to personal jurisdiction in the U.S.  All of the companies which promote the Clelia II and sell cruises may, like Polar Cruises, subsequently claim that they are just travel agencies - notwithstanding  far stretching representations to the contrary in their web sites. And all of the cruise defense lawyers  would  point to the legal fine print which purports to deny  responsibility and liability for everything. 

Can The Public Trust These Small Expedition Cruise Companies?

The "large cruise ship industry" (Royal Caribbean, Carnival)  has faced accusations of a lack of transparency over the years.  The problem lies in the disconnect between what the cruise industry says and what the public can readily see to be the truth.

These small cruise operators and their trade organization need to learn a lesson from the big ship owners and operators on what not to do in time of crisis like this.  

For example, yesterday Polar Cruises was scrambling to distance itself from being perceived as a cruise operator (which is problematic when you call yourself "Polar Cruises").  It wrote a blog article "Polar Cruises Mistakenly Named as Owner/Operator of Damaged Clelia II."  While trying to separate itself from the image of the floundering cruise ship, it still felt obligated to put its own spin on the incident, claiming that the damage was caused by a "rogue wave."   

What a whopper!   Millions of people have watched the terrifying video of the cruise ship being repeatedly pounded by one large wave after another.  Obviously, this was no smooth sailing where a "rogue wave" came out of nowhere. 

With questions about who was really operating the cruise, who actually employed the captain and crew, who was monitoring the weather conditions and navigating the vessel, legal mumbo-jumbo buried in fine print, and now a  "rogue wave" defense announced by a "travel agency," the small cruise companies are headed into rough waters in the ocean of public opinion.

 

Read our prior article on the Clelia II: The Clelia II Skirts Disaster Again in Antarctica

 

Photo credits:

Explorer   AP

Clelia II   Fiona Stewart/Garett McIntosh (via jonbowermaster.com)

"Uncharted Rocks" and Other Tall Tales - Clipper Adventurer Ran Into A Charted Hazard

The Nunatsiaq News published an interesting article this morning, entitled "Clipper Adventurer Ran Into A Charted Hazard, Expert Says."

You will recall that following the grounding of the Clipper Adventurer cruise ship in the Canadian Arctic on August 27th, the cruise operator issued a press statement claiming that the cruise ship ran aground on an "uncharted rock."  The owner even went as far as to make this whopper of an excuse: "we were simply following the chart that we had and right where there wasn’t any indication that there was something in the water, there was this large rock.”

Clipper Adventurer - Ran Aground - Uncharted RockMy response in my blog last week?  "Sounds like a PR statement to explain some bad navigational skills by whomever was at the helm."

Well now the little Canadian newspaper, the "Nunatsiaq News," tells us the truth. 

“The cruise ship effectively ran into an underwater cliff,” John Hughes Clarke, head of the University of New Brunswick’s Ocean Mapping Group.  “Had they been just a few ship lengths to the east or west they would have missed it.”

The supposedly “uncharted rock” that the ship hit had been reported by the Canadian Hydrographic Service and in a Notice to Mariners issued by Coast Guard in 2007.  And it is the responsibility of the chart retailers and/or the ships officers to update their charts and note these hazards when they are issued.

Many cruise ships are heading into riskier areas, said Hughes Clarke.  “The problem is cruise ships want to go off the safe shipping lanes where there is more dramatic topography or stunning wildlife,” he said.

The newspaper also states that the damages to the ship was more extensive than initially reported.  The Clipper Adventurer’s hull had sustained "important damages and that many watertight compartments were ruptured." 

Its good to finally get the real story.

 

Credit:  UNB Ocean Mapping Group 

Clipper Adventurer Cruise Ship Runs Aground in the Arctic

Canada's National Post reports that a cruise ship has run aground in the Arctic. 

Clipper AdventurerThe newspaper reports that the Clipper Adventurer, operated by Adventure Canada and carrying around  200 passengers and crew, ran aground Friday evening  in "three meters of water." The location of the grounding is about 55 nautical miles from Coppermine, Nunavut, near the border with the Northwest Territories

But the cruise operator claims that the cruise ship ran aground on an "uncharted rock."  

Sounds like a PR statement to explain some bad navigational skills by whomever was at the helm.

Evacuation efforts are underway.  A Canadian Coast Guard ice breaker is en route to the scene to transport passengers to Coppermine where the ship was headed.  The cruise began in Greenland.

The newspaper indicates that there were no reports of injuries or environmental damage.  This again is probably a report from the cruise ship operators.  It will be interesting to hear what the passengers say happened when they get home.   

This is the second time in recent months that an incident like this occurred.  Earlier this year, we reported on an incident where the Clelia II ran into rocks in Antarctica - The Clelia II - Another Antarctic Cruise Ship Skirts Disaster

In 2009, the Ocean Nova cruise ship, ran aground. To see some amazing photographs of a similar cruise ship grounded, look at the Komar.org website.  Ironically, the Clipper Adventurer came to Clipper Adventurer Cruise Ship Ran Aground the rescue of the passengers aboard the Ocean Nova.    

Cruise Junkie has a list of cruise ship groundings on its web site.

The tour operator's PR statement is below:

"MV Clipper Adventurer, en-route from Port Epworth to Kugluktuk NU, was grounded on an uncharted rock at 67 58 N 1112 40 W. At the time the seas were calm, sunny conditions and good visibility with no wind or swell.

Efforts of the vessel's crew to dislodge the vessel during high tide on August 28th were unsuccessful.

The vessel now rests with a slight list. Conditions are stabilized. All passengers and crew are safe and unharmed. Weather remains favourable as passengers continue to enjoy onboard programming and hospitality.

Canadian authorities have been notified and the Canadian Coast Guard Vessel Amundsen is en-route set to arrive 0900 August 29th to assist with disembarking passengers.

Flight arrangements have been made to ensure passengers return to Edmonton for the evening of August 29th."

Clipper Adventurer RescueUpdate August 29, 2010:

The Canadian Coast Guard has released a photograph of the grounded cruise ship (above right).   

The Edmonton Sun interviewed the owner of the tour company who was quoted saying: "we were simply following the chart that we had and right where there wasn’t any indication that there was something in the water, there was this large rock.”  

Hmmm . . .

The newspaper also reports that the company will fly the passengers home, but they won’t be receiving any type of refunds.  

Update August 30, 2010:

The  Nunatsiaq Online reports that more than 120 passengers and crew, taken off the Clipper Adventurer cruise ship by the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, the Amundsen, arrived in Kugluktuk after midnight on August 30th.  Photograph of rescued passenger is above left. 

September 4, 2010 Update:

It turns out that the hazard was charted 3 years ago!  Read "Uncharted Rocks" and Other Tall Tales - Clipper Adventurer Ran Into A Charted Hazard

 

Do you have information or photos/video about this latest incident?  Please leave us a comment below.

PhotoCredit:       

Top:    cruzeirospdl.blogspot

Middle:  Canadian Coast Guard (via CNN)

Bottom:  Jason Evans/Angut Pedersen (via Nunatsiaq Online) 

Cruise Ship Social Media: Everyone Loves A Disaster Movie

In the last eleven months since I launched Cruise Law News (CLN), I have written what I thought were thoughtful and carefully researched articles about the cruise industry.  But most of my most favorite blogs about the most important issues facing cruise passengers received little feedback and only a few hundred readers.

Poseidon Adventure - Cruise Disaster - Sinking - FireI have found that my most popular blogs involved cruise ship disasters. 

That's right. Terror.  Fear.  Panic.

When I was a kid the box office hits included movies like the Poseidon Adventure and Towering Inferno.  Thirty years later, my kids were raised on Titanic and Cloverfield.       

So it should be no surprise that one of my most popular blogs over the last year involved an incident where Carnival's Ecstasy cruise ship made a violent turn in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico which emptied the swimming pool on the Lido deck, injured 60 passengers, and terrorized the remaining 2,000 passengers who feared that the cruise ship was about to tilt over and they were going to die. 

Carnival claimed that the cruise ship made an evasive maneuver to avoid a loose buoy.  But the passengers tell a different story.  Take a moment and read the comments to Did Carnival's Ecstasy Cruise Ship Almost Hit A Sand Bar?

In addition to my blog, I have a YouTube page called, obviously enough, "Cruise Law," where I post cruise videos.  The most popular video is "Wave Hits Louis Majesty Cruise Ship."  A huge wave smashes into the cruise ship's bay windows, killing passengers and flooding the ship.  Over 86,000 people have viewed the video since March. 

Yes, the video is terrifying.   

Exactly what most Americans raised-on-disaster-movies are looking for.  Today, we are living in a iReport society where CNN, MSNBC and FOX News regularly broadcast iPhone videos of fires, floods, and bedlam. 

One of the most popular cruise videos on YouTube shows a cruise ship being tossed around in a storm.  It looks like the cruise ship is about to tip over at any moment.  The video has over 2,500,000 views.  Take a look below and you can see why it is so popular. 

There will be many stories in the future where cruise ships catch on fire, sink or are hijacked by terrorists.   The cruise lines will frantically try and suppress the images and assure the public that everything is OK.  But YouTube will be there to reveal the truth.  And everyone will be watching the disaster.

      

 

Video credit: CrystalBeast123

48 Students Rescued On The High Seas After Concordia "Class Afloat" Ship Sinks

Concordia Sailing Ship - Sinking - Students Rescued48 students aboard the S/Y Concordia found themselves in lifeboats bobbing in the Atlantic for two days after their sailing yacht sank 550 kilometers from Rio de Janeiro Brazil.

According to the Vancouver Sun, the students, mostly Canadian high school and first year college students with some Americans, were part of a Canadian "Class Afloat" program aboard the  Concordia "tall ship."  Class Afloat provides high school and university students an opportunity to study while at sea. 

The three-masted vessel capsized in strong winds on Wednesday, leaving the passengers and crew stranded in the Atlantic, clinging to life rafts for two days. 

There remains an issue why it took so long for rescue vessels to arrive.  The newspaper reports that a distress signal went out about 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday - but it was not until 5 p.m. on Thursday before the Brazilian airforce spotted the life boats.  The rescue was not complete until Friday morning.

The Concordia is registered in Barbados, which is the country now responsible for the investigation.

Concordia - Sinking The newspaper reports that all of the rescued kids donned black baseball caps stitched with "F42" referring to the naval vessel which delivered them safely to shore in Brazil.

After learning that all of the students and crew were rescued, the president of the school rightly announced:

"We've lived through a miracle at sea."

 

Credits:

Rescued students             The Associated Press (via The Telegram)

Concordia sailing yacht     West Island College (via CBS News)

Video                                     The Associated Press

 

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 February 21, 2010 Update:

The Calgary Herald published the following time line regarding the rescue of the students and crew aboard the Concordia tall ship:

Wednesday, Feb. 17:

2:30 p.m. - a distress signal goes out from the Concordia

Crystal Pioneer - Concordia Rescue9 p.m. - Brazilian navy receives alert.

Navy officials spend 18 hours confirming what ship sent the signal, whose flag it was under. Confirms location, attempts radio contact with the Concordia. Contacts the school - is informed the last contact with the ship did not indicate any problem.

Thursday, Feb. 18:

2:30 p.m. - Brazilian navy asks air force to do a flyover of the area and alerts merchant ships in the region. Stormy seas prevail.

5 p.m. - Brazilian air force spots lifeboats. 

9 p.m. - Merchant ships Crystal Pioneer (photo above) and Hokuetsu Delight (photo below) told to go to location. Stormy seas, bad weather continue.

Friday, Feb. 19:

4 a.m. - Crystal Pioneer spots lifeboats - due to darkness and high seas, waits to pluck the survivors to safety.

Hokuetsu Delight - Concordia Rescue7 a.m. - The relieved passengers start boarding the Crystal Pioneer and Hokuetsu Delight.

9 a.m. - Last lifeboat located, passengers transferred to Hokuetsu Delight.

Saturday, Feb. 20: 

All 64 students, teachers and crew arrive safely in Rio de Janeiro

Sources: Nigel McCarthy and The Brazilian Navy (via Calgary Herald)

 

March 5, 2010 Update:

There are some excellent photographs of the lifeboat and the students being rescued on line at the Amver blog.

 

Credits: 

Crystal Pioneer    CIShipping.com Cayman Registery

Hokuetsu Delight    Shipspotting.com (Andreas Schlatterer)

The Clelia II - Another Antarctic Cruise Ship Skirts Disaster

Explorer - Sinking - Cruise ShipThe Santiago Times reports "Luxury Cruise Ship Suffers Accident In Antarctic Peninsula."

The newspaper in Chile reports that the 100 passenger cruise ship Clelia II  has been withdrawn from service following an accident that occurred over Christmas week. 

The tour operator waited a long time before announcing the incident. 

In a statement released two weeks after the near disaster, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators said that on December 26 the Clelia II arrived at Petermann Island, Penola Strait in the Antarctica Peninsula for a passenger landing when what is characterized as "a stronger-than-anticipated current pushed it toward the rocky shoreline."

Whether this is true is unknown - this is the trade organization's spin.

It took one and one-half hours before the Clelia II's sister ship, the Corinthian II, arrived and attached a stern line to rescue the Clelia II.  If the incident was more serious, the passengers would be in quite a pickle.

The cruise line PR statement claims that "at no time during this incident was there a threat to Explorer - Sinking - Cruise Shiphuman life; passengers and crew were never in danger."

Does this statement comfort you?

It scares the hell out of me. 

I remember when the Explorer had a similar incident in Antarctica.  The Explorer scraped its hull.  The cruise line's PR people also claimed that everything was OK.  But when the photographs (shown here) emerged from the incident showing the stricken cruise ship belly up in the ice in Antarctica with the passengers huddled in lifeboat terrorized, I realized that cruising in Antarctica was not your typical Caribbean vacation.  And the cruise line PR people could not be trusted. 

Numerous news sources subsequently pointed to the negligence of the captain, faulty equipment, failed inspections, a compromised hull - as well as negligent emergency protocols - as nearly causing a mini-Titanic disaster.

Trust me, PR statements by cruise lines are inherently self-serving and must be taken with a grain of salt - or a stiff scotch!

The good news here sounds like a lucky break for the passenger sand crew aboard the Clelia II.   

It will be interesting to read the official investigation reports and determine whether there was really a threat to the passengers and crew on yet another disabled cruise ship in the freezing Antarctic waters.  

December 8, 2010 Update:

The Clelia II is in trouble again - The Clelia II Skirts Disaster Again in Antarctica

Explorer - Cruise Ship - Sinking

 

Credits: 

Photographs   Associated Press (AP)