Concordia Two Years Later: Former Costa CEO Pier Luigi Foschi Retiring from Carnival with Bonus While Victims Remain Uncompensated

Its been nearly two years since the Concordia recklessly crashed into the rocks surrounding the little port of Giglio, killing 32 passengers and crew and terrorizing thousands.

The officers of the operator of the cruise line, Costa, and the owners of the owner, Carnival corporation, quickly dumped 100% of the blame on the now disgraced captain, Francesco Schettino, who remains on trial for manslaughter and abandoning ship. 

Although salvors have up-righted the cruise ship during the highly published "parbuckling" maneuver at a cost of nearly one billion dollars, the ship is still sitting in the water at the port. 

Pier Luigi Foschi Costa Cruises The big news this week has been Carnival's announcement yesterday that the former CEO of Costa Cruises is retiring.  

Pier Luigi Foschi was CEO at Costa Cruises at the time of the disaster. Many people believe that Foschi and other senior Costa officials knew that their captains were altering the cruise routes and performing dangerous "flybys" but diverted attention from themselves by foisting all of the attention and blame on Captain Schettino.

Carnival announced yesterday Foschi is retiring from the Carnival organization after 16 years. He had retired from Costa in the summer of 2012, six months after the Concordia capsized. Carnival Corporation then named him as the CEO of the Carnival-Asia operations. 

The Miami Herald says that Foschi is receiving a bonus of 1,250,000 euros ($1.7 million) as part of a separation agreement.

According to the Independent newspaper, Foschi was paid $3,970,000 in 2012, for the one year period after the Concordia debacle. He also reportedly has shares worth $4,700,000.

Carnival Chairman Micky Arison praised Foschi yesterday for his contribution to Carnival's business.

Meanwhile, those Concordia passengers who did not accept Costa's settlement offer of 11,000 euros are continuing to pursue lawsuits against Costa and Carnival. The Costa crew members affected by the Concordia disaster were essentially left out in the cold and were lucky if they ended up on another Costa ship.

Its a telling list of financial priorities. A billion dollars to salvage the Costa ship, millions of dollars for the Costa CEO, peanuts for the Costa passengers, and nothing for the Costa crew members.    

 

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

Human Remains at Costa Concordia Shipwreck Identified as Missing Italian Passenger Maria Trecarichi

Maria Grazia Trecarichi - Costa ConcordiaInternational news sources are reporting that remains located at the ship wreck of the Costa Concordia are of an Italian woman, an Italian prosecutor said.

"The human remains belong to Maria Grazia Trecarichi," prosecutor Francesco Verusio said.

Newspapers quote Trecarichi's widower Elio Vincenzi saying:

"I have learned from the press that the remains belong to my wife but have had no official confirmation. They assured me I would be the first to know, it didn't go that way."

Mr. Vincenzi had earlier identified shoes and a necklace found with the remains as belonging to his wife.

 

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

U.S. Appellate Court Affirms Dismissal of Another Costa Concordia Case

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal has affirmed an order of dismissal on forum non conveniens grounds of a case filed by an Italian citizen and Italian business for damages as a result of the Costa Concordia disaster. 

In a case styled Giglio Sub, S.N.C. and Francesco Onida versus Carnival Corporation et al., the Eleventh Circuit held that the federal district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the cruise line's motion to dismiss the case. The appellate court held that the trial court did not err in holding that Italy was an adequate and available forum for lawsuits surrounding the cruise ship capsizing to be filed.

The first sentence summed up the court's finding, referring to the dispute as a lawsuit filed by an Italian citizen and Italian business seeking damages suffered in Italy as a result of an Italian cruise ship which ran aground off the coast of Italy.

I predicted long ago that although the Concordia was owned by Miami-based Carnival, this would be an issue resolved in the Italian court system.

Costa Concordia Disaster

Photo Credit: Telegraph 

  

 

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

Captain Schettino Changes Course While Costa Concordia Trial Starts & Stops

The criminal trial against Captain Schettino finally started this week but, believe it or not, was suspended due to a national strike of lawyers in Italy.

Captain Schettino showed up for the first day at the theater in Grosseto where the trial will be held. The paparazzi photographed him wearing a snappy blue sports coat. No tie. An open collar shirt. Cool sunglasses. Tan. With his I'll-say-anything-attitude. This guy is too much. On trial for abandoning ship and manslaughter with 32 dead on his watch and he appears like a playboy vacationing on a yacht in Monaco.

All he needed to complete his image was his blonde former cruise ship dancer Moldovan paramour at his side.   

The Telegraph newspaper reports Captain Schettino's story changed. His lawyers stated that he really didn't abandon ship. He was "inadvertently thrown from the ship" is the latest excuse.

From "I-slipped-and-fell-into-a-lifeboat" whopper to "I-was-inadvertently thrown-off-the-cruise-ship" tall tale. Oh boy.

What a soap opera will unfold when the lawyers come back to work from their strike.

Captain Schettino - Costa Concordia Cruise Ship

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

 

Photo Credit: AP / Giacomo Aprili via Telegraph

Costa Concordia Lawsuits Remain in Florida, But What's Next?

Costa Concordia LawsuitIn an opinion released yesterday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed a ruling from a federal district court which held that two lawsuits filed after the Costa Concordia disaster, involving 104 cruise passengers, should remain in state court in Miami.

The cases are Abeid-Saba, et al., v. Carnival Corporation and Scimone, et al. v. Carnival Corporation. The cruise line removed the cases to federal court under the Class Act Fairness Act ("CAFA") which establishes federal jurisdiction of "mass actions."

The district court held that CAFA did not apply because neither case involved more than 100 individuals. The lawyers for the passengers were careful to divide the 104 passengers into two different cases which each had less than 100 individuals involved. You can read our article about the district court's ruling here: Costa Concordia Litigation: Tactical Blunder By Carnival Opens Door for Lawsuits in Miami.

Yesterday, the circuit court affirmed the lower court. The court held that CAFA permitted pleading cases in this manner and a defendant could not consolidate cases for the purpose of meeting that threshold standard of a mass action with 100 or more individuals. 

You can read the 11th Circuit's opinion here. The press release by the passengers' lawyers is here.

The federal court decision involves a technical argument and does not address the merits of the case or the issue of forum non conveniens (whether the case should be filed in Italy versus the U.S.). Carnival's next step is probably to file a motion to dismiss the cases based on the argument that the terms of the Costa passenger tickets require that the lawsuit be filed in Genoa, Italy and that Italy is a more convenient location to pursue the litigation.  

There are many hundreds of cases proceeding in Italy. I have written articles stating that the chances of keeping a Costa Concordia lawsuit here in state court in Miami are slim. I hope it turns out that I'm wrong. 

July 5 2013 Update: A reader of this blog brought to my attention that Carnival and the other defendants in these cases have already filed motions to dismiss based on the forum selection clause in the passenger tickets (specifying Italy as the location where the cases must be filed) and the doctrine of "forum non conveniens" which is a doctrine where the court determines the most convenient location to hear the lawsuit.  There have been no rulings on these motions yet.  A recent case from the Florida Supreme Court, Cortez v. Palace Resorts, reinforced the legal proposition that there is a strong presumption in favor of not disturbing the chosen forum of a U.S. litigant. Hopefully, this will assist the passengers in keeping their lawsuits here in state court in Miami.

Photo Credit: Giglio News

More Concordia Craziness: Scorned Woman Sues Costa

The Costa Concordia disaster has created some of the weirdest stories I have ever heard of in the field of maritime law. The notion of a playboy captain dining with a young blonde former ship dancer while the cruise ship heads towards disaster would be an improbable movie script if the story were not so real.

Captain Schettino is, of course, the central actor in this absurd drama. “Captain Coward,” as the press labeled him, is heading to trial later this year for manslaughter and abandoning ship. But that did not stop him from filing a lawsuit last year against Costa Crociere alleging that the cruise line wrongfully fired him. A 600 million dollar cruise ship ruined and many passengers and crew dead under his watch, but Master Schettino becomes Plaintiff Schettino looking for compensation himself.

Domnica Cemortan - Costa ConcordiaHow does a disgraced captain who abandoned ship have the chutzpah to seek money damages after causing such death and destruction?

Schettino has a boatload of excuses. Remember that he claims that he “slipped and fell into a lifeboat.” I am surprised that he didn’t hire a personal injury lawyer to sue the cruise ship company for that too.

And now the Schettino-Costa Concordia story gets even weirder.

According to the Telegraph, Schettino’s alleged girlfriend on the ship, Domnica Cemortan, has announced that she too is suing Costa as well as Schettino himself.

You will recall that Ms. Cemortan was the captain’s dinner companion on the night of the disaster who somehow ended up on the bridge when all hell was breaking loose. She claims that Costa failed to re-hire her and she lost income as a result. She also claims that Costa and Schettino failed to protect her image and reputation. She is threatening to sue the Italian newspapers which labeled her as Schettino’s paramour and portrayed her in an endless series of bikini photos.

Isn’t this the same person who reportedly professed her love for the captain shortly after the disaster? Did Ms. Cemortan really expect that this coward of a captain, who abandoned his ship and thousands of his passengers and crew members, would somehow protect her honor?

I suppose that it’s expected to have hard feelings when your dinner date kills 32 passengers and crew members, abandons ship, and doesn’t call you the next morning. 

 

Photo Credit: genova.ogginotizie.it

QuadroCopter Operators Arrested in Giglio for Filming Costa Concordia

Team Black sheep - Costa Concordia GiglioA company called Team Black Sheep, specializing in remote controlled, model-copter photography and video services, captured some interesting images while travelling to Giglio, the site of the infamous Costa Concordia disaster.

Using a device referred to as a "quadrocopter," which they flew over the port of Giglio, the Black Sheet Team recorded video of the capsized Costa Concordia cruise ship.

The team members were later arrested because videoing or photographing the area is now banned according to the Black Sheep YouTube page.   

You can see some photos of the stricken cruise ship here on the Black Sheet Facebook page.

Hat tip to gCaptain for the story.

 

News Channel 7 Investigates "Captain of Controversy" Francesco Schettino - Coward or Scapegoat?

Miami news station WSVN - 7 aired an interesting interview with Francesco Schettino last night and asked: Is he a coward who caused 32 people to die the night his ship the Costa Concordia capsized? Or is he is a professional who did all that he could to avert disaster due to mistakes by his crew? 

An Italian judge is in the process of considering evidence whether criminal charges should be filed against him and other Costa employees. 

Schettino blames his bridge team for navigating off-course towards the island and then failing to properly conduct the course change he ordered. He calls the incident an accident and questions why the prosecutors are trying to turn the incident into a crime.

The helmsman, from Indonesia, left the jurisdiction and will not return to Italy for trial if one is ordered.

Channel 7's investigation does not address the events which followed the cruise ship striking the rocks.

WSVN-TV -

Did Costa Cover-Up A Near Concordia-Like Disaster?

A newspaper in Italy is reporting that six and one-half years before the Costa Concordia disaster, another Costa cruise ship ruptured its hull during a "sail-by" maneuver off the coast of Capri.

Libero Quotidiano reports that in June 2005, the Costa Fortuna was sailing by the island of Capri off the western side of Italy.  The Fortuna, owned by Carnival and operated by Costa Crociere (Costa), had 3,500 passengers and crew members aboard.  According to the newspaper, the ship cruised into shallow water during what is called a "sail-by" or "salute" to entertain the quests.  Just like theCosta Fortuna Cruise Ship Sail By Concordia, the Fortuna's hull was ruptured by rocks in the shallow waters and the cruise ship began to take on water.

The Italian newspaper writes that the Master and officers of the Fortuna did not report the incident to the Italian Coast Guard or any maritime or port officials. The officers then ordered the use of pumps at maximum effort to keep the water from sinking the ship. The Fortuna was able to make it to the port of Palermo in Southern Italy. Once back in port, Costa had the hole repaired and then continued the cruise the following morning with all of the passengers.

The only thing reported by Costa was that there had been an abnormal rise in the temperature of an engine. After making this false report, Costa "buried" the incident.  

The incident came to light as part of the investigation into Costa following the 2012 Costa Concordia disaster. One of the photographers who worked in 2005 on Fortuna reported the incident to the Master of Palermo. His story has been verified.  Investigators said that there is "numerous and insurmountable" evidence to support the photographer's account. The incident was a "real critical situation," and it was only favorable weather conditions that avoided a disaster. 

Another Italian newspaper, La Nazione, covered this story and has additional information.  The reference to the 2005 incident is contained in a 700 page report about the Costa Concordia which focused on prior "sail bys."  On page 619 of the report, there is a reference to the Costa Fortuna cruising 300 meters from the coast near Sorrento when it hit a shoal and began to take on water, "just before a greeting to the island of Capri." The impact caused a gash in the hull "deep and ten meters long."  Passengers were disembarked from the ship in dry dock where the ship was repaired during the night by Fincantieri workers and set off on the morning of June 15 2005. The Master, Giuseppe Russo, did not report the incident, and the ship officers falsely stated that while cruising from Naples to Palermo there had been an unexpected rise of temperature.

La Nazione explains that there was never any indication of the incident to the maritime authorities until January 18 2012, when the wave of emotion caused by the sinking of Concordia and of the 32 victims, caused one of two Costa Fortuna photographers, Roberto Cappello, to come forward. 

This story was first reported last year by the U.K. press. The Sun reported that Fortuna ship photographer Cappello was on board the ship when he felt and heard a "loud bang" during the "sail by." The ship then rolled from left to right. Cappello later photographed damage to the cruise ship’s keel and broken propeller blade. However, Costa demanded and confiscated his photographs. Costa later claimed that the ship had "struck a whale."

Does anyone have information about this incident?  Are there any former crew member who worked on the Fortuna with information to share?  Leave a message or discuss the issue on our Facebook page.

April 15 2013 Update:

Costa sent a letter to the newspaper strongly denying the incident and threatening to sue.

According to La Nazione Grosetto, Costa categorically denies that the Fortuna was Involved in a collision in shallow water near Capri on June 13, 2005 which caused a leak in the hull, as reported by a photographer on board the ship. Costa states that after departure from the port of Naples, around 7:00 PM on June 13 2005, the Fortuna experienced only a "minor technical problem" to a propeller shaft which did not compromise safety or navigation. There was a short stop in the dock in Palermo, the next port, and repairs were successfully performed between 14 and 15 June 2005. On June 15 2005, the ship was permitted to leave the dock, with certificates issued by the certifying authority competent, and the cruise ship departed Palermo at 9.00 AM on its cruise itinerary.

Costa Cruises reserves all legal action against those who continue to spread news which is defamatory to the company's image.  

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Hanseaticus

Costa Concordia Disaster Continues: Cruise Line Avoids Criminal Liability By Paying Fine of Only One Million Euros

Multiple news sources are reporting that the Italian prosecutors have agreed to drop all criminal charges against Costa Cruises arising out of the Concordia disaster in exchange for a fine of only one million Euro's.  

Just one million Euro's (around $1.31million) for killing 32 people, including children? What a pittance.

I'm sure Carnival-owned Costa is happy to write that check.  All of the big shot cruise executives and senior management officers who knew about the dangerous fly-by salutes can rest assured that they Costa Concordia - Criminal Fine - Italywill remain in their luxurious villas and not spend a second behind bars. 

The fine turns out to be less than $41,000 per dead passenger and dead crew member. Not much of a punishment. 

The deal does not release Captain Schettino of the criminal charges of manslaughter and abandoning ship. And the civil lawsuits in Italy, for what they are worth, are unaffected. 

Newspapers are saying that the the prosecution is satisfied with the fine because it was "close to the maximum allowed by law." So why wasn't it the maximum fine?  And what difference is a million Euro fine to a multi billion Euro corporation?  Isn't the ongoing publicity of a criminal trial and potential jail time against the real decision makers a better deterrent?

 

Photo Credit Giglio News. 

Chaos, Confusion & Fear Aboard Costa Concordia

Costa Concordia Cruise ShipNewspapers in Europe are reporting on the contents of the legal submissions made by the Italian prosecutors who have been collecting evidence regarding the Costa Concordia disaster.

Sky News has an interesting video which you can watch here

You can hear about 5 year old Dayana Arlotti who drown along with her father after they were denied seats on a lifeboat and then directed to the other side of the cruise ship.

Crew member Giuseppe Girolamo drowned after he gave up his place on a lifeboat for another person who survived the ordeal.

Prosecutors are seeking criminal trials against Captain Schettino (for manslaughter and abandoning ship) as well as other Costa employees. 

Costa Concordia Litigation: Tactical Blunder By Carnival Opens Door For Lawsuits in Miami

A couple of weeks ago (February 4th), Carnival won a major victory in defending the personal injury cases arising out of the Costa Concordia disaster when a federal judge in South Florida granted Carnival's motion to dismiss and ordered that the case must be filed in Italy if the passengers wish to proceed. 

In the case of Wilhelmina Warrick v. Carnival Corporation, Judge William P. Dimitrouleas held that he was "thoroughly convinced that dismissal in favor of an Italian forum is proper."  The order states that the Court carefully considered the matter and concluded that every single factor weighed in favor of dismissing the passengers' case from Florida. 

Costa ConcordiaYou can read the opinion here courtesy of another maritime law firm's website. I considered the decision to be essentially a final nail in the coffin regarding attempts to hold Carnival or Costa responsible here in U.S. courts.

But on February 15th, the same federal court judge reached an opposite result in two other cases involving 104 Costa cruise passengers claiming compensation arising out of the Concordia capsizing.  Denise Abeid-Saba et al., vs. Carnival Corporation (companion case is Scimone v. Carnival Corporation). 

These cases were filed in state court here in Miami.  Carnival removed the cases to federal court pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA)  of 2005 which permits defendants to remove cases which involve monetary relief sought by 100 or more persons.  However, there is an exclusion where there are 100 plaintiffs because the defendant seeks to consolidate the cases.  

The Court noted that the Abeid-Saba case involved 57 persona and the Simone cases involved 47 persons. Therefore, because neither case involved 100 or more person, there was no basis for removal of the cases from state court.

The Court further held that there was no foreign interest or foreign policies sufficient to create federal court jurisdiction.  Judge Dimitrouleas ordered that the cases should be remanded back to state court.

But then the judge went further. He held:

"There is no indication that the Italian government owned or ran the vessel. There is no evidence of the importance of the Costa Concordia or cruising to the Italian economy. Italy has not taken a position in this lawsuit. Put simply, there is a dearth of evidence to show that Italy has a strong foreign interest in this case. This case is about international and U.S. passengers injured on a pleasure cruise run by a private corporation and whether that corporation properly adhered to safety standards or was otherwise negligent. U.S. - Italian relationships will not be rocked if a Florida state court judge awards money damages because and Italian corporation was negligent."

The decision is surprising in so far as Judge Dimitrouleas essentially reached a completely different result in his orders just 11 days apart.  The lawyers for the 104 Concordia victims were understandably pleased with the outcome and issued a press release earlier this week.     

Judge Dimitrouleas' strongly worded opinion is hard to reconcile with his earlier opinion that he was "thoroughly convinved" that the cases should be filed in Italy.

But there are two things that all lawyers learn in law school: first, federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and in practical terms are always looking for a way to get rid of a civil personal injury case; and secondly, federal judges decide only those issues squarely before the court.   

Costa Concordia SimoneThe issue of forum non conveniens (whether the case should be filed in Italy versus the U.S.) was not before Judge Dimitrouleas. The only issue before him was whether the case belonged in federal court (as Carnival wanted) versus in state court (as the plaintiff wanted). The court did not conduct the same forum non conveniens analysis as in the earlier Warrick case. The court reached a decision solely addressing the issue whether federal jurisdiction was properly invoked.

Rather than moving to dismiss the state court cases based on the argument that the only proper location was in Italy, Carnival preferred to try and take the cases into the federal courts. This was a clever technical argument that turned out to be a bad idea. Carnival gambled with a removal argument based on CAFA. It lost and received some bad language from the federal court in the process.   

But the Concordia victims can't count their chickens yet.  Carnival will still have an opportunity to raise the forum non conveniens argument in the state court proceedings.  Carnival will argue that the language in the judge's order is just dicta, and is not binding on the state court in any event. The cruise victims will argue that the rationale in the court's latest ruling is correct and the cases should remain in Florida state court. 

I met the lead plaintiff in the Scimone case (photo above right) while attending the Congressional hearings last year. These families have experienced quite an ordeal and deserve a trial in Miami. I hope they are successful in keeping the cases here.  

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.

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. 

 

 

The World Focuses on Giglio, But Costa Tells Victims to Stay Away

Giglio Italy - Costa ConcordiaWith the one year anniversary of the Costa Concordia capsizing this Sunday, there are literally several hundreds new articles on line about the disaster.  

This morning CBS News aired a video (below) and published an article Costa Concordia 1 Year Later: Survivors Attempt to Move On in which several survivors explain how they are dealing with the aftermath of the horrific event.

The cruise line cheerleaders are out in full force with travel writer Jane Archer of the Telegraph newspaper in London answering her own question Is Cruising Safer One Year On? and Carolyn Spencer Brown of the Expedia / TripAdvisor owned Cruise Critic fan site conducting a puff piece interview for CNN International extolling on the virtues of cruising and blaming the series of institutional failures solely on "one rogue captain."  

More critical and honest articles include  I Need a Grave to Cry Over

As the focus is now on the island of Giglio, where the Concordia capsized and remains in view as a daily reminder of the deadly disaster, Costa has done the unthinkable by writing a letter to the victims telling them that they should stay away from the island for "logistical reasons." 

Amazingly insensitive, but this has been how Costa and Carnival have operated from day one. 

As one survivor put it: "Costa has had an inhumane and unacceptable attitude from the start."

The cruise lines would prefer not to have several thousands of people standing with the wrecked cruise ship in the background, telling the world how Costa and Carnival have treated them over the last year. 

 

 

Photo credit: CNN International

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. 

Cruise Critic & Cruise Log Continue Cheerleading for Cruise Lines As One Year Costa Concordia Anniversary Approaches

The Costa Concordia disaster provided a disturbing insight into the unsafe operations of the cruise lines. Before the Concordia capsized, the cruise industry did not even have a requirement that cruise ships conduct a muster drill before the passengers set sail.  There were no restrictions to the bridge. The on board girlfriend of infamous Captain Schettino was reportedly in the bridge after the Concordia hit the rocks. And there was widespread confusion from the senior officers in the bridge all the way down to the crew members at the life boats.  

Can you imagine flying on an American Airlines 757 where the stewardess doesn't bother to instruct Cruise Criticpassengers on evacuation and emergency procedures before take-off and the captain's girlfriend hangs out in the cockpit?     

The image of panic and the ensuing death of both passengers and crew aboard the Concordia threatened to sink the cruise industry's idyllic image of fun, family vacations on the high seas. In response, the cruise industry - lead by the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA") - devised a public relations scheme to create the image that an "independent" panel of experts was objectively scrutinizing the situation and arriving at proposals to make cruising safer.

The reality, however, was that the so-called "independent" experts were really paid consultants for the cruise lines and were hired more for public relation reasons than to really analyze the obvious weaknesses in the cruise industry's procedures.   

But with every new safety recommendations proposed throughout 2012, the travel agents and cruise specialists united for a collective "hurrah!" to ensure the public that cruising was safer than ever before. Leading the PR campaign was the popular on line cruise community Cruise Critic, owned by Expedia / TripAdvisor, which like a loyal cheerleader applauded everything the cruise industry announced.

Costa  Concordia Even more disappointing was the unabashed cheer-leading by USA TODAY's Cruise Log which, although owned and operated by a major newspaper, might as well be a part of the cruise industry's PR committee. Like Cruise Critic, Cruise Log was all-too-quick to publish whatever CLIA wanted reported in the news as the Gospel Cruise Truth.

Lacking in the Cruise Critic / Cruise Log discourse was any critical analysis by experienced and truly objective maritime experts about what the cruise industry was proposing. Neither Cruise Critic nor Cruise Log offered a single criticism, or dissenting view, regarding the post-Concordia safety recommendations. No one mentioned the fact that there was no consequence if any of the recommendations the cruise industry was proposing were ignored by a cruise line.

The recommendations remain just that - recommendations - with no governing body to impose fines or sentences if they are not followed. 

We here at Cruise Law News voiced our reservations throughout the year about some of these proposals, starting with the dubious and laughable "independent" nature of the so-called experts. We pointed out specific shortcomings of the ten point safety recommendations which you can read here, here and here.

With the Costa Concordia one-year anniversary less than a week away, the cruise industry is again gearing up its PR campaign to try and convince the public that it has made great strides in ensuring that a cruise vacation on the high seas is safe and sound. Cruise Log just published a puff piece extolling CLIA's 10 safety recommendations, followed by an almost identical article published today by Cruise Critic which might as well have been written by publicists hired by CLIA and Expedia to Cruise Logencourage the public to cruise.

Ultimately, cheer-leading like this does more harm than good. Media and internet companies like Cruise Log and Cruise Critic are selfishly short-sighted in their unrestrained support and promotion of the cruise industry.  As matters now stand there is no oversight of the foreign-flagged cruise ships and foreign-incorporated cruise companies. The cruising public remains at risk. The public needs fewer cheerleaders and more watchdogs.  

Instead of an independent media watching over the cruise business and a community of independent thinkers with a healthy degree of skepticism, cruising is dominated by spineless journalists and a flock of sheep ready to follow the cruise lines over the next cliff.

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).

Costa Concordia Survivor Looks Back As One Year Anniversary Approaches

A television station (WBRD) in Louisville Kentucky brings us the story of 29 year-old Lauren Moore, a Bowling Green native, who sailed aboard the ill-fated Costa Concordia with her friends a year ago come January 13th. 

Lauren had only been on-board for a couple hours 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 lifes of 32 people every day, but she wants to celebrate the fact that she and her friends are alive on the one year anniversary.    

 

 

Family Won't Cruise Until Real Improvements to Cruising are Made

The Times Union newspaper has an interesting article today, about a family who survived the Costa Concordia disaster, entitled "Survivors Shun Ships After Duel with Death."  Written by Cathleen Crowley, the article explains that a family from Duanesburg, New York previously enjoyed cruising having vacationed on a dozen prior cruises. But on January 13 2012, their cruise aboard the Concordia quickly turned into a near death experience.

The story involves Joan Fleser, her husband Brian Aho, and their daughter, Alana, The family feels fortunate to have survived the ordeal which took the lives of 32 passengers and crew members, but "the chaos on the ship and the memory of the massive cruise liner leaning toward their tiny lifeboat still Cruise Ship Safetyinvades the family's thoughts daily."

Earlier this year, Joan and Brian attended Congressional hearings in Washington, D.C. which were convened to study issues on cruise safety following the Concordia debacle.  Joan told the Times Union: "It was very interesting and very upsetting seeing that the House Committee was stacked with representatives from cruise states and they were so pro-cruise industry." This is the same conclusion I reached when I attended the hearing.

I took a photo of the family at the hearing (together with Mississippi lawyer, John Eaves Jr.)

The family itemized a number of well-reasoned proposed safety improvements which you can read in the article here.  

The article also quotes Captain Bill Doherty who is director of maritime affairs for Nexus Consulting Group, a maritime consulting and security firm based in Virginia. Captain Doherty is a former naval officer and was the safety manager for Norwegian Cruise Lines. He is critical of the cruise lines inspection systems and lack of enforcement of existing safety rules.

Captain Doherty points out that the U.S. Coast Guard and government enforcement bodies in other nations outsource inspection duties to third parties, many of which are society groups funded by the cruise ship owners.

Cruise Line Safety Panel - Independent Experts or Paid Cheerleaders?

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) publicity machine has been in full speed this week. As part of its marketing strategy that cruising is "extremely safe," CLIA announced in a press statement that it continues to review cruise ship procedures as part of a safety review which it started after the Costa Concordia disaster.   

Unfortunately, the safety review panel is producing lots of rhetoric and little substantive safety changes.  One of the new policies is that cruise passengers must attend a muster drill before the cruise starts. My reaction when I first heard this was "you mean the cruise lines don't already have a policy in place?" The aviation industry required pre-flight safety instructions to passengers fifty years ago. 

Star Princess Cruise Ship FireI have written about CLIA's much publicized 10 safety policies here and here.

Lots of the rhetoric is coming from CLIA's panel of so-called "independent" safety advisers. There is nothing remotely "independent" about the panel. Take, for example, Mark Rosenker who is always described as a "former NTSB chairman." What the cruise lines don't say is that Rosenker has worked in the private sector after leaving the federal government and has been a paid consultant for the cruise industry for years.

Two years before the Costa Concordia debacle, the World Cruise Industry Review referred to Rosenker as a "cruise industry advisor" and quoted him in 2010 saying "the industry has an outstanding safety record and the most dangerous part of the cruise is undoubtedly the drive to the port. It is very rare that people are injured on a cruise ship.”

Rosenker was a friend of the cruise lines even when he worked at the NTSB. In 2007, CLIA's Board of Directors wined and dined Rosenker during the annual Sea Trade cruise convention here in Miami. He gave a nice speech to CLIA which he began by stating " I am very pleased that your safety record is excellent." This was a rather amazing thing to say given the fact that just a year earlier, Princess Cruises' Star Princess ignited off the coast of Jamaica and burned through 100 cabins and killed the husband of one of our clients. (You can read about the Star Princess fire and many other cruise ships fires here).  

Rosenker even promised CLIA that he would help the cruise lines keep "sensitive" information about maritime accidents away from the public, telling CLIA "there are provisions in the law to keep certain Princess Cruises Star Princess Cruise Ship Firevoluntarily provided safety information confidential."   

This week Rosenker is back extolling on the safety of a cruise industry which puts money in his pocket, telling a travel agent publication that “it is important for consumers to understand that cruise vacations are extremely safe. This industry is highly regulated with tremendous oversight.”  Rosenker tells another cruise industry publication that “every aspect of the cruise industry is heavily monitored and regulated under US, EU and international law.”

An "independent" safety expert would not engage in such hyperbolic cheer-leading. In truth, we all know that the cruise industry is essentially unregulated. The cruise lines goes to extraordinary steps to incorporate their businesses and register their cruise ships in foreign countries to avoid U.S. taxes, wage and labor laws, and safety regulations. 

Rosenker has been cheering for the cruise industry for a long time. The Star Princess and Costa Concordia disasters did not dampen his enthusiasm one bit. That's what got him placed on the cushy job of the cruise line's safety panel where he will continue to cheer for the cruise lines under the guise of being an "independent" expert. 

Have a thought? Join the discussion on our facebook page.

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:

 

Captain Schettino: "Costa Concordia Not A Crime"

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's interview with disgraced Captain Schettino airs tonight in a program entitled the "Captain's Tale" produced by the CBC's Fifth Estate.

The Costa captain states that he doesn't understand why the disaster is being treated like a crime. He blames others for striking the rocks, explains that he delayed the evacuation of the cruise ship because he did not want to cause "mass hysteria," and denies that he abandoned ship.

Portions of the interview are below.  The full interview on CBC will be shown tonight.

  

Captain Schettino to Tell "Shocking Truth" in New Book

Just when you'd think that the Costa Concordia story could not get any weirder, this week the infamous Captain Francesco Schettino announced that he is writing a book about the events surrounding the disaster. He promises to tell a "completely different story" than what has been reported to date.

So what is the "shocking truth" he teases the public about?

That "I am not captain coward."

Oh Lord save us all.  First we have him cavorting about the cruise ship with his blonde girlfriend. Then Captain Coward - Schettino - Chicken of the Seashe goes into a funk for an hour or two after he crashes the cruise ship into the rocks. When he returns to reality and tries to save his own hide from the sinking ship, he "slips and falls" into a lifeboat. When the Italian Coast Guard commander catches up with the fleeing captain, Schettino ignores the Coast Guard's order to return to the ship. He hires a lawyer and sues the cruise line for wrongful termination. He later says that he's really the hero for saving lives and, to top it off, says that the "Hand of God" touched him to navigate the ship to safety.

Oh Captain, may the hand of God be placed squarely over your babbling mouth!

Now we have a tell-all book from the Costa captain to look forward to.  Maybe a great Christmas present for your friends?

Let's hope that someone sues Schettino and obtains a judicial decree ordering all of the proceeds of the captain coward's book sales to go to the families of the people he killed. 

 

Thought for the day:  Will you buy the captain's new book? Vote on our facebook page

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

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

Chutzpah: Captain Schettino Sues Costa

Everyone is talking about the disgraced Costa cruise captain Schettino's outrageous lawsuit against Costa claiming that the cruise line wrongfully terminated his employment.

The outrage is appropriate.  After all, this is a captain who interrupted dinner with his mistress only long enough to run his ship into the rocks and kill 32 of his crew and guests and then hop into a lifeboat and leave the carnage he caused behind. 

What are the words that come to mind when you think of this captain?  "Coward" and "chicken" come to my mind.

With news of his lawsuit against Costa, another word which starts with "c" comes to mind - "chutzpah," a Yiddish word meaning audacity.  

Law blogger Eugene Volokh noted in an article entitled Lawsuit Shmawsuit that the word chutzpah has been used 231 times in American legal opinions, 220 times after 1980.

Shortly after the Concordia disaster, I tweeted what I thought was an outlandish joke, namely that captain Schettino had hired me to file a slip-and-fall lawsuit against Costa after Schettino tried to justify his abandonment of the ship by claiming that he somehow slipped and fell into a lifeboat.  Little could I comprehend that the captain would have the audacity to actually file a lawsuit against Costa.

When the criminal trial against Schettino is over, lets hope that he is convicted of all charges pending against him. And he is also found guillty of chutzpah.  

First Set of Costa Concordia Lawsuits Dismissed

Costa Concordia Lawsuit - Carnival Cruise LineCarnival won its first step in battling lawsuits filed against it arising our of the January 2012 Costa Concordia disaster when a a federal court judge in Florida dismissed a lawsuit filed by Italian businesses against it.

U.S. District Court judge Robin Rosenbaum held that the lawsuits against Carnival should be filed in Italy. 1,000 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.

Whereas we would like to see Carnival sued here in Florida for the disaster, this is an outcome that we expected. We recently wrote about whether the cruise lines can be sued here in the U.S. - "Will Costa Concordia Passengers Be Able to Sue Costa and Carnival in the U.S.?"

This development does not bode well for the lawsuits filed against Carnival on behalf of passengers and crew members who were aboard the Concordia when it capsized. 

An Awkward Award: Costa Concordia Crew Members Win "Seafarer of the Year"

Lloyd's List, the well respected shipping industry newspaper, issued its "Seafarer of the Year" award today. And to the surprise of many, the recipients were the crew members of the doomed Costa Concordia cruise ship. 

Lloyd's List explains that the media has painted the Costa crew with a broad brush as lacking competence, training, and experience. They allegedly added to the confusion surrounding the delayed evacuation of the cruise ship after captain Schettino steered the ship into the rocks off of Giglio.

I must admit that I have lumped them all together as well. 

Costa Concordia GiglioBut the initial reports of the four Italian experts investigating the disaster has also been critical of the crew members.  The experts have concluded that some crew members were unaware of the ship's emergency instructions and had difficulty communicating with each other. 

Lloyd's List's stated: "What was largely missed in the media storm that ensued were the genuine examples of bravery and professionalism displayed by members of the crew . . it should not be forgotten that without the skilled response of the majority of the crew, the loss of life could have been far higher."

Yes there were indeed many heroic stories which involved the crew members.  Many crew members lost their lives trying to help the passengers escape the nightmare. 

But the crew of a cruise ship is a team of individuals. Teams should not receive awards when some of the team members fail miserably in performing their professional duties.   

And there is the matter of the many dead passengers. Their surviving families, still grieving, may have a hard time wondering why anyone is receiving awards when the disaster killed their loved ones, some of whom remain trapped in the cold, dark hull in Giglio. 

New CLIA Lifeboat Training Policy Insufficient to Prepare for the Next Cruise Disaster

The cruise industry trade organization, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), announced with great fanfare a new lifeboat training policy. This is a result of what CLIA is calling the cruise industry's "operational safety review" after the Costa Concordia disaster. 

Every six months, the CLIA cruise ships will conduct lifeboat drills.  The lifeboats will be lowered into the water either empty or with only a skeleton crew (probably one or two crew members) necessary to operate the life boat. 

The lifeboat itself will otherwise be empty. As USA TODAY explains:

Muster Station  - Lifeboat Chaos"The training will involve lowering a lifeboat into the water, filling it to capacity with crew members and then maneuvering it in the water to familiarize the crew to lifeboat operations. The crew will not practice lowering a fully loaded lifeboat."

The new policy is suppose ensure the public that the crew knows how to safely lower the lifeboats. But let's be clear what this "new" policy is and is not about.  

It is only after the lifeboat is lowered will it then be filled up with crew members (this is actually the same IMO policy which has existed for the past 4 years).  The lifeboat operator will then practice driving the loaded boat around for a while.  The crew will eventually get out.  Then the lifeboat will be raised back to the cruise ship empty.  

This means that there will be no training whatsoever in loading and then lowering a fully loaded lifeboat safely into the water. So when the next disaster strikes, that means that there is a 100% certainty that whoever is lowering your life boat has never practiced it while it is loaded.

It is hard to understand why the emphasis in the "new policy" is practicing driving the lifeboats around. Watch the Royal Caribbean video below of life boats from the Serenade of the Seas driving around and around. The video has wonderful music.  Its a beautiful day in Pointe Seraphine, Castries, St. Lucia.  The water is completely calm. What fun!

You will never see a real emergency in pleasant conditions like this. The last person overboard from the Serenade of the Seas occurred last week (largely ignored by the U.S. press and Royal Caribbean is staying mum).  A crew member went overboard in the Adriatic early in the morning in high seas with winds gusting up to 100 kilometers. The ship didn't even try and lower a lifeboat in those conditions. 

The problem with the Costa Concordia disaster was that the captain delayed ordering the passengers off the ship until the cruise ship listed to an angle where it was impossible to lower the lifeboat. There was chaos trying to round up and organize over 3,000 passenger into their designated muster stations, especially because there was no muster drill in the first place.

The "new" CLIA lifeboat drills don't mention crowd control issues, language issues or anything that might reasonably address the deadly confusion which took place on the Concordia.

There are no recommendations for simulation drills or intense training, while encountering a wide variety of emergencies and diverse simulated weather conditions.

Think if a cruise ship as large as the Oasis or Allure of the Seas needs to be evacuated, The Oasis has 18 lifeboats which can carry 370 passengers in each one. Getting that many people into the lifeboat in a timely manner and then lowering the boat safely into the water takes practice - something the "new" CLIA policy guarantees won't ever happen.

The truth of the matter is that some cruise lines have essentially discontinued lifeboats drills (actually lowering the lifeboats) because of the numerous injuries and some deaths during the drills. 10 years ago Royal Caribbean experienced a disastrous accident where numerous crew members sustained serious injuries.

There is a saying that most lifeboats injure or kill more passengers and crew than save lives.  Lifeboats can fall suddenly, get caught on the side of the ship or suffer malfunctions or failure of the cables and hardware.  Consider the incident in the video at the bottom which, although not involving a cruise ship, is similar to others incidents where cruse employees were injured.

    

 

 

 

 Photo Credit:  EPA via Telegraph 

Finally, Good News for Cruise Industry?

This morning two news articles caught my eye.  The first one from an Australian newspaper - "Cruising Boom: 20 Million Take to the Sea" - and the second one from one of my favorite newspapers, the LA Times - "Cruise Industry Rebounding from Ship Accident, Woes in Europe."

These headlines seem incongruous given the fact that the Costa Concordia remains capsized on its side as a continuing reminder of the deadly cruise disaster (image today).    

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) does a very good job promoting statistics showing the growth of the cruise industry via press releases. Today we are learning that some 20,000,000 people took a cruise last year - a record year for cruising.  According to the Sydney Morning Herald:

Costa Concordia - Giglio"A record 20 million people took a cruise last year, an increase of almost 2 million, according to the latest industry figures. While North America (11.5 million) and Europe (6.2 million) are the main markets, the Australian cruising market grew by 30 per cent, to more than 500,000 passengers." 

That's good news for the cruise industry and travel agents who make a living selling cruises. But last year, of course, was pre Costa Concordia disaster.  What are the prospects for the cruise industry post Costa Concordia?

According to the LA Times, the future of the $37 billion industry looks bright.

A survey of 300 travel agents in North America in July found that 64% expected bookings in 2012 to surpass last year's numbers.  And plenty of new cruise ships are coming on line with 19 ships being added or slated to come on line in 2012 and 2013 (a rather surprising number to me - is this right?) 

The newspaper interviewed Stewart Chiron, owner of CruiseGuy.com, who I bump heads with regularly on Twitter, saying "the impact of the Concordia on North America was almost nonexistent."  That is a hard concept to wrap my head around - 32 dead including Americans with no effect on U.S. cruise sales? In my view, if this is true it reflects that Carnival (which has over 100 cruise ships) and the cruise industry can weather almost any storm provided that they remain immune from paying U.S. corporate taxes. 

The newspaper concludes that cruise reservations are rising, and the drop in European bookings are offset by strong U.S. cruise ticket sales. The bottom line according to Times? The Costa Concordia disaster had only a short-term effect.

It seems to me that the LA Times article may be a tad optimistic, but who am I to rain on the cruise industry's good news? I was disappointed to see that the Times interviewed mostly just a cruise CEO, a travel agent and a cruise specialist without including an in depth analysis of the cruise lines' financial status.      

It's kind of like writing an article about the prospects of a professional football team and then interviewing only the team's owner, players and cheerleaders.   

 

Photo credit: Giglio News

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?

Muster Madness - "Carnival Still in Denial on Passenger Safety"

This week I ran across a really interesting article by Karen Wormald who is an award-winning business writer and author, as well as a contributing editor to PC Solutions.  Her work has appeared in many publications including, interesting enough, Cruise Travel. 

Ms. Wormald had some very critical observations about the muster drills during a Carnival cruise she went on after the Costa Concordia disaster.  Her article is below and is worth reading a time or two. The intriguing thing about Ms. Wormald is that, certainly compared to me, she is a fan of cruising and is sympathetic of the cruise lines which have faced bad press this year, writing:

Karen Wormald" . . . in reality, cruising is FAR safer than virtually any land-based vacation. But every time there’s an incident on a ship, the media goes into a frenzy. People get norovirus and food poisoning every day in a LOT of places we never hear about.

Costa Concordia certainly deserved all the bad press it got, but something like 13 million Americans cruise every year and experience only a tiny fraction of the crime and injury experienced by people on land . . . "   

I don't agree with Ms. Wormald about cruise safety in general, particularly norovirus (which is primarily caused by contaminated food and water on cruise ships), but that's not the point.

Read her article about the life boat drill aboard the Carnival Glory, Carnival Still in Denial on Passenger Safety, and ask yourself whether Carnival is ready for the next Concordia type of disaster? Ms. Wormald was nice enough to let me re-print her article:   

Carnival Still in Denial on Passenger Safety

"After Costa Concordia capsized in January, exposing slipshod safety practices that contributed to 32 fatalities, you’d think Costa’s parent, Carnival Corp., would be fanatical about safety now. Especially on Carnival line ships, whose Italian captains must overcome the shame of Concordia’s incompetent master, Francesco Schettino.

I just spent 6 days on Carnival Glory, and saw first-hand Carnival’s current safety measures.

My cabin TV welcomed me with a safety video on endless loop, with Captain [Italian Name] delivering the intro and closing. I must have heard a dozen times to look for crew members wearing green fluorescent caps in an emergency.

Glory was scheduled to sail at 5 p.m., with the lifeboat drill at 4:30 on Deck 4.

At 4:20, on Deck 8 I saw a crewman directing able-bodied passengers to elevators down to Deck 4 — it’s stairs-only in any emergency.

On Deck 4, this sign left the lifeboats’ exact location a mystery  . . .

Costa Concordia - Carnival Cruise Muster Drill

Part of the sign (below in yellow) was reproduced on walls throughout the ship, like it means anything . . .

Somebody finally opened the “Emergency Exit Only” door (forbidden for passengers), revealing the “secret” outer lifeboat deck.

This 952-ft. ship was divided into only 8 muster stations, 4 on each side, leaving wide open expanses with no signs (screw the near-sighted). Nobody knew where to go. At 4:40, a few young crewmen in orange vests (not green caps) began straggling in and herding us.

Costa Concordia - Carnival Cruise Muster DrillEach muster station was assigned multiple lifeboats, whose numbers were read to us later as an afterthought — as if anybody would remember them.

Now, let’s do the math: Glory holds 2,974 passengers and 1,150 crew, so each muster station must accommodate about 372 passengers and 144 crew (if they want to survive), or 516 souls in all.

I saw 2 crewmen at my station to handle that mob.

The drill/lecture was conducted from the bridge not by the captain, but by a young English-speaker. (Nor did the captain verbally preside over the 3 crew drills they presumably had during that voyage. I assume his Italian accent is considered a problem.)

On any other ship, an emergency signal consists of 7 short blasts followed by one long blast of the ship’s whistle.

Glory’s was 5 short, a long pause, then one more short, then one long.

The bridge voice kept saying drill attendance and our complete silence were mandatory. Then he’d go silent for so long, it seemed he’d forgotten us. In the meantime, we were just standing in silence, being told nothing on Deck 4.

Later I learned the protracted silences weren’t due to any sweep of the ship to get all passengers to the drill; I met a couple who stayed in their cabin. Nor was roll taken at muster stations to verify our presence. I’ve seen both procedures on other ships.

We didn’t wear life jackets, nor did anyone learn how to don and tie one because the crewman who demonstrated was standing in a dark area in the bow and made no effort to be seen. Lockers of life jackets lined the deck (locked, presumably, and I imagine rotsa ruck finding anybody with a key), but we were told to return to our cabins for our jackets in a pinch — because that worked so well for the obedient Concordia passengers whose corpses were found underwater in theirs.

The drill took 45 minutes, delayed sailing, and taught anybody NOTHING. If I hadn’t attended good drills on other ships, I’d have been irate.

Many passengers on Glory were taking their first cruise, and thank God it was uneventful, because if you don’t know how to save yourself on a Carnival ship, you’re doomed to a watery grave."  

Carnival's response:

Karen actually elicited a response from Carnival's CEO (something I have never received in my last thousand blogs) which you can read at this link

Costa Concordia's Captain Schettino Returns to the Sea

The Sun newspaper in the U.K. published a photo this weekend of disgraced Costa Captain Francesco Schettino aboard a power boat in the Mediterranean. 

The Sun reports that Captain Schetino "wore swimming trunks as he took to the waves near his home in Sorrento, Italy."

A friend of his was at the helm for a while, according to the newspaper, and then handed control of the recreational boat over to Schettino.

Apparently, nothing prevents the former Costa captain from operating pleasure craft even though he sailed a $500 million luxury liner into a reef earlier this year and killed 32 of his passengers. 

Images like this of the captain must make the families of the victims blood boil.

Costa to Re-Float the Concordia, But Can the Cruise Industry Salvage Its Reputation?

Friday the 13th was the 6 month anniversary of the January the 13th Costa Concordia disaster.

This weekend, I read through several dozen articles which looked back over the last 6 months since the Costa cruise ship killed 32 people and terrorized thousands.  I watched the recent specials on NBC and CNN about dangers inherent in cruising, including rapes as well as ship fires and sinkings.

I am struck by just how badly all of the articles and videos portray the cruise industry.

The Miami Herald recently published an article Cruise Industry Still in Troubled Waters Six Months After Costa Concordia, written by tourism reporter Hannah B. Sampson, who I have criticized for writing puff pieces supporting the cruise lines. Ms. Sampson seems to have had a moment of insight.  She writes " Costa Concordia Salvage. . . the cruise industry is treading water, faced with depressed fares in key markets, continuing negative headlines and would-be cruisers still spooked by the deadly disaster." 

The article continues: " . . . lawsuits related to the Jan. 13 catastrophe are piling up. The captain blamed for the accident — still being investigated but no longer on house arrest — is making new headlines in television interviews. And the larger question of safety on cruise ships is earning greater scrutiny as longtime critics gain a wider audience."

This time, the Miami Herald has the story exactly right. Things are indeed tough when the Miami Herald - a huge supporter of the cruise lines - delivers a message that the cruise industry is struggling.

The Miami Herald interviewed the usual cruise lines fans and industry representatives. Carolyn Spencer Brown, the editor of the popular online cruise community Cruise Critic, and an unabashed cruise supporter, is quoted saying “It was horrific, the ship’s still in the water, we’re still hearing about it.”  She predicted that  " . . . we won’t see the new normal until we get past the year’s anniversary."  I agree, assuming the doomed ship is not still lying on its side in the little port of Giglio next year.

Salvage operations are finally starting in an effort to float the dead cruise ship out of sight to a scrap yard where it will be disemboweled, cut up and eventually melted.  The salvage operations seem to be painfully slow to me, although I suppose it is a massive undertaking with a ship that big.

Will the salvage be done by January 13th of next year?  It will be a PR disaster if not. The cruise industry doesn't want the ship to still be there when the families of the dead return for another vigil.  I would not doubt it if the salvage contract contains incentives to complete the job before January 13, 2013.      

There is another operation underway - to try and salvage the cruise industry's reputation.  This is a far more difficult task.      

The Concordia disaster brought the world's attention not only on the outrageous conduct of the captain but on the manner in which the cruise industry treats its customers after disaster strikes. Part of the discussion today involves the onerous terms of the passenger tickets which the cruise lines draft to protect themselves against all legal claims.  It is shameful for a cruise industry, which collects over $35,000,000,000 a year and pays no taxes, to offer 11,000 Euros on a take-it-or-leave-it basis to traumatized passengers.

There is also the pesky business of cruise ship crimes (particularly rape) and accusations that the industry covers crime up. The debate whether cruising is a perfect place to commit a crime has resurfaced and reached a much broader audience.   

The cruise line's trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), doesn't have much to say to compete with the images of the panic and terror aboard the Concordia or the spectacle of a rape victim explaining how a family vacation turned into a nightmare.  CLIA's talking points are old.  This is an industry that promises cruising is safe, but works overtime to conceal crimes from the public.

The public must feel uneasy when CLIA's favorite PR statement “the number one priority of the cruise industry is the safety of its passengers” is juxtaposed against a 15 year old girl on CNN's Anderson Cooper's program discussing how a crew member raped her.

CLIA was under siege at a Senate hearing into the Concordia last March when Senator Rockefeller characterized CLIA President Christine Duffy as dishonest and the cruise industry being more interesting in avoiding U.S. taxes than the passenger's safety.

Add to this the recent revelation that the FBI and the cruise lines scuttled the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act in a concerted effort to prevent the U.S. public from learning about the hundreds of crimes which occur each year on CLIA cruise ships.    

CLIA tries to portray the cruise industry as proactive and interested in regulating itself.  But many think this is more publicity than substance. Consider how little the cruise lines have done since January to actually improve cruise ship safety. 

The Herald article outlines only a handful of steps the cruise lines have discussed in an effort to convince the public to spend their vacation dollars cruising:

Costa Concordia Evacuation - Confusion(1) more life vests on the ships; (2) no unnecessary people in the bridge; (3) pre-approved ship routes shared with all members of bridge; (4) twelve uniform emergency instructions; and (5) evacuation drills before a ship leaves port.

But these are such basic procedures that it is shocking to think that they were not in place 100 years ago, after the Titanic sank. 

It's like having an aviation industry where there are no mandatory safety instructions before take-off, girlfriends of the captain are permitted to enter the cockpit during an emergency landing, and the captain is the first one off the plane and down the emergency slide.

Even uber cruise fan Carolyn Spencer Brown admits: "Many of those changes should have already been in place before the incident."

My prediction is that the salvage efforts will have the Concordia out of sight before the one year anniversary of the disaster.  

But the cruise line's reputation?  If the cruise industry doesn't develop transparency, its battered reputation will sink further below the waves. 

 

Photos credits:

Top - AP / Pier Paola Cito

Bottom Sky News

Six Months After Costa Concordia Disaster, Ship Remains Offshore

 

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

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

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.

Carnival Sued For Design Defects Alleged in Costa Concordia Cruise Ship

Following the Costa Concordia tragedy, there was considerable debate about where the survivors would file suit and what legal claims against the cruise line would be raised.

As we approach 6 months after the disaster, there is even more confusion. Lawsuits have been filed all over the place.  

A group of New York lawyers filed suit in state court here in Miami. Many Miami lawyers referred cases to Italian lawyers to pursue in Genoa, Italy where Costa is headquartered. Other New York lawyers filed suit in New York.  Lawyers in Illinois filed suit in Chicago. One lawyer filed suit in Galveston and Costa Concordia Cruise Ship - Design Defect Lawsuiteven took the extraordinary step of seizing a Carnival cruise ship to try and get Carnival's attention. 

The latest highly publicized court filing, announced last week, involves a case filed against Carnival Corporation for the defective design of the Costa Concordia.   

Mississippi lawyer John Arthur Eaves filed the lawsuit in California and alleges that the Concordia was designed in a manner that causes the cruise ship to "roll and list" and caused problems safely evacuating the vessel.  He intends to names the designers and architects in the lawsuit.

Mr. Eaves scheduled a press conference in Italy (see video below) and said:  

"We believe that the actions of Carnival were so calculated, to place the profits of their fleet, the ability to sell more space on each boat was so calculated a decision that they intentionally ignored safety concerns and for that we have asked the court for punitive damages in the United States which is the ability of a U.S. court to take away the profits by which Carnival gain. We thought it is not right for Carnival to make huge profits by doing the wrong thing." 

Mr. Eaves was the lawyer who filed suit in Galveston and was criticized for seizing a Carnival cruise ship "as a shot across the bow" to get the cruise line's attention.  I met Mr. Eaves in Washington D.C. during the Congressional hearings into the Concordia disaster. He seems like a bright lawyer and a good fellow who has a passionate interest into cruise ship safety issues. 

His "design defect" filing in California is another creative lawsuit seeking to hold Carnival responsible for the Concordia disaster.  His latest lawsuit has also come under criticism by the cruise industry defenders, but I think it is right on target.

Someone needs to take a look at these taller and taller cruise ships and determine whether they are safely designed.  A couple of months ago I wrote an article Are Cruise Ships Dangerously Top Heavy?  I'm not a naval architect but the cruise ships today seem to have far too much air draft, like a 17 story condominium stuck on a barge.

Cruise ships like this depend on stabilizers. But stabilizers are of no help when the cruise ship loses power.  Ships like this seem likely to tip over.   

It's the last place I would want my family to be if there is a collision, or a fire, or the engines fail in rough water. 

 

 

Photograph: News Pictures / Rex Features

Carnival Forgets the Costa Concordia Dead, and Celebrates a NBA Championship Basketball Team

It's approaching six months since the death of ill fated Costa Concordia.  But it seems like yesterday that the renegade Costa captain crashed the $500 million cruise ship ingloriously into the granite underwater rocks surrounding the little island of Giglio, terrorizing over four thousand passengers and crew and killing innocent souls who were simply trying to enjoy a vacation cruise.   

But the news today is not about the Concordia disaster. Cruise bookings are up for Costa, the travel experts tell us. The reports of the demise of the Costa brand predicted earlier this year, are old and now disregarded. Costa has brought a brand new cruise ship online with great fanfare. Things are looking up for the cruise lines, the cruise lines tell us.

Carnival Cruise Line - Costa Concordia Disaster - Micky Arison The last thing on the mind of CEO Arison of Carnival Cruise Lines, the owner of Costa, is the death, doom and gloom associated with the Concordia disaster.  Arison is a happy camper. He just celebrated his multi-million dollar Miami Heat basketball team winning another NBA championship.

The champagne is still flowing.

Fat cat cruise CEO's like Arison don't lose sleep over disasters. OK, 32 dead. It could have been worse.  Shit happens.  A 500 million dollar cruise line lying on its side in the water. Thank Poseidon, God of the Sea, that we are fully insured for the hull and lost revenues. I'm still worth billions. Let's move on. Is the Heat going to win the championship?  

That's how billionaire Arison thinks.  He misses no sleep worrying about dead customers.  

But there are people who haven't forgotten the terror of January 13th.  There are passengers and crew members who can't sleep because of the terror of that night.  There are parents, spouses and children who grieve their dead children, soul mates and parents.         

What do the families of the Concordia victims think watching the spectacle of Arison on TV laughing and holding his NBA championship trophy over his head?  

Do the the families of the dead awake in the middle of the night triggered by the thought that those responsible for killing their family members care not an iota for their loves ones' suffering while holding NBA trophies and drinking champagne? 

Giglio at Sunrise - Costa Concordia Lies Asleep

Last night I attended a pre-game party for the Miami Heat - Oklahoma City Thunder basketball game at a friend's house. One of the families was excitedly talking about leaving on Wednesday for a cruise to Italy.  Other families began comparing cruise stories to Italy.  I don't talk "cruise law" during social events.  I just listened.  

There were no discussions about cruise ship fires, groundings or disappearances at the party.  No jokes about "watch out for the rocks." No mention of the Costa Concordia crash.  It was as if the capsizing of the Concordia never happened.

This morning the sun arose over the little Port of Giglio.  There slept the Concordia, peacefully resting on her side. The terrifying screams of panicked Costa passengers have been replaced by the gentle lapping of the Mediterranean waters against Concordia's hull.  

 

Costa Concordia Cruise Ship - Giglio Italy

 

Image credit: Giglio News webcam

100 Days After Costa Concordia, Indian Crewmember Russel Rebello Still Missing

Today is the 100 day anniversary of the Costa Concordia crash.

Things are back to normal for many people associated with the disaster. Carnival CEO Micky Arison is back to his front row seats at the American Airlines arena watching his professional basketball team, the Miami Heat.  Costa CEO Pier Luigi Foschi is scheduled to begin to enjoy his retirement in July, which the cruise line assures is because he is scheduled to retire at 65 and is unrelated to the Concordia disaster. 

But for some people there is nothing normal about their lives 100 days after the Concordia capsized. Russel Rebello - Costa ConcordiaThe family of Indian crew member Russel Rebello, one of two people on the Concordia still unaccounted for, remains waiting for their son to come home. 

NDTV explains that Mr. Rebello, a handsome, always smiling and popular waiter on the Costa Concordia, was one of the 32 victims on the night of January 13, 2012.  His brother Kevin has faithfully kept a vigil in Italy searching for information and clues regarding what happened to Russel. Yesterday, Kevin returned to Mumbai broke and broken-hearted. He had to face his distraught mother, Gladys Rebello, without returning with his brother.

While Costa CEO Foschi is looking forward to his "golden years" in wealth, luxury and with his family at age 65, Mrs. Rebello will spend her years bereaving the loss of her son Russel.

Read the NDTV article here

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Documentary: Disasters at Sea - Why Ships Sink

The U.K.'s Channel 4 broadcast a cruise documentary tonight called "Disaster at Sea:  Why Ships Sink."

"Why Ships Sink" examines the issue of passenger safety at sea since the Titanic.  A film crew came to Miami last month and interviewed me and others involved in the cruise and maritime industries.

Unfortunately, the documentary is not yet available for airing in the U.S. so please excuse the "watch now" teaser on the website. The program will air in the U.S. in two weeks.  But if you are from the U.K. you should be able to watch the program online or catch it the next time it airs on Channel 4 (Tuesday April 10, 2012 12.05AM on Channel 4). 

Channel 4's write-up of the show is below:    

Disasters at Sea - Why Ships Sink"Nowadays, huge, extravagant cruise ships tower above the ocean surfaces, boasting state-of-the art shopping malls, cinemas and tennis courts, and offering arrays of bars and restaurants.

In spite of a century of advanced design and new technology and being built by the world's greatest expert marine engineers and scientists, lessons from the past are being constantly overlooked and these ships continue to sink.

The Titanic embarked on her maiden voyage in April 1912 and was the largest, heaviest, most expensive luxurious man-made moving object on the planet, built by the world's most skilled labour force.

Regardless of this, the ship sank after striking an iceberg, with catastrophic consequences, shocking the world and prompting a thorough investigation into the dangers at sea.

One hundred years later, the world received a frightening reminder of such deadly events when luxury cruise liner the Costa Concordia suffered a similar impact.

The ship was a palace of the ocean: it had a capacity of 3780 passengers and was 290m long and 31m high. Yet in January 2012, it capsized and sunk off the Tuscan coast in one of the worst disasters in the cruise industry's history.

Disaster at Sea: Why Ships Sink examines the complex web of design and construction weaknesses, navigational and human errors, and failures in evacuation plans, which contribute to the sinking of ships and the loss of passenger lives.

The documentary examines the science behind the individual tragedies of ships and features in-depth interviews with marine engineering experts to find out whether we can prevent another devastating disaster at sea."

 

Credit: Channel 4 

 

 

A Shot Across The Bow - Lawyers for German Tourist, Killed in Costa Concordia Disaster, Seize the Carnival Triumph

There is a lot of controversy today about the seizure of the Carnival Triumph cruise ship in Galveston. Lawyers in Mississippi and Texas who are representing the family of a German woman killed on the Costa Concordia filed a lawsuit against Carnival in Galveston.  In addition to the lawsuit, they filed a motion to obtain an order of attachment of a Carnival cruise ship (the Triumph) which is ported in Galveston.  

I have received lots of inquiries about the issue this afternoon.  Can someone just fill out some paperwork and seize a cruise ship like this?  Why is the Carnival Triumph being seized in Texas for something the Costa Concordia, operated by a separate cruise line, did in Italy?  Is this legal?

All good questions.

Carnival Triumph Arrest - GalvestonMaritime attachments or writs of garnishment are not uncommon. The legal mechanism of seizing a vessel is an effective tool when the vessel owner is in default of its legal obligations, like falling behind on the payment of a ship mortgage, or refusing to pay crew member wages, or refusing to pay for provisions or services rendered on behalf of a ship.

Vessel seizures (often called "attachments" or "arrests") are necessary when the defendant is a foreign corporation, which is not subject to the jurisdiction of the local courts, and its vessel is about to leave the jurisdiction and not return.  It's a good way to obtain jurisdiction and make the company post a bond. If the seizure is proper, then the company has to post a bond to cover its outstanding financial obligations and court / U.S. Marshall costs in order for its vessel to leave port.   

I remember the first time I seized a ship.  It was in 1983 and I was fresh out of law school.  A Greek crew member was owed wages which the shipowner refused to pay.  He hired me to collect around $15,000 in unpaid wages. The lawyer for the shipowner had around 30 years of experience under his belt and was not taking me or my client seriously.  The defense lawyer kept saying that the shipping company was going to pay my client.  But he kept stalling and making excuses.

One afternoon I learned that the ship was planning on departing the port of New Orleans late that night. If I later obtained a judgment on behalf of my client, I knew that it would not be worth the paper it was written on because the shipping company was based in Greece.  I had to shut the ship down.

I quickly typed up a writ of maritime attachment, completed an affidavit and ran down to the Federal courthouse to file the writ and affidavit.  My secretary meanwhile called the U.S. Marshall's office telling them that we expected to have an order seizing the Greek ship shortly, while also asking for directions for me to find the Marshall's office.

Later that evening the Marshall's office served the vessel with the attachment order.  Shortly thereafter, I received a frantic call from the defense lawyer who was now motivated to do what he had been promising to do for six weeks. We met at a shipping warehouse off of Tchoupitoulas Street.  After we resolved the payment issues, I called the Marshall's office which released the ship to sail down the Mississippi River into the night.     

So what does this have to do with the seizure of the Triumph in Galveston?  Nothing, quite frankly. Carnival owes no unpaid debt to the German family.  As sympathetic as I am to the loss of life involved, the fact remains that the death occurred on another cruise ship operated by another cruise line in another country.   

The proper location for lawsuits arising out of the Concordia is Genoa, Italy.  The proper defendant? Costa Crociere, the operator of the cruise ship.  I am no fan of cruise lines, but the facts are the facts. This is an Italian cruise ship.  It is flagged in Italy.  Costa is incorporated in Italy.  Its principal place of business is Genoa, Italy.  The cruise tickets issued to the passengers specify that all disputes must Carnival Triumph Cruise Ship - Arrest - Galvestonbe resolved in Genoa, Italy.  The accident, after all, occurred in Italian waters and is being investigated by the Italian Coast Guard.  There are criminal proceedings in Italy against the Italian captain.

It may well be that seizing the cruise ship was a ploy to try and keep the case in Galveston, whose judges are friendlier to individuals than our Federal courts in Miami, and to take Carnival's home court advantage away.  But there is no connection between the Concordia and Texas.  These passengers are from Germany, for goodness sakes. There is no good reason to seize a Carnival cruise ship for the sins of another cruise ship operated by a different company. 

Unlike the fly-by-night Greek shipping company that tried to rip off my client 29 years ago, Carnival is not going anywhere.  It has tens of billions of dollars in assets here in Miami.  The lawyers who don't want to sue in Genoa can file suit here in Miami, like others have done, and take their chances.  There are many hundreds of lawsuits filed against Carnival here every year.  It would be bedlam if a cruise ship was seized every time a lawsuit was filed.  

So what is this all about? 

The main lawyer for the German family is John Eaves Jr., who practices in Jackson, Mississippi. He told Bloomberg Businesseek that “We’ve not been able to get Carnival’s attention, so this is our shot over the bow to let them know we’re serious about changing the law and maritime standards,” Eaves said. “We want a uniform set of safety standards, and we won’t stop until we get it.”

Seizing a cruise ship to make a point is not a good idea.  Mr. Eaves seems well intended.  Yet, an attachment is not legally required nor justified in these circumstances. The public doesn't like it.  The families on the Triumph don't deserve the hassle. 

Stricter maritime safety laws are needed no doubt.  That's what Congress is for.  I know, I have attended seven Congressional hearings. The process is slow and often discouraging.  But jacking up a cruise line like this is not the way to do it.  

 

Read the lawsuit here: Kai Stumpf v. Carnival Plc, 3:12-cv-0099, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Galveston)

Photo credit: Top: Sims Travel; bottom: Eaves Law Firm

 

April 1, 2012 Update: The Triumph sailed on time out of Galveston.  There is no indication that Carnival was required to post a bond.  Newspaper accounts indicate that the issue of the vessel arrest was resolved through a "confidential agreement" between the parties.  The Houston Chronicle quoted me in an earlier article about the issue which can be read here

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?   

Cruise Law & International Cruise Victims Return to Washington DC (Again)

International Cruise Victims - Cruise Ship Safety  I returned to Miami from Washington DC this afternoon after attending the cruise safety hearings convened in the House of Representatives and the Senate this week. 

These hearings were the sixth and seventh Congressional hearings regarding the issue of cruise ship dangers I have attended since 2005.   

I met my friends and former clients in DC from the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization: ICV CEO Ken Carver, ICV President Jamie Barnett, and ICV Board member Laurie Dishman who has traveled to DC over 30 times.  

Professor Ross Klein was invited to speak at the Senate hearing and he objectively laid out the cruise industry's history of cruise ship collisions, groundings, sinkings and fires. His written submission is the most impressively thorough and complete list of cruise ship related maritime disasters I have ever seen. Professor Klein's hard work and detailed analysis of cruise ship mishaps contrasted sharply with the self-serving opinions of the cruise line advocates who talked in conclusory phrases ("cruising is incredibly safe").   I will be linking to Professor Klein's research as soon as he uploads the information to his website.

During the hearings I met a half-dozen survivors of the Costa Concordia disaster, who traveled from Florida, Georgia and Massachusetts.

The hearings left me with a realization of the polarization of our Congress, and perhaps our country.

The meeting in the Republican controlled House on Wednesday was not unlike a big cocktail party. The cruise line representatives & cruise industry lobbyists back-slapped and joked around with Republican Congressmen and Congresswomen like it was their five year college reunion.  The Republicans extolled the cruise industry's great "entrepreneurs" without even a fleeting thought or concern of the cruise industry's disastrous effect on the environment, or the cruise industry's exploitation of foreign crewmembers, or the fact that the cruise industry pays virtually no U.S  taxes although it relies heavily on U.S. agencies to conduct its business.    

Contrast this freak show with the serious attitude of the Senate hearing on Thursday, which was presided over by a well respected Democratic Senator like Jay Rockefeller who has dedicated his life protecting the coal mine workers from his state of West Virginia and consumers across the U.S.

As long as there are responsible consumer-oriented leaders like Senator Rockefeller in Congress, the victims of cruise ship malfeasance have a fighting chance to force the cruise industry to be accountable when they injure and kill passengers and crew and destroy our environment.   

Congressional Hearing Cruise Safety - Costa Concordia

Photograph above:  ICV President Jamie Barnett, ICV Director Laurie Dishman, Cruise Expert Professor Ross Klein, Costa Concordia survivor, Jim Walker, ICV member Shari Cecil, and ICV CEO Ken Carver.  

Senator Rockefeller Blasts Cruise Industry: "You Are A World Unto Yourselves"

Unlike the love fest between the Republican members of Congress and the cruise line representatives at the hearing before the House on Wednesday, the hearing before the U.S. Senate was certainly not warm and fuzzy.

U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., who chairs the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, started the hearing off questioning why the highly profitable cruise lines pay virtually no U.S. income taxes although they extensively use the resources of some 40 Federal agencies. Senator Rockefeller continued saying that he was suspicious of the cruise industry which uses antiquated laws and onerous contractual terms to deny fair compensation to families who die or are injured during cruises.

Senator Rockefeller also questioned the ethics of an industry which dumps human sewage just three miles off the coast of the U.S., creating floating islands of untreated sewage.

Senate Cruise Safety HearingThe exchange between Senator Rockefeller and Christine Duffy, the CEO of the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA") was remarkable.  Ms. Duffy read from a prepared script which touched upon all of  CLIA's "talking points," but she would not respond directly to Senator Rockefeller's tough questions.  

Senator Rockefeller asked Ms. Duffy to admit that Carnival Corporation pays only 1.1% in taxes in the 11 billion dollars in profits made over the course of the last three years.  She would not directly respond and she also skirted the question whether she considered that to be fair.  Ms. Duffy would also not immediately agree to provide income tax returns to the committee, until he threatened to use the subpoena power of the Senate.

Senator Rockefeller drew an analogy between what happens deep in the coal mines of his state of West Virginia with what happens on the high sea beyond three miles.  He questioned Ms. Duffy's credibility and admonished her to "speak more truth."  Referring to the cruise industry, he stated "You are A World Unto Yourselves."

What a difference a day makes, between the Republican party heaping praise on Ms. Duffy the day before at the House hearing, and the tough questions posed by a Democratic Senator the following day. 

 

Don't forget to read:

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

House of Representatives Convenes Hearing on Costa Concordia to Avoid "Collateral Damage" to Cruise Industry

Yesterday the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure convened a hearing on the Costa Concordia disaster.

As I mentioned in prior articles, I was concerned that the Chairman of the committee, John Mica, a Republican from Florida who is an unabashed supporter of the Florida-based cruise industry, would use the hearing as a platform to praise the cruise lines and help them try and rehabilitate their tarnished reputation. 

I was right.  The hearing yesterday began with the committee members praising the cruise industry and "applauding" the cruise lines for what they described as an "excellent" safety record.  Chairman Mica described cruising as a "joyful," "pleasurable" and "incredible" experience.  Congressman Young from Alaska trumped the Italian investigators and announced that "there was nothing wrong with that ship."  He applauded the industry's "great safety record," and warned against against "casting aspersions" on the cruise lines.  Congresswoman Maxine Brown, also a cruise lines supporter from Florida and a former travel agent, praised the cruise industry as providing the "safest" form of transportation in the world.

The cruise line and CLIA representatives touched on all of their "talking points," and then scurried out a back door behind the hearing room to avoid the press.

Although Congresswoman Doris Matsui (CA) and Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) asked Elijah Cummings - Cruise Safetysome tough questions, the hearing was mostly a pep rally for the cruise industry.

Most disappointing was the involvement of Congressman Elijah Cummings (photo left) who, like all of the other committee members never mentioned the dead U.S. passengers (Gerald Heil, age 69, and Barbara Heil, age 70, of Minnesota) by name. 

How can the U.S. House of Representative conduct an inquiry into a cruise disaster which kills two Americans where no one even mentions the names of the dead couple?

Congressman Cummings, usually an even keeled legislator who has treated cruise victims with respect, made clear that his primary concern was for the reputation and economic interests of the cruise lines.  He brought up the issue of what he described as avoiding "collateral damage."  He said to the C-SPAN audience that he wanted to make certain that no one came away from the hearing with an impression that cruise lines were not safe. 

Collateral damage?   Thirty two people dead or missing and Mr. and Ms. Heil's bodies remain trapped in the bowels of the Costa Concordia.  And Congressman Cummings is concerned that the cruise industry's reputation may be collaterally damaged by the investigation? 

Later this morning, the Senate will be convening its own hearing on the Concordia debacle.  Let's hope that the Senate takes the tragedy more seriously and asks some tough questions.Maech

March 1, 2012 Update:

The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel news paper echoed the sentiments in our article with "Congressional Hearing On Cruise-Ship Safety Turns Into Love-Fest for Industry."

 

Don't forget to read: Six Lies The Cruise Lines Will Tell You After The Costa Concordia Crash 

Congressman Mica Tries to Stack Congressional Hearing with Cruise Line Witnesses - But One Couple Who Survived the Costa Concordia Crash Will Testify

Congressman John Mica - Republican The U.S. House of Representatives will be holding a hearing on cruise ship safety on Wednesday, February 29, 2012.  The hearing will begin at 10:00 AM in the 2167 Rayburn House Office Building.

A subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (the subcommittee on Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation) will conduct the hearing and will focus on the Costa Concordia disaster.  The hearing is called "A Review of Cruise Ship Safety and Lessons Learned From the Costa Concordia Accident."

Republican John Mica (R - Fla.) (photo left) is the chairman of the committee. Unfortunately, he is no fan of cruise victims.  His allegiance is squarely to the cruise industry.  

I have been to five Congressional hearings regarding cruise crime and passenger disappearances over the last six years.  My clients - three women raped on cruise ships, a family whose father was killed in a cruise ship fire, and a widow whose husband disappeared during a cruise - appeared in Washington and testified.  Very serious and somber stuff.  But when Congressman Mica presided over one of the hearings, it was an ugly event.  Disrespectful is an understatement.  He mocked some of the cruise crime victims to the point that the audience began booing. 

Christine Duffy - Cruise Line International AssociationIt was to my surprise therefore that shortly after the Costa Concordia disaster last month, Congressman Mica announced that he was going to convene a hearing to examine the Costa Concordia crash and determine whether cruise ships operating out of the U.S. were operating safely.  I wondered had Congressman Mica found his soul?  Or did he plan on conducting a publicity stunt for his cruise line friends and supporters in Florida by assuring the public that everything with the cruise industry was safe and sound.

I received my answer last week when I received a copy of the list of witness who would testify - five cruise line representatives and one Coast Guard witness.  But no survivors of the Costa disaster.  No cruise victims.  No cruise critics.  No neutral cruise experts.  

Congressman Mica seemed to have designed the hearing be a Congressional love fest between the Congressional cruise supporters and the cruise line employees & lobbyists.  Consider the line up of cruise supporters:

Christine Duffy (photo above left) - President of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA)

Michael Crye - Lawyer for the Cruise Line International Association.

Vicky Rey - (photo left below) PR person and customer care representative for Carnival Cruise Lines.

Vicky Rey - CarnivalGeorge Wright - Operations Department of Carnival subsidiary, Princess Cruises.

Captain Evans Hoyt - Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) Captain.

Ms. Duffy and Mr. Crye, employees of the cruise industry's trade organizations CLIA, are paid cheerleaders for the cruise line whose testimony will consist of repeating the cruise industry's "talking points" and alternating between saying that "cruising is incredibly safe" and the "safety & security of cruise passengers are CLIA's highest priority."  Ms. Rey has no technical knowledge about anything and is Carnival's happy face for publicity purposes. The two cruise employees with maritime knowledge, Mr. Wright from Princess and Captain Hoyt from NCL, have no first hand knowledge of the Costa Concordia debacle.

Where were the survivors of the Costa Concordia?  Frightened families who cried as they explained the terror and confusion of the ill-fated cruise have appeared in documentaries on the Discovery channel, on ABC's 20/20 cruise special, CNN's Anderson Cooper and all of the major networks.  But Congressman Mica couldn't find one single cruise victim anywhere?

Sameer and Divya Sharma - Costa Concordia survivorsIt was only after member of the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization learned of the stacked deck and protested to the subcommittee did Congressman Mica agree that one couple who survived the cruise horror could testify.  Sameer and Divya Sharma (photograph right, on cruise ship) were added as last minute witnesses.

Mr. and Ms. Sharma family are wine and spirit shop owners in the Medford / Stoneham area in Massachusetts who were celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary when disaster struck. To obtain a glimpse of their anticipated testimony at the hearing tomorrow, watch the video below and consider what they explained to a reporter in a local newspaper in Medford:

We were lied to,” said Sameer Sharma. “They said this is just an electrical mistake, we’re working on it, generators being kicked in, everything under control, stay calm, don’t panic and enjoy your dinner. They had the audacity of making the same announcement right when we were waiting to board the lifeboats when it was very obvious the boat was going down.”

The Sharmas said they heard announcements made “on behalf of the captain” throughout the evening, not realizing until the next day that Captain Franceso Shettino had already fled the ship.  As reassuring announcements blared over the speakers, Divya described a clustered group of men, women and children waiting to board lifeboats with no sense of organization. She called it “mass hysteria.”

“I’ve never seen anything so unorganized and chaotic in my life,” Divya said, adding several adults wore child-size life jackets because there were not enough adult-size life jackets to go around.

Certainly insight like this will be more revealing to the subcommittee of the dire circumstances the cruise passengers faced than the happy talk of the cruise line PR people.  I'm sure that Congressman Mica would prefer that the Sharma family stay in Massachusetts.

 

 

 

Video credit:  wamcadoo YouTube

Photo credit: Sameer Sharma

Newspaper credit: Wicked Local Medford / Medford Transcript

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

The Debate Continues: Does Maritime Law Favor Only The Cruise Lines?

Sea Diamond - Cruise Ship Sinking Take a look at the photograph on the left.  Can you identify it?

Nine times out of ten, I bet the answer is of course, its the Costa Concordia.  You know, the cruise ship that crashed into rocks last last month near the Italian island of Giglio.

Wrong.  Its a photo of the Sea Diamond, which capsized after hitting a reef in Greek waters in 2007 and sank with loss of life.

The story of the Sea Diamond is one that the cruise lines and cruise industry supporters ignore while extolling the safety of cruising.

The photo of the stricken Sea Diamond is part of a Reuters article this morning questioning whether the cruise lines benefit from overreaching contractual terms and the absence of consumer laws protecting the public.   The article is entitled "Insight: Cruise-Laws Leave Cruise Ship Victims at Sea." It explains how the cruise lines erect a series of hurdles which make if difficult to seek compensation or justice when things go wrong on the high seas. The journalists interviewed a number of cruise passengers who were injured or lost loved ones during cruises.

Another article,taking a different perspective, was also published this morning.  The cruise friendly on-line community Cruisemates published "Cruisin' U.S.A."   

The article suggests that foreign flagged cruise ship are subject to Federal laws, international regulations, and the scrutiny of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Centers for Disease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Customs and Border Patrol.  The author did not interview anyone.  The only link was to the cruise industry's trade organization, Cruise Line International Association.  The article contains no historical perspective, and contains no photographs of sinking cruise ships.

As the cruise industry braces for the negative publicity which will surround the Congressional hearings about cruise ship safety later this month, you will see a series of competing articles like this.  The debate is a healthy one.  The cruise industry will put its best foot forward using a platform of cruise supporters like Cruisemates and Cruise Critic and certain travel agent bloggers.  And real journalists like the folks at Reuters will chip away at the facade and reveal the dark side of the cruise industry.  

 

Photo credit:  Reuters

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 

Will the Costa Cruise Brand Survive?

Costa Cruises Brand - Smokestack LogoSeatrade Insider has an interesting article today entitled "Costa Battles Media Onslaught, Concordia Scams."

The article raises the issue whether there is a future for the Costa Crociere brand following the Concordia disaster.   The article quotes Costa CEO Pier Luigi Foschi admitting that Costa's sales across the fleet are 35% below the same period last year.

But even if sales pick up, what long term damage did the Concordia crash cause Costa?  The Seatrade article explains that Foschi told an Italian newspaper that "we have been annihilated in the media. Our brand has been massacred . . . "   He went on to complain of the " . . . enormous attack of the mass media, for the most part unfair and unverified."  (emphasis added) 

I have never hear of such frank and dire talk by a cruise CEO. 

A couple of newspapers here in the US asked me for my opinion on how the Costa Concordia spectacle will affect the parent company, Carnival Corporation, and the cruise industry in general.  I stated that the Concordia is only one of over 100 cruise ships in the Carnival fleet.  Carnival is the proverbial 800 pound gorilla.  And its so diversified with multiple brands line Costa, Cunard, Princess, Holland America Lines and so on that even the loss of a $500 million luxury cruise ship (representing a little over 1% of its fleet) will be nothing but a blip on the screen of Carnival's financial bottom line.

Costa Concordia Cruise Ship - Costa BrandAs far as the cruise industry, the thought of the Concordia heading into the rocks while Captain Schettino dined with his girlfriend and then abandoned ship is going to be a headache for the industry for a long time.

And what about Costa?

Will Costa be forever stigmatized by this disaster?

Costa has a strong brand identity.  Its logo is beautiful, with the distinctive blue "C" emblazoned on a yellow smokestack.

But will the public ever forget the Costa Concordia's smokestack at a 45 degree angle, sticking out of the water off the coast of Giglio, with 15 dead passengers trapped inside the ship?   

Do you have an opinion of whether Costa will weather the storm and continue as one of the premier European cruise brands?  Please leave a comment below.

 

Don't forget to read some of our other articles on the Costa Concordia disaster:

Costa Concordia: "Cruising Italian Style - Unique Routes - Lifetime Memories"  

Cruise Crisis Management FAIL - How Carnival is Ruining its Reputation Following the Costa Concordia Disaster

Cruise Law News Round Up: February 19, 2012

A rather ordinary couple of weeks in the world of cruising: 1,000 passengers or so sick with diarrhea and vomiting caused by gastrointestinal outbreaks on five cruise ships, 16 brawling passengers kicked off a cruise, a crewmember (a child activities supervisor no less) arrested on charges of molesting a child, a cruise passenger acquitted of rape due to jurisdictional loopholes, two passengers sentenced to 6 years in prison for smuggling pot, 3 passengers arrested for smuggling 13 kilos of coke, 1 dead and 9 sickened with flu on a cruise in Brazil, and another dead cruise passenger found face down in the water in the Cayman Islands.

All of this is in addition to the continued bad press caused by the Costa Concordia disaster.  The latest bad news out of the Concordia mess is that cocaine was found on a hair sample of Captain Schettino. The news is confusing because the captain's drug tests were reportedly negative.  The cocaine was allegedly found on the hair rather than in the hair - meaning that Schettino apparently did not ingest the drug.  These fine points will undoubtedly be lost on the public who now will associate the word "cocaine," along with "coward" and "womanizer," with the infamous captain.

Last week also saw the filing of an amended lawsuit against Costa and its parent company Carnival in the Miami-Dade courthouse in Miami.  You will recall that non-maritime lawyers from New York announced that they would be filing a "class action" lawsuit, which turned out to be be a dud. They finally filed suit on behalf of just 6 passengers, 2 from New York, Florida and Italy each.  The amended complaint adds an additional 33 passengers for a total of 39 plaintiffs.  The lawyers said that the media mis-characterized the lawsuit as a class action, even though their website advertised the case as a class action.

The lawyers filed suit in Miami, even though the passenger ticket requires the lawsuit to be filed in Genoa, Italy, because Carnival and its deep pockets are located here.  

The lawsuit now seeks $528,000,000, for just the 39 passengers.   

Good luck with that. 

Costa Concordia Cruise Ship  - Lawsuit 

Photo credit:  Reddit

39 Costa Concordia Passengers File $528 Million Lawsuit in Miami - Weird Press Conference Follows

Yesterday, New York lawyers for Costa Concordia cruise survivors filed an amended lawsuit in Miami, adding 33 additional passengers as plaintiffs.  The lawyers are seeking $78 million in compensatory damages and $450 in punitive damages for a total amount of $528 million on behalf of 39 passengers.

Although the lawyers called the original filing a "class action" lawsuit, the case was first filed by only 6 passengers, two from New York, two from Florida and two from Italy.  The amended filing does not seek class action status.

The prospects of this lawsuit filed in state court in Miami surviving a motion to dismiss is slim, Oceanos Sinkingnotwithstanding the ordeal suffered by the completely innocent passengers.  Seeking $528 million dollars for just 39 of the over 3,000 passengers seems like a publicity stunt. 

The lawyers held a press conference yesterday afternoon, which was one of the weirder developments in the Costa Concordia saga.

New York lawyer Marc Bern, of the law firm Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik and Associates said "Only one cruise ship has gone down in over 100 years, the Titanic.  Now the Costa Concordia will live in infamy with it." 

Of course, this is not true. Over the years there has been numerous sinkings of cruise ships.

Just five years ago, the Sea Diamond sank after the captain hit a charted reef in Greek water, resulting in the loss of passengers' lives. 

Then there is the infamous sinking of the Oceanos cruise ship (photo above 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

Other spectacular sinkings of cruise ships include the loss of the Sun Vista (photo below right) which burned and sank.

Sinking of the Sun VistaNo 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 (my great aunt was a passenger and was rescued). 

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, Explorer, M/V Saurav, Queen Of The North, Senopati Nusantara, M/V Bulgaria 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).  

One of the goals of the highly publicized $528 million lawsuit is supposedly to make cruising safer.  It's painful to watch non-maritime lawyers seek over one-half billion dollars for 39 survivors without acknowledging the numerous passenger and crew deaths caused by cruise ship sinkings over the years, from the Andrea Doria to the Sea Diamond

February 15, 2012 Update:  A friend emailed me and brought to my attention that I forgot to mention the fire and sinking of the famous Achille Lauro, which sank in 1994 in the Indian Ocean.  

Do you know of additional cruise ship sinkings?   Please leave a comment below.

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.  

Captain Schettino: The Most Hated Man in the History of Cruising?

Just when you thought this National-Enquirer-like story of the cowardly Costa cruise ship captain could not get any weirder, the Italian magazine Chi published a photograph of Captain Schettino and former cruise dancer/hostess Domnica Cemortan.  It seems like the love birds were eating oysters and crab legs at a restaurant about a month before married  Capitano Amore wrecked his cruise ship and killed over 30 passengers and crew while again dining with young Ms. Cemortan during the ill fated cruise.

The spectacle of this foolish captain cavorting with his mistress must burn a hole in the hearts of the families of the dead and missing.   

Captain Schettino - Domnica Cemortan


 

Story credit: DailyMail

Photo credit: Chi Magazine

Costa Concordia & Cruise Mayhem Keeps Social Media Abuzz

The Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster fueled not only significant coverage by international newspapers and cable news programs, but also spawned an unprecedented look at the cruise industry by part-time bloggers and recreational twitter & facebook users.  

I use a Twitter application called "TweetDeck" (photo below left) where I follow certain terms like "Costa Concordia" and hashtags like #Costa to stay ahead of this latest cruise disaster story.  The number of posts about the Costa crash has been phenomenal since the Friday the 13th of January disaster.  There remains a steady stream of links - particularly from Italy which remains fascinated Cruise Ship Social Media by the drama created by Captain Schettino and his spectacular destruction of the $500 million Costa cruise ship. 

The coverage of the Costa incident has spilled over into larger issues.

Professional journalists and small-time bloggers have now taken a closer, and harsher, look at the cruise industry as a whole.

Recent cruise events have given the media a lot to consider.  For an industry who likes to claim that disasters, deaths, crimes and sickness on cruise ships are "rare," a mind-boggling number of mishaps and bad press have placed cruise lines in an unfavorable light just this year alone.

Just take a moment and look at our archive of stories from last month here.  

Multiple rapes, molestation of children, suicides, over-boards, deaths, medical malpractice, a grounding of an Italian cruise ship (not the Concordia), NBC and ABC 20/20 cruise exposes which infuriated cruise fans and travel agents, tons of bad press from the New York Times to this modest blog, plus five norovirus outbreaks in the first five weeks of the year, and you have an never ending public relations disaster for the cruise line folks.

The readership of Cruise Law News has exploded in the last month. Our motto is everything the cruise lines don't want you to know.  So we know that when bad things happen on cruise ships and the industry tries to cover-everything-up, we see the most first time readers stumbling across our blog trying to find some basic facts and real insight.

The Google Analytics people tell us that over 175,000 people read over 515,000 pages of our little blog in the last 30 days.   

That's a lot more people visiting us than fans of any cruise president's blog or the cruise industry's blog by a long shot.  

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. 

Cruise Law News Discusses Costa Concordia Disaster on LexBlog

The following is from LexBlog TV which hosts our firm's blog Cruise Law News:

By far and away, the most encapsulating part of the news surrounding the Costa Concord shipwreck in Italy has to be the remarkable and unbelievable imagery. But while the images of the ship lying on its side, half above the water, are difficult to comprehend, things get even more unbelievable as you find out more and more about exactly how this type of thing could happen.

To explain what we know about how this happened—starting with Captain Francesco Schettino’s bizarre actions—and the culpability he and the cruse line may face, we bring in Jim Walker of Walker & O’Neil and the excellent Cruise Law News.

 

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 

Cruise Crisis Management FAIL - How Carnival is Ruining its Reputation Following the Costa Concordia Disaster

A cruise line's reputation in a time of crisis is often formed not by the circumstances which caused the crisis but by the company's attitude, appearance, and action afterwords.

I call this the "three A's" of cruise line crisis management: attitude, appearance & action. 

When disaster strikes and passengers are injured or killed during a vacation cruise, the U.S. public has a remarkable capacity to forgive the individuals and companies involved.  Part of this tendency to forgive, rather than judge, is tied to the Judeo-Christian heritage of our country - where Costa Concordia Cruise Ship - Cruise Crisis Management we sacrifice resentment and seek redemption in the process.

In practical terms, Americans understand that accidents are inevitable.  "Sh*t happens," the saying goes.  Bad things happen to good people.  An individual or company should be forgiven if they demonstrate a humble and respectful attitude; they appear on the scene to take stock of the problems they caused; and they take prompt action to help others injured by their conduct.        

So how have the principal actors in this drama performed so far?

Captain Francesco Schettino failed  miserably.  His attitude has been defiant.  His appearance?  None.  He abandoned ship in dereliction of the traditional maritime duty to stay with the vessel dating back to the Medieval Sea codes.  He fled the scene of a crime.  His actions?  Self preservation. Disregarding orders by the Italian Coast Guard to return to the cruise ship and assist Captain Francesco Schettino - Costa Concordia Cruise Shipin the evacuation.  Lying.  I slipped-and-fell-into-a-life-boat defies reason and belief. 

Costa's chief executive, Pier Luigi Foschi, and parent company Carnival's CEO, Micky Arison, are close behind the disgraced captain in trying to ruin their reputations.

Arison admittedly expressed his condolences from the comfort of his 200 foot luxury yacht in the Miami area.  But carefully crafted corporate PR statements go only so far.  He failed to appear at the scene.  How hard is it to hop in a Gulfstream jet and fly to Rome and then head over to the island of Giglio? 

In Miami, we hear snickering that as the Costa Concordia sits on its side with dead passengers still trapped inside, some of the the Carnival executives have been seen gallivanting around town at black-tie gala parties and even Miami Heat professional basketball games.  (CEO Arison owns the Miami Heat.)  But it was only this weekend, one week after the crisis started, that Arison sent senior executive Howard Frank to Italy.  Even then, Howard appears to be in Genoa where Costa's headquarters are located.  He apparently has no intention of making an appearance at the scene of death and destruction.

Although the physical presence of corporate executives at the scene of a mass disaster may be President Bush - Ground Zero - The Right Imagelargely symbolic, such visual images are important to demonstrate the corporation's attitude of concern and compassion.

President George Bush was perceived as demonstrating the right attitude when he appeared at the remains of the Twin Towers following 9/11.  He was photographed (left) standing on a pile of smoking rubble, with his arm around a fire chief, encouraging other fire fighters through a bullhorn.   But when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and images of panicked residents waving to helicopters on the roof of flooded house were broadcast on the cable news stations, the president was no where to be seen.  Photographs of President Bush (below right), later published of him looking from a window on Airforce One 35,000 feet over the disaster below, made him appear aloof and disconnected and did his reputation more harm than good.     

Carnival has managed prior cruise disasters effectively in the past.  When an engine room fire disabled the Splendor cruise ship in 2010, Carnival sent a team of executives from Miami to San President Bush - The Wrong ImageDiego where they conducted a highly publicized press conference at the port.  Carnival offered reimbursement of all cruise fares, waived all onboard purchases and promised a free cruise in the future.

Carnival followed the "three A's" of crisis management perfectly.  Its attitude was humble.  It appeared on the scene.  And it took immediate action to solve the problem.

I was so impressed that I wrote an article praising Carnival and providing my opinion why it should not be sued for the accident. 

But Carnival does not seem to know how to act following the Concordia disaster. 

We hear Carnival's CEO Arison finally saying the rights things. Five days after the crisis unfolded later, he finally tweeted "I gave my personal assurance that we will take care of each & every one of our guests, crew and their families"  He included a link to a press release issued by Carnival promising to take care of everyone.  But this weekend, there are news reports that the cruise survivors were stunned and insulted when Costa CEO Foschi offered a 30% discount on future cruises as part of proposed compensation to stave off lawsuits. 

A 30% discount?  Talk about pouring salt into the wound.  The cruise industry collects over $35,000,000,000 (billion) a year mostly from tax paying Americans yet it pays no U.S. federal taxes because it registers it vessels overseas and incorporated itself in Panama to avoid U.S. tax, wage and labor laws, and health and safety laws.  Arison himself is the richest person in Florida with a net worth of over $4,000,000,000.  

Carnival will not hesitate to make a claim against its underwriters for payment of $500,000,000 for its wrecked cruise ship as well as seeking hundreds of millions of dollars for the lost revenue caused by not being able to collect money from passengers sailing on the cruise ship in the future.  It Micky Arison - Carnival CEO - Compassionate CEO or Greedy Pig?is now rightfully facing public ridicule by offering a discount worth a few hundred dollars to avoid litigation.  I hate to think what the families of the dead loved ones think about taking a discounted Costa cruise in the future.

Carnival and CEO Arison have a mixed reputation in Miami over the years.  Lots of travel agents love Arison.  But Arison has faced more than his fair share of critics for Carnival's avoidance of taxes, exploitation of foreign crewmembers and indifference to the problem of women and children being sexually assaulted on Carnival's cruise ships.  Consider these articles: "Is Mickey A Greedy Corporate Pig?" or "The Deep Blue Greed - The Arison Clan Built Carnival into a Money Machine by Cleverly Avoiding Tax Laws" or Carnival? Try Criminal.   

Carnival has enormous financial resources and insurance proceeds to respond to the disaster and compensate the families who are suffering because of its reckless captain.  It can take care of the mess and salvage its reputation.  But does it have the corporate ethics to do so?  We know that CEO Arison loves the limelight when his businesses are successful. But if Arison and Carnival's executives don't care enough to appear in Giglio to speak with the survivors directly and assess the situation personally, they risk earning reputations no better than that of their arrogant and cowardly Captain Schettino. 

 

Photo credits:

Top:  News Pictures / Rex Features

Bottom:  ESPN

ABC's 20/20 Covers Costa Concordia Disaster (Part 2) Plus Out of Control Cruise Ship Drinking & Violence

ABC Film Crew at Port of Miami - ABC 20/20 - Cruise Ship Drinking and ViolenceLast night ABC News aired a cruise ship special on its 20/20 program about the Costa Concordia disaster.  Narrated by Chris Cuomo from Italy, the one hour program contains an inside look at this latest cruise ship disaster based on interviews with surviving passengers.

You can watch the first segment of the show, which focuses on details of the cruise disaster, here

The 20/20 program also took a hard look at the problem with excessive drinking during cruises.  I learned a new phrase last night, of being "cruise-ship drunk."  You will see lots of videos of passengers being "knee-walking" or "fall-down" drunk.  Not a pretty sight.

The show correctly points out that there is a direct correlation between excessive drinking and violence, which is compounded by the tendency of the cruise lines to push the sale of booze, the insufficient number of security guards, and the absence of an independent police force.  We looked into these problems over the last few years in our articles:

Cruise Ship Brawls - A Problem that Will Get Bigger with Bigger Ships

More Cruise Ship Violence - A Drunken Brawl On Carnival's Dream

Cruise Refunds and a Drunken Backstreet Boy?

Latest Royal Caribbean Rape Allegation Reveals Problem of Underage Drinking on Cruises

Carnival Murder Case Reveals Out of Control Cruise Booze

The 20/20 program includes a few clips of me at the port of Miami explaining the problems of cruise ship drinking and violence.

The segment below is about 5 and 1/2 minutes:  

 

 

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

Video credit:  ABC NEWS / ABC 20/20

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 Cruise Disaster Reveals Cruise Industry Has No Credible Voice

Late last Friday, I received a tweet from one of my 9,000 friends on Twitter informing me that a cruise ship had run aground off the coast of Italy.  Not much was known about what happened.  No one in the media was initially reporting on the incident. 

I stayed up all Friday night and Saturday morning watching the increasingly frantic twitter feed about the emerging circumstances surrounding the grounding of the Costa Concordia cruise ship.  Twitter friends like London cruise blogger John Honeywell a/k/a @CaptGreybeard began Costa Concordia Cruise Disastertweeting the first photographs of the beached cruise ship.  Other friends on twitter like Mikey's Cruise Blog tweeted non-stop as the story unfolded.  

Completely missing from the discussion on social media sites like twitter and facebook were Carnival (the owner of Costa) or its CEO Mickey Arison ( @MickyArison ) or the cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) which has a twitter name @CruiseFacts.

CLIA did not make a single tweet, statement or press release all weekend. 

The few bits and pieces of information which trickled from from Costa falsely suggested that the stricken cruise ship was being orderly evacuated and that the passengers were "not at risk."

In the first blog I wrote that night, I suspected that the cruise line's comments were "probably the usual misleading and false cruise propaganda."  As it turned out, while Costa was assuring the public that everything was fine, panicked passengers were jumping overboard or struggling to survive as water filled their cabins.    

Costa Concordia Captain - Coward of the Seas?The motto of the $35,000,000,000 a year cruise industry is CLIA's "one industry, one voice."  But CLIA apparently does not work on the weekends.  When disaster struck the Concordia and over 4,000 passengers and crew feared for their lives, CLIA remained silent.

Meanwhile, the void  was filled with insightful analysis and photographs from the international media, particularly from the U.K., as well as iReporter accounts from the scene of the disaster.

The first tweet from the Carnival CEO Arison, who has amassed a personal fortune of over $4,000,000,000 (billion) from cruise fares, came long after the disaster, expressing his condolences, but quickly followed by a tweet (since deleted) supporting his pro basketball team of NBA superstars.         

The void created by the absence of information from CLIA and Carnival and its subsidiary line Costa was quickly filled by non-stop interviews of surviving passengers who described the chaos and deadly confusion as they tried to escape the sinking vessel, which we now understand was caused by the reckless conduct of the cowardly cruise ship captain (above right) who abandoned ship when things got tough.  

The media quickly called on maritime lawyers here in South Florida to provide insight into the disaster.  Our firm received inquires from major television and radio networks like ABC, 20/20, NBC, CNN, Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper, CNBC, the Canadian Television Network and BBC Radio, as well as national and international newspapers and magazines like Newsweek, the Jim Walker - CNN Studio - Costa Concordia Cruise DisasterNew York Times, the Washington Post, and U.K.'s Telegraph.  I spent the better part of this week speaking with several dozen journalists and shuttling between TV production studios in Miami and Fort Lauderdale for interviews.

The cruise industry did not have much to say.  No one appeared on TV on behalf of the cruise lines. CLIA finally updated its facebook page to assure the public that cruise disasters like this were "extremely rare."  But journalists are turned off by such false and self-serving garbage, and turn to information like that contained on my article Costa Concordia Calamity Just the Latest Disaster for Cruise Industry which discussed prior deaths and injuries on Costa cruise ships in the last two years and a rash of deadly cruise disasters which CNN featured this week.

CLIA also teamed up with a local cruise line defense lawyer here in Miami to write a press release with claims like "the cruise industry is a heavily regulated industry and safety is our highest priority" and "all cruise ships are designed and operated in compliance with the strict requirements of the International Maritime Organization."

I have learned that the media hates corporate PR statements like this.  It's called "gobbledygook" (definition below).  

Most journalists understand that cruise lines are largely unregulated.  To the extent that there is any regulation it is mostly self regulation by an industry whose business model is to incorporate in places like Panama and Liberia and flag their vessels in places like the Bahamas and Bermuda to avoid all U.S. income taxes, labor laws and safety laws.  The so-called "strict requirements" of the IMO are, at best, mere recommendations which the cruise lines can choose to ignore with impunity, like the decision Costa made not to bother to conduct a lifeboat drill before sailing on this disastrous cruise.    

As this week comes to an end, the misleading cruise line press releases simply added to the lack of credibility and silliness of an industry which is known for its lack of transparency.  As the Costa Concordia disaster became a nightly staple for the cable news stations this week, CLIA and the cruise line supporters were no where to be found.  They seem to be hiding under the covers.

Perhaps CLIA's new motto should be "one industry, no voice."         

 

Here are examples of some of the articles we participated in this week:  

CNBC:  Travel: Do you need medical evacuation insurance?

Canadian Television:  Crime, fires compromise cruise ship safety: experts

International Herald Tribune / New York Times: Disaster Cripples Cruiser, Not Cruising

Washington Post:  Costa Concordia sinking leaves other cruise ship passengers alarmed — and out of luck

Cleveland Plain Dealer:  Cruise ship accident prompts questions about industry safety

Examiner:  Passengers blame Carnival Corporation for Costa Concordia wreck

 

*The word "gobbledygook" comes from Maury Maverick, a Texan lawyer who served as a Democratic Congressman and the mayor of San Antonio. He used the word in the New York Times Magazine in 1944 referring to a turkey, “always gobbledy gobbling and strutting with ludicrous pomposity.” 

Costa Concordia Calamity Just the Latest Disaster for Cruise Industry

Cruise Ship Disasters - MSC Poesia Following the spectacle of the Costa Concordia disaster, the cruise industry is starting its campaign to convince the public that cruising is safe notwithstanding the terrifying and grotesque images of the stricken ship.

Pro-cruise trade organizations line the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA") will claim that incidents like this are "rare" and will characterize the Costa Concordia as a "freak" accident.  But in truth this incident is just the latest cruise disaster in a long line of disasters.

One week ago, Italian cruise liner the MSC Poesia ran aground into a reef in the Bahamas while sailing to Port Lucaya near Freeport, Bahamas.  You can read about that incident here - MSC Poesia Destroys Reef in the Bahamas - Cruise Ship with 26' Draft Sailed Into 15' Waters

The 93,000-ton cruise ship needs twenty-five feet of draft but sailed into only fifteen (15) feet of water. Fortunately for the cruise ship (and unfortunately for the priceless and irreplaceable reef), the vessel ground the fragile reef into bits.  MSC was not able to get off the reef until high tide. But the incident did not stop the cruise ship from tendering cruise passengers to Port Lucaya to enjoy themselves at the beach.  Once high tide freed the ship, the Poesia sailed off as if nothing Cruise Ship Disaster  - Costs Europahappened.  Few people in the media reported on this near disaster. 

It takes deaths and destruction  to focus the media on problems in the cruise industry. 

There have been two serious collisions of Costa cruise ships in the last two years.

In February 2010, the Costa Europa cruise ship collided with a pier in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.  The allision ripped a hole in the hull of the ship and flooded a crew cabin, resulting in the death of three crew members and injury to four passengers.  Photographs of the Costa Europa show the vessel listing heavily on its port side, in order to keep water pouring into the large opening on the starboard side.  You can read about that incident here  - Costa Europa Collides With Pier in Egypt - Three Crew Dead, Passengers Injured

In October 2010, the Costa Classica cruise ship collided with a cargo vessel, the Belgian registered bulk carrier Lowlands Longevity, at the mouth of the Yangtze River.  The ship suffered a long gash over 60 feet long in its side and several passengers were injured.  You can read about that Costa cruise ship crash here: New Photographs Reveal Extent of Damage to Costa Classica

In addition to these collisions, an engine room fire broke out onboard the Costa Romantica near Uruguay in February 2009.  A year earlier, in may 2008, there was a dangerous near-collision between the Costa Atlantica and a cargo ship, the Grand Neptune, where the captain of the Costa cruise ship was heavily criticized.  You can read the UK Marine accident report here. (There is speculation that Captain Schettino was at the vessel's captain at the time.)

Cruise Ship Disaster - Costs ClassicaThe parent company of Costa is Carnival cruise line which has had more than its fair share of disasters.

The U.S. Coast Guard blasted Carnival for its negligence following the November 2010 fire aboard the Carnival Splendor cruise ship when the cruise line's fire suppression system malfunctioned.  The Splendor was a relatively new cruise ship manufactured in Italy.  The fire caused the failure of all of the generators on the cruise ship which stranded over 3,500 passengers on the high seas off the coast of Mexico.  "Coast Guard Blasts Carnival Splendor for Fire Negligence"

The U.S. Navy sent an aircraft carrier to the scene and the U.S. Coast Guard had to tow the stricken cruise ship back to the U.S., at the U.S. tax payer's expense.

Plus consider the following serious events:

Fires Breaks Out On Bahamas Celebration Cruise Ship - December 2011.

Star Princess Cruise Ship Fire - 2006Over 1200 Passengers Rescued from Burning Ferry in the Red Sea, One Dead & Many Injured - November 2011

Fire & Rough Weather Mar Queen Mary 2 Cruise - October 2011

Cruise Ship Fire in Norway Kills Two - September 2011

Explosion Rocks Port in Gibraltar - Independence of the Seas Avoids Damage - May 2011 

First Mexican Cruise Ship Catches on Fire - April 2011

Engine Room Fire Aboard MSC Cruises' Musica Cruise Ship - December 2010

Over 200 Passengers Rescued From Burning Ferry in Baltic Sea - October 2010

Power Outage on Queen Mary 2 Due to Catastrophic Explosion - September 2010

Fire Breaks Out On Cruise Ship In Norway - May 2010

Sun Vista Cruise Ship FireAll of this occurred in the last two years!  In May of 2010, I chronicled the series of serious cruise disasters back over the last decade - Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?  If you are going to read one story on this blog, it is this one - the dangerous history of cruise ship fires dating from the Princess Cruises Star Princess fire in 2006 to the fire and sinking of the Sun Vista earlier in the1990's.

So as you digest the disturbing story of the renegade captain working for a cruise line with numerous recent casualties and the photos of the luxury liner on its side, don't let the cruise industry fool you into believing that this is an isolated accident.   

 

Don't miss watching: Top Five Worst Cruise Ship Disaster Videos (to be updated)

On a lighter note:  Tina Fey's Honeymoon Ruined By Cruise Ship Fire?

 

Photo credits:

MSC Poesia - shipwrecklog

Costa Europa cruise ship - AP (Hussien Talal) via Mail Online

Costa Classica - EPA via Mail Online  

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.

 

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

 

If you would like to sign up for emailed articles from CruiseLawNews, please type in your email address to the left or sign up for a RSS feed. 

 

 

 

 

 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)