Will the Bahamas Celebration Sail Again?

Bahamas CelebrationThe Bahamas Celebration ran aground ten days ago and sustained a breach in the hull which permitted water to enter the lower deck.  

I am receiving many messages from the crew that they were required to work in dangerous conditions after the ship ran aground and returned to port in Freeport. Now the majority of the crew has been sent home and there are doubts that the cruise ship will sail again anytime soon. 

The company appears to be paying only the basic salary of the crew for two months. Waiters and cabin attendants who earn a basic salary of only $50 a month (and rely on tips to earn a living) will receive only $100 in the next two months.

The Bahamas Celebration Facebook page was updated yesterday with a cover photo saying "Caribbean Vacation Option Beginning November 13" with a toll free number.

This seems very misleading as the cruise ship can't sail and the crew was just sent home.

If you have information about the extend of the damage to the vessel or the status of the crew, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Top - WPTV.

November 11 2014 Update: A number of cruise passengers and agents have contacted us today. Many passengers feel that they were treated improperly by the company. Agents, who have not worked since the first of November, feel that the company is keeping them in the dark.  They have not heard anything from the company, management, or staffing agency. One person told me: "The company is wrong in the way they are treating everyone guest, crew,and agents. Leaving people who go to work everyday with no communication, answers or even a reason, we have families! We are required to give reasons and communicate if something happens in our life but we do not get the same respect."  

Bahamas Celebration

Netherlands Fines Royal Caribbean Over $750,000 for Overworking Crewmembers

A newspaper in the Netherlands reports that Royal Caribbean has to pay at least €600,000 in fines for violating labor rules and regulations while the Oasis of the Seas was in the Netherlands. The newspaper says that ship employees lacked proper residence papers and worked excessive hours. Some of the crew members worked "up to 16 hours per day" the inspectors found.

The newspaper explains that the Oasis was undergoing maintenance and repairs while in dry-dock in in Rotterdam last month. Inspectors at the Netherlands labor department informed Royal Caribbean Cruises in advance that when its cruise ship would be in Rotterdam it would have to adhere to Dutch Oasis of the Seasrules and legislation.

According to the newspaper, when ten inspectors boarded the Oasis they found certain working conditions to be in violation of Dutch law. This lead to a second visit by 45 inspectors.

The inspections reportedly revealed that at least 48 crew members did not have proper Dutch work permits. The majority of these crewmembers were from the Philippines and South America.

The reported fine of at least €600,000 turns out to be over $760,000.The inspectors can access a fine of €12,000 per violation. The precise fine will be determined when the investigation is completed.

This fine may be an eye-opener for many people who are unfamiliar with the inner-working of the cruise industry. But it is business as usual as far as we are concerned.

When we interview Royal Caribbean crew members, without exception they tell us that the cruise line requires them to work in excess of the hours permitted by the Maritime Labour Convention. The ship employees have to arrive at work early and attend meetings but they are not permitted to clock in. When they work over 10 hours, they have to clock out and keep working. When they are pressed to work extra hours preparing for USPH inspections, they are required to work off the clock.

It remains to be seen whether Rotterdam receives any more work from Royal Caribbean in the future. Royal Caribbean has decided that the dry-dock repairs needed for sister ship Allure of the Seas will be performed in Cadiz, Spain.

Royal Caribbean has not responded to our request for a statement. 

October 15 2014 Update: A Dutch law firm indicates that 77 Philippines and 8 South-Americans worked on the Oasis without a permit. With a €12,000 fine per person, the fine could amount to one million euro’s. The Dutch firm is urging Royal Caribbean to appeal the fine, claiming that there is an exception for crew members working aboard sea going vessels.

October 16 2014 Update:  There is a very active discussion about this story on our Facebook page. Over 1,600 people have liked it, over 500 shared it and over 400 people have commented.  Most seem to be crew members. As the cruise line overworks and underpays its crew members, the cruise executives at Royal Caribbean enjoy over $100,000,000 in cruise stock. Read: The Rich Get Richer

 

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

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Baldwin040 Creative Commons 3.0  

Cruise Passengers: Do You Really Complain About Your Cruise Vacations?

Crew Member Rights - Cruise ShipOur law firm receives anywhere from a dozen to several dozen e-mails a day from people complaining about every imaginable problem on the high seas. 

We divide the complaints into two general categories - complaints by passengers and complaints by crew members.

Cruise passengers complain about all types of things, like the food was bad, they missed a port of call because of bad weather, the cabins next to them were too loud, the service was bad, or they object to automatic gratuities being deducted from their accounts.  It drives me crazy. 

Yes, there are legitimate complaints too, like being seriously injured or being a victim of a crime during a cruise. But the petty "I-was-inconvenienced-and-I-want-a-free-cruise" complainers out number the legitimately injured by 10 to 1.

Crew members, on the other hand, are a different breed. They are inconvenienced every day. That goes without saying. Long hours, low pay, shrinking tips and having to deal with whiny guests are just a normal day at sea.  Who are they going to complain to anyway? There are no true unions. There are no legitimate maritime oversight bodies that can do anything. And if they complain about the hard work or excessive hours or minimal pay to their supervisors, they are likely to be fired.

And the true seafarers working on tankers, bulk carriers and large freighters?  They are the bravest of the brave. Subject to the hazards of the sea, the largely Indian and Filipino seafarers are the backbone of the maritime community.

So when you come home from a cruise vacation and are about to write a harsh review to Cruise Critic and bitch & whine about the crew members, keep in mind that your worst cruise is probably better than the best day a crew member may experience on the same ship.           

Video Credit: Seafarers Facebook page

  

6 Problems the Cruise Industry Needs to Fix - No. 5: Disappearances of Passenger & Crew Members on the High Seas

As part of Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM 2013), I have raised 6 problems which I believe the cruise lines need to address.

Problem No. 5: Disappearance of Passengers and Crew Members from Cruise Ships:.

The problem is not just that approximately 200 people have vanished from cruise ships since year 2000, but the attitude of the cruise lines when families try and find out what happened to their loved ones is just plain nasty.

When Seattle businessman Son Michael Pham's parents disappeared during a Carnival cruise, he voiced his frustration that he received greater responsiveness upon losing a piece of luggage.

Insurance company president Ken Carver's daughter disappeared from a Celebrity Cruises ship and the cruise line responded by discarding her personal items without so much as a call to the FBI. Rebecca Coriam - Disney Wonder Cruise Ship 

Today, a reader of this blog sent me a link to an article which discussed how Disney youth counselors on the Disney Wonder lost track of a three year old child whose parents dropped the little boy off in the cruise ship's Oceaneer Club (for children aged 3 to 12).  The cruise line's response was not only incompetent but heartless.  

The youth counselors had no clue where the little boy entrusted to their care was on the ship. They appeared indifferent to the parent's understandable fears. No announcements were made over the course of 45 minutes while the ship sailed along as the parents searched frantically for their child.

This cavalier attitude is business as usual for the floating Magical Kingdom ships. Almost two years ago exactly, a 24 year old youth counselor from the U.K., Rebecca Coriam, disappeared from the Disney Wonder. The ship continued on sailing. The cruise line's attitude and response, in my opinion, seemed motivated to protect its own marketing image and cover-the-truth-up, rather than to find out exactly what happened to young Rebecca.

Today is Rebecca's 26th birthday which her parents and sister are celebrating in sorrow.  Neither Disney nor the country of the Bahamas, where Disney incorporates its cruise ships to avoid U.S. George Smith Royal Caribbean Cruise Shiptaxes, will cooperate with the Coriam family.  No one will provide the Coriams with a copy of the Bahamas report on the disappearance of their daughter. The callousness demonstrated by Disney and the Bahamas is the product of a foreign flagged scheme which is designed to keep cruise lines like Disney away from real oversight except by Caribbean islands whose loyalties lie exclusively to the cruise industry.  

I touched upon this problem briefly in an opinion piece for CNN entitled "What Cruise Lines Don't Want You to Know."

There are many other examples of a cruise industry which would rather spend it efforts trying to create an image to vacationers that cruising is safe rather taking reasonable steps to make certain cruising is actually safe.

George Smith disappeared in July 2005 during his honeymoon. Going on eight years later, there remain no answers and no arrests, It was only last year that the public learned that Royal Caribbean had possession of a video of a certain passenger on the cruise ship who was taped telling his friends "we gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute."  We represented Mr. Smith's wife and were never told that the video existed; instead, we watched as the cruise line stonewalled our investigation and tried to convince the public that Mr. Smith just got drunk and fell overboard.

HAL Disappearance Jason Rappe EurodamLast November, HAL passenger Jason Rappe' disappeared from the Eurodam while cruising with his wife.  We asked the cruise line for information like videotapes, passenger addresses, statements and other basic information.

HAL refused to provide anything to us.

Instead HAL insisted that it was Mr. Rappe's wife who first had to agree to provide all of her missing husband's medical records, life insurance policies, work information and any psychiatric records before they would even think about cooperating.        

No airline would act like this if a passenger or crew member disappeared in flight. But then again the aviation industry is overseen by the strict and serious Federal Aviation Agency (FAA). There is no equivalent to the FAA on the high seas - only ships flying flags of convenience in countries like the Bahamas which care only their relationships with the cruise industry.   

Its too easy to commit a crime on a cruise line and get away with it. Even in cases where there is no foul play, the cruise industry's knee-jerk reaction is to deny and delay and obfuscate rather than treat families respectfully and transparently. Until this attitude changes, cruise lines will always appear that they have something to hide.   

  

You can read our prior articles about 6 problems the cruise industry needs to fix below:

Problem No. 6: Cruise Pollution of Air & Water

Check in this week as we explore problem number 1 - 4 during CSM.

CLIA Safety Proposal Ignored: Lifeboat Plunges 60 Feet, 5 Dead

Thomson Majesty Lifeboat AccidentFollowing the Costa Concordia disaster last year, the Cruise Line International Organization (CLIA) announced 10 new safety proposals that all of the cruise lines were suppose to follow.

One proposal was that cruise lines would no longer load crew members in the lifeboats during safety drills. Instead, cruise lines were suppose to lower the lifeboats into the water first, load the crew members in next, and then practice motoring the lifeboat around. The proposal envisions only a few crew aboard during the lowering of the lifeboat, and they must be essential to the operation. 

Today we learn that at least 8 crew members were in a lifeboat during a drill on the Thomson Majesty cruise ship, apparently in violation of the new CLIA safety proposal, when the lifeboat plunged 60 feet into the water. The lifeboat landed upside down. 5 of the crew are dead. 3 are injured. 

The cruise ship was docked at the pier of Santa Cruz port in La Palma, in the Canary Islands. Thomson Cruises is owned by the large German travel company TUI. The cruise ship is operated by Louis Cruises.

A local newspaper says that the nationality of the dead victims are three Indonesians, a Ghanian and a Filipino. The injured involve two Greek crew members in serious condition and a Filipino in what is being described as in less serious condition.   

There is a saying that most lifeboats drills injure or kill more crew than save lives. Lifeboats can fall suddenly due to operator error or suffer malfunctions of the moving parts or failure of the cables and hardware. The accident appears to have happened while the lifeboat was being raised. No one needs to be aboard the lifeboat when it is raised. A cable snapped on one side. A photograph on our Facebook page shows a frayed cable.  

You can see a dramatic lifeboat accident in a video here. Although it did not involve a cruise ship, you can see how things can go terribly wrong.

It's a shame that the lifeboat had crew members aboard while it was being lowered and raised in violation of the CLIA safety proposals. Why have 8 crewmembers in the boat while it is being raised anyway? The safety proposals are just that - proposals. It seems that at the end of the day, the cruise lines do whatever they want to do. 

Please leave a comment below or discuss this accident on our Facebook page

February 11 2013 Update: Cruise Critic has an interesting article: Lifeboat Tragedy: Did Cruise Line Ignore Safety Guidelines?  It quotes an expert on lifeboat drills:

"Alan Graveson, Senior International Secretary of Nautilus the U.K.-based seafarers' union, said: "I issued instructions seven years ago that preferably nobody should be in the lifeboat during a safety drill, and if that's not possible then there should be a maximum of two people.

"Lifeboats are meant to go one way -- and that's down -- I don't know why there were eight people onboard when they were winching it back up."

Photo credit: AP via Huffington Post.  Video credit: BBC News.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crew Member Dies in Ventilation Shaft on Costa Serena

Costa Serena Cruise Ship Crew Member DeathA reader of Cruise Law News in Italy has notified us of the death this week of a crew member aboard the Costa Serena cruise ship.

The incident involved a 47-year-old Indonesian crew member, identified as Sahid Bin Fauzi, who worked as a mechanic on the Costa Serena.  He reportedly died after falling into a ventilation duct of one of the ship's engines, apparently while working on the maintenance of fan grids.

A newspaper in Genoa where Costa is headquartered contains a short account of the crew member's death. The accident was revealed today although it occurred last Thursday, while the cruise ship was off the coast of Argentina.  

Other crew members reported Mr. Fauzi's "disappearance," following which the ship's chief engineer searched and located the crew member's lifeless body in the vertical ventilation shaft. It is less than clear how long it took before Mr. Fauzi's body was located.

The Costa Serena is a Concordia-class cruise ship for Carnival-owned Costa Crociere. The name Serena was intended to symbolize harmony and serenity.  The cruise ship has been the cruise line's flagship since 2007.

 

Photo credit of Costa Serena: ilsecoloxix.it 

Jamaican Crew Members: Know Your Rights!

Today the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper published an article about our trip this week to Jamaica entitled "Know Your Rights!" The article is below:

"CRUISE-SHIP workers are being urged to empower themselves by obtaining knowledge about their rights to benefits from their employers.

Several cruise-ship workers turned up on Wednesday at the Hibiscus Lodge in Ocho Rios to speak to lawyers from Walker & O'Neill Maritime Lawyers based in Miami, Florida. The lawyers - James Walker, Lisa O'Neill and Jonathan Aronson - were in the island to meet persons who might have been injured or fallen ill while at work on a cruise ship and who need guidance or representation.

Jamaica Crew Member - Cruise LawyerWhile several persons were happy to have met the team of lawyers, there were those who left disappointed as the three-year period allowed for compensation had elapsed.

"Most of the crew members who work for the Miami-based cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean and others, to be honest with you, they don't know their legal rights because the cruise lines do not inform them of their legal rights," asserted lawyer James M. Walker.

"They don't understand, for example, that they have only three years to contact a lawyer to assert a claim to seek medical treatment, or benefits or compensation for their injuries."

One woman who worked on a cruise ship and got injured seven years ago was told of the three-year limit. She left disappointed. So too did two men who last worked for a cruise line six years ago.

Walker said these persons should have been informed of their rights.

"They should know that when they leave the company. When they leave the company on sick leave, they should be told you have only three years and if you don't assert your rights within that period of time you lose them forever. So we're here for educational purposes," Walker said.

Seeking Redress

Over a dozen persons were steered in the direction that they need to go to seek redress after being injured. While they shied away from speaking with The Gleaner for the most part, one man who turned up walking with the aid of a crutch, while refusing to give his name, told the newspaper: "I'm pleased with the service so far."

He left with instructions to return with additional documents he had left at home.

But the critical issue, Walker said, was for workers to know their rights. For example, Jamaican crew members on cruise ships are entitled to get medical treatment in the United States.

Cruise workers who need information may visit www.cruiselawnews.com, a site that offers news on rights of crew members. Walker is urging persons to visit the site and educate themselves."

Lessons Learned From Jamaica

Falmouth Jamaica   We returned to Miami from Jamaica last night after a three day trip where we visited crew member clients in Montego Bay, Falmouth and Ocho Rios. The weather was fantastic and the Jamaican people were warm and friendly, as usual. It is always delightful to travel to Montego Bay, which is an easy one and one-half hour flight from Miami.

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas was in port when we visited Falmouth on Tuesday. The Freedom of the Seas and the Navigator of the Seas arrived on Wednesday morning. On these two days, over 10,000 people arrived on cruise ships from South Florida but you would never know it walking around the town.   

One of the problems we have witnessed with the "revitalization" of Falmouth is that the cruise line loads up its cruise passengers onto pre-booked and pre-paid excursion buses within the gates of the port and then sends them out of town to Ocho Rios or Dunn's River Falls.  We witnessed few passengers actually walking in to the town and buying souvenirs or eating in the local restaurants.

It would be quite easy to have the passengers board the buses at a central location in the town, say at the roundabout and then head off on their excursions. This way, they would be encouraged to shop in Falmouth, both before and after the bus excursions, as they walk to and from the cruise ships. But as matters now stand, the passengers are isolated from the local vendors in Falmouth. The cruise line Falmouth Jamaica  wants to capture as much of the passengers money as possible and seems to prefer that the passengers buy the goods and services offered by the cruise line sponsored vendors behind the fence erected between the ship and the local vendors.

Falmouth will never be truly revitalized until the cruise passengers turn into tourists who actually walk into and support the people of Falmouth.

In Ocho Rios, we met with approximately 50 crew members and former crew members working for Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Disney cruise lines. It was a record attendance for us. We met people who traveled from Negril, Port Antonio, Mandeville, and Kingston.   

We met in the famous "No Problem Room" at the Hibiscus Lodge.  I took a photo of my partners Lisa and Jonathan meeting with a client whose cruise ship related problems we helped solve.  

One of the most painful things we observed, and experienced, was when a crew member with a serious injury or medical ailment appeared at our meeting but had not contacted an attorney for four or five years. None of the crew members we met understood that there is a three year limitations for bringing claims against the cruise lines. Some of the men and women we met had worked for over two decades in the cruise industry and were left with serious injuries to their backs. Yet after returning home they did not understand that they had only three years to make a claim.

Most of the injured crew members we met have had no medical treatment arranged whatsoever by the cruise lines. Many were forced to pay for their own medical visits in the hope that the cruise line No Problem Room - Ocho Rio Jamaicawould reimburse them. All of this violates maritime law. Unlike U.S. passengers who if injured during a cruise receive great medical care back in their home states, the Jamaican crew members we meet invariably are still suffering with no medical care months and months after their shipboard accidents and injuries.

Jamaica remains a country where many cruise lines believe that they can send their injured crew members and then look the other way even after the employees served faithfully on cruise ships for over 20 years.  

 

Photo Credit: Jim Walker

Crew Member Fakes Disappearance From Container Ship - Faces Fine of $1,062,423

A Filipino crew member working aboard a large container ship was arrested after allegedly staging his own disappearance as part of a plot to sneak into the U.S.  

Dexter Desquitado, age 38, worked as a crew member aboard the Singapore-flagged MSC Tokyo. On October 25, 2012, a federal grand jury indicted him on charges that while the container ship was in the Gulf of Mexico heading for Alabama, he staged a scene aboard the ship to create the impression that he had gone overboard. Meanwhile, he hid in another part of the ship, with the intention of sneaking into the United States.  When the MSC ship reached the Port of Mobile, he apparently Fake Disappearance - MSC Tokyo Container Shipentered the U.S. during the vessel's cargo operations. 

In legal papers filed by the prosecuting attorneys, the U.S. Government said "The very offense involved staging his disappearance at sea, hiding in a secluded area of the ship, and then surreptitiously escaping into the United States under the cover of night."

An earlier account of the incident indicated that at approximately 2:30 a.m. on October 15th, the missing crewmember was responsible for recovering the Jacob’s ladder after the pilot arrived. The ladder was later observed down with a shoe on deck indicating the possibility of the crewmember falling overboard.

The U.S. Coast responded by launching a large (and expensive) search and rescue effort. The vessels and aircraft involved in the unnecessary search included:

  • Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew;
  • Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane crew;
  • Coast Guard Station Dauphin Island 45-foot Response Boat—Medium crew;
  • The 87-foot Coast Guard Cutter Seahawk crew;
  • A 40-foot Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla boat crew;
  • A 32-foot Mobile Police Department contender crew;
  • A 32-foot Alabama Marine Resources jet boat crew;
  • A 23-foot Daphne Search and Rescue boat crew; and
  • A 27-foot Bon Secour Fire Department boat crew.

If convicted, Desquitado faces a $5,000 civil penalty and $1,062,423 for the cost of the search conducted by the Coast Guard as well as Alabama and local authorities.

Our blog has covered all types of crew member disappearances, including foul play, suicides and mysteries.  This is the first time that we have learned of a crew member faking a disappearance.  

Can anyone cite to a case involving a fake disappearance of a crew member from a large commercial vessel or a cruise ship?  Please leave a comment below or comment on our facebook page.   

 

Story and video credit: Mobile News 15

Crew Member Goes Overboard From Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas

Serenade of the Seas Overboard CrewAlready reeling from the publicity of its delayed reporting of a 21 year old passenger who went overboard from the Allure of the Seas, Royal Caribbean is now facing the scrutiny of the international press regarding the disappearance of a crew member from the Serenade of the Seas yesterday.

Several newspapers in Italy and Croatia are reporting that a Royal Caribbean went overboard from the Serenade yesterday morning while the cruise ship was sailing in the Adriatic sea.

The Bahamian flagged Serenade of the Seas was crossing the Adriatic for Venice.

There are conflicting reports of the time of the overboard as occurring between 4:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. when the ship's passengers reported that a person had fallen into the sea.

An Italian newspaper reports that the unidentified crew member went overboard in off the Italian coastal city of Ancona. The waters are described either as international waters or waters under the jurisdiction of Croatia. The sea was reportedly rough with winds gusting close to 100 kilometers per hour. 

Coast Guard vessels from Croatia and Italy have searched for the crew member without success.

Cruise lines don't voluntarily disclose information about overboard passengers and crew members. Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein has tracked 187 people going overboard from cruise ships in the last ten years or so.

Anyone with information about this latest case, please leave a comment below.

September 21, 2012:  So far, not a single U.S. newspaper or media outlet has covered the story.  No press statement by Royal Caribbean.  Disturbing that no one cares about cruise overboards unless they involve a passenger from the U.S. 

September 22, 2012: Several people informed us that the overboard Royal Caribbean crew member is from Panama and one reader said that he was employed in the facilities department on the ship.

October 13, 2012: Another crew member goes overboard from the Serenade of the Seas. 2 crew members from the same cruise ship in 3 weeks. What's going on with this ship? 

Photo credit: Il Messaggero.it

Walker & O'Neill Featured in "Top Verdicts and Settlements" for $1,250,000 Verdict for Injured Crewmember Against Royal Caribbean

The Daily Business Review released "Top Verdicts & Settlements" for last year.  You can click on the digital version here.

We obtained the highest award in an admiralty / maritime case in Florida in 2011.  The case involved an injured crew member from Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas who the cruise line sent back to Serbia and then denied her appropriate medical care and treatment.

We flew our client to Miami and arranged for her to see a board certified orthopedic surgeon who recommended surgery.  Royal Caribbean sent her to a local "litigation doctor" who never testifies that injured crewmembers need surgery.

The three arbitrators ruled that the cruise line failed to provide our client with a safe place to work and was 100% negligent for causing her accident.

The arbitrators also found that Royal Caribbean refused to provide prompt and adequate medical treatment to its injured cruise employee, and that its failure to authorize the necessary surgery "lacked any reasonable defense."

The arbitrators awarded our client $1,250,000, the highest amount in a crewmember case last year and the most ever in a cruise arbitration matter.      


Injured Seaman Wins Award Against Maersk Lines in Miami

Today a jury here in Miami returned a significant award against a major shipping company, Maersk Lines. 

The case involved William Skye, a 57 year old Jones Act seaman (crewmember) from New Jersey, who worked for Maersk Lines Limited as a Chief Mate (the crewmember rank just under Master / Captain) aboard a Maersk container vessel called the Sealand Pride.

Mr. Skye was represented by Jason Margulies and Michael Winkleman, of the law firm Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina and Winkleman, who I interviewed for this article. 

According to Mr. Margulies, "this case is, to our knowledge, a case of first impression that has never before been brought."

Maersk Sealand Pride Container Ship LawsuitMr. Skye alleged that he was assigned and required to perform so many duties in connection with his job as a Chief Mate for Maersk that, over a 4 year period of time, he was required to violate the work/rest hour laws that comprise the STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping).

The STCW provides, in part, in 46 USC 8104(d), that "A licensed individual or seaman in the deck or engine department may not be required to work more than 8 hours in one day."; and in 46 CFR 15.1111 (a) "Each person assigned duty as officer in charge of a navigational or engineering watch, or duty as a rating forming part of a navigational or engineering watch, on board any vessel that operates beyond the Boundary Line shall receive a minimum of 10 hours of rest in any 24-hour period."

While there are some exceptions to the foregoing, the rest received may not be less than 70 hours in any 7 day period. Further, he must receive at least a 6 hour uninterrupted rest period daily.

As part of his required job duties, Mr. Skye alleged that he was required to stand two 4 hour watches a day, and then perform additional tasks of his approximately 28 additional job duties associated with his position as Chief Mate. On average, the Plaintiff alleges that he was required to work approximately 15.75 hours a day; violating both 46 USC 8104(d) and 46 CFR 15.1111.

As a result of his long working hours and inability to receive enough uninterrupted rest, Ms. Skye alleged that he was diagnosed with Left Ventricular Hypertrophy by his cardiologist, Dr. Joseph Wachspress, in June 2008.  This condition is a physical thickening of the left ventricular portion of the heart, making it difficult for the heart to pump blood and significantly increasing chances of a heart attack. Further, he Maersk - William Skye - Lawsuitwas diagnosed with an adjustment disorder by his psychiatrist, Dr. Arnold Goldman, in 2008. Both his cardiologist and psychiatrist related his injuries to his working conditions aboard the Sealand Pride and recommended that he retire early, at age 54, from working aboard ships. During his last year of work, he earned approximately $171,000 and received approximately $36,000 in fringe benefits (food, shelter, medical care, etc.)

Mr. Skye was also a licensed attorney. He went to law school in the 1980's and practiced for a short period of time thereafter, deciding to return to a life at sea thereafter. Although his doctors do not restrict his ability to earn a living as a lawyer,  because he has not practiced law since the 80's, he is currently finding it very difficult to earn any significant amount in his practice as a lawyer. Nevertheless, Plaintiff's vocational rehabilitation expert, Dr. Robert Lessne, testified that if he were able to find a job with a law firm as a lawyer, he could expect to earn approximately $69,000 based on his current level of expertise. Dr. Lessne further testified that William Skye's working life expectancy, from the point that he retired in 2008 was approximately 17 more years.

During trial, Plaintiff presented the testimony of two former Maersk employees, Michael McCright and Steven Krupa. Michael McCright was a former relief Chief Mate aboard Maersk ships and he testified as to the difficult job that chief mates working for Maersk faced and that it was impossible to do the job without working a significant amount of overtime, which was exhausting. Steven Krupa was a former fleet manager for Maersk and testified that ultimately Maersk was responsible for complying with the STCW laws but that Maersk did not affirmatively do anything to check that its crew members were able to complete their job duties and comply with the STCW work/rest hours.  Mr. Skye also presented the testimony of one of the Maersk captains under which he worked, Cpt. James Brennan, who testified that William Skye was a good and competent Chief Mate who would complain to him that complying with the STCW work/rest hours was difficult.

Maersk - Sealand PrideFurther, Mr. Skye introduced evidence that showed that Maersk actually budgeted 185% of the Chief Mate's base salary to overtime; far more than the overtime budget for any other position on the ship (by comparison Maersk's overtime budget for the Captain was 26% of his base salary).

Maersk was represented by defense attorneys, David Horr and Stephanie Wylie, who are two of the best lawyers defending shipping companies and cruise lines in Miami.They presented arguments that it was primarily Mr. Skye's responsibility as Chief Mate to make sure that the work/rest hours were complied with. Further, they argued that Mr. Skye failed to delegate tasks which would have made it feasible for him to comply with the work/rest hours and allowed him to obtain uninterrupted rest.

Additionally, Maersk argued that Mr. Skye's injury was caused by cardiac conditions which he began complaining of in 2000 and, as such, his filing of a lawsuit in May 2011 violated the applicable three year statute of limitations. Maersk also presented testimony from cardiologist, Dr. Theodore Feldman, who testified that the left ventricular hypertrophy did not preclude him from working aboard ships and was easily controlled with medication.  Maersk also presented testimony from maritime safety expert, Captain Douglas Torborg, who went through three and a half years of duty logs (work hour logs) regarding Mr. Skye and testified that, based on the exceptions to the work/rest hours of the STCW, the working hours did not constitute a violation of the laws.  Douglas Torborg admitted that he has billed Maersk's lawyers approximately $60,000 for his work in reaching those opinions. Lastly, Maersk argued that Mr. Skye had long planned to retire in 2008 before finding out about his hear condition. 

In the end, the jury did not find that there was statutory violations of the STCW laws. They did, however, find that Maersk was negligent and that its negligence was a legal cause of Mr. Skye's injuries.  As a result of such injuries, which were first able to be discovered by Mr. Skye in 2008, he was forced to retire 10 years early. They awarded $2,088,549.00 (present value) for those 10 years of lost wages.  The jury also found that Mr. Skye's non-economic damages totaled $273,750.00. They found Maersk 25% negligent and William Skye 75% comparatively negligent.

I asked Mr. Horr if he has a comment and we will  update this story if we receive additional comments from the defense side.

 

Photo credit:

Top: Ship Spotting  / © Magogman

Bottom: Global Security

Profits Over People: Carnival's Exploitation of Crew Members is Standard Industry Practice

A dozen newspapers in the U.K. have reported on P&O Cruises' decision to pay its crewmembers a basic salary of 75 pence an hour (around $1.20 an hour) which turns out to be approximately $400 a month. Cash tips are being phased out with automatic gratuities being added to the passengers' bills. But rather than forwarding the passengers tips to the crew, the cruise line has threatened to withhold tips if the crewmember's rating falls below 92 percent.

In grade school, a 92 is an "A-."  So if a waiter who works a minimum of 11-12 hours a day (330-360 hours a month) receives a 91 (a "B+"?), management will pocket the tips?  

The Guardian newspaper reports that P&O Cruises justifies the move claiming that it is actually "good" for the crewmembers because many tourists don't tip.  It quotes David Dingle, CEO of Carnival UK, in charge of P&O cruise lines, saying that the crew were allegedly "much happier" and P&O's pay scale is "standard for the industry."

Some passengers reported that many of the crewmembers on a P&O cruise ship, mostly Indians, were India - Impoverished Crew - Exploitationat the point of tears upon hearing the news.

Carnival U.K. CEO Dingle tells the Guardian that "we have a manning office in Mumbai. There are queues out on to the street."  Ah, the desperate lining up, praying that Mr. Dingle will bestow them with the opportunity to work 350 hours a month for $400.

This no reason to exploit people.  But it is a revealing insight into why Carnival and P&O exploit their employees. They can and therefore they will. 

The U.N. reports that over 410,000,000 people from India are living below the poverty level.

Dingle is also right about low pay being what he calls "standard for the industry."

Carnival and Royal Caribbean in the U.S. pay cleaners from Jamaica as little as $545 a month. They expect them to grind out 12 hours days for 6 to 8 months straight.  For a 31-day-month, that's 372 hours for $545, less than $1.50 an hour.  And when the crewmembers' bodies break, the cruise lines dump them back home without medical care and treatment. 

Corporate Watch has an interesting article which characterizes the low P&O pay as shameful.  Fares for the Carnival Legend range between $2,798 and $6,458 per passenger for a 12 day cruise around northern Europe. Yet, P&O workers would need to work for 500 days straight to pay for a cruise themselves, assuming that they did not spend a single penny of their wages.

Carnival Corporation has annual revenues of $15.8 billion in 2011 and profits of $2.2 billion.  Micky Arison is Florida's richest person with a net worth of many billions.  But Arison is no Gandhi.  You will find him counting his billions on his 200' super-yacht or on the front row of the AA arena in Miami watching his hundred million dollar super-star basketball players.  Trust me, he's not worried about Indian waiters getting their tips.   

I can't imagine working 350 hours a month for $400, hoping that the guests I slaved away for would reward me a score higher than a 92.  An "A" or no tip?  You would think that a company earning billions a year (tax free to boot) wouldn't jack up a crew member for $150 in tips. But there is no satisfying this type of corporate greed.   

But who cares?  There are many young Indian men in line at the hiring agency in Mumbai hoping to be the next one to be hired to work aboard a P&O cruise ship.  

MSC Armonia Crewmember Dies, Passengers Hospitalized

MSC Armonia Cruise Ship - Dead Crewmember, Sick PassengersA reader of Cruise Law News in Brazil has informed us that a crewmember of the Armonia cruise ship, operated by MSC Cruises, died yesterday after being admitted to the hospital in serious condition.

A newspaper in Brazil (G1 in Sao Paulo) reports that a local woman, Fabiana Pasquarelli, age 30, was taken from the MSC cruise ship and was eventually admitted to the intensive care unit of Hospital Ana Costa.

The deceased crewmember worked as a waitress and was taken to the hospital on Wednesday with a fever and cough and was apparently diagnosed with pneumonia.  

There is also speculation that she may have died of swine flu.

Five other crewmembers are also sick and have been under observation in the hospital since Friday. 

The cruise line said that passengers are disembarking the cruise ship today and new passengers will board.

Fabiana Pasquarelli MSC Cruises ArmoniaIf you have information about this incident, please leave a message below.  

February 18, 2012 Update:  Passengers from the cruise ship have also been hospitalized in serious condition.

Another Brazilian newspaper, A Tribuna, has an account and reports that the diagnosis is unclear although it is the result of an infectious process.  

Ms. Pasquarelli died of an acute respiratory failure after being placed on a ventilator.  

February 19, 2012 Update:

A newspaper in Brazil states that seven people of the ten passengers and crew from the cruise ship were released from the hospital. Three remain hospitalized.  The hospital ran tests to determine the type of infection that caused the sickness.

Five crewmembers have contacted us, wishing to remain anonymous, complaining that Ms. Pasquarelli's medical treatment was delayed.  Read comments below.

February 21, 2012 Update:

A spokesperson for MSC left a comment below.

Also, a newspaper in Buenos Aires reports that heath authorities in Uruguay were on board the MSC cruise ship, which docked this morning at the main port in Montevideo after fears of a flu outbreak. The ship is expected to arrive to Buenos Aires tomorrow.  Osvaldo Fabacchi, the head of Port Administration in Montevideo, stated that “at present the cause of the crew member’s death has not been confirmed. The autopsy has yet to be carried out in order to determine and confirm the cause of death.”

Crewmember Overboard From Royal Caribean's Monarch of the Seas Cruise Ship

We have been contacted by several different individuals today inquiring into the facts and circumstances surrounding a crewmember going overboard from the Monarch of the Seas cruise ship.

We are informed that the overboard involved a crewmember from India.  No other information is known at this time.  The cruise ship is in Nassau today and was in CoCo Cay yesterday.  There are no news outlets reporting on this incident so far.

Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Seas - OverboardRoyal Caribbean / Celebrity cruise ships have seen the most overboards over the course of the last 2 years.

On December 27, 2011 we reported on a Celebrity crewmember's disappearance - Celebrity Crewmember Missing From Summit Cruise Ship.  Here are other recent stories:

Another Celebrity Crewmember Goes Overboard

Crew Member Goes Overboard from Celebrity Constellation Cruise Ship

Crew Member Missing from the Grandeur of the Seas - Why Are So Many People Disappearing From Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships?

Another Overboard From A Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship? - Oasis of the Seas

Crew Member Overboard from Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas

"Man Overboard" Reported on Radiance of the Seas

Asleep At the Wheel: What Does the Delayed Reporting of Neha Chhikara's Disappearance from the Monarch of the Seas Reveal About Royal Caribbean's Shipboard Security?

Wife of Royal Caribbean Crew Member on Monarch of the Seas Goes OverBoard

The last two articles involve a wife of an Indian crewmember going overboard from the Monarch of the Seas. 

The last time the Monarch of the Seas was in the news was when it failed a CDC inspection in November - Dirty Dishes & Fruit Flies Flourish on Royal Caribbean's Oldest Cruise Ship

Does anyone have information about this latest crew overboard?   If so, please leave a comment below.

January 12, 2012 Update:

DIS, the "Internet's largest unofficial on-line guide to Disney Cruises," contains the following information:

This report is coming live from the Disney Dream.  An unknown Carnival Cruise Line ship and Coast Guard helicopters are currently next to the Dream helping with a search for a man overboard from the Monarch of the Seas.  On schedule today for the Dream is a day at sea, but overnight, guests began noticing unusual movement from the ship.  Guests later learned that the ship had docked at Nassau overnight, but weren't sure why.  An officer from the Dream made an announcement overhead at 9:00 am alerting guests of the situation.  This is the first official notification passengers have received; if any news-worthy updates are given, this story will be updated.

Celebrity Crewmember Missing From Summit Cruise Ship

On Sunday we received emails inquiring about a Celebrity crewmember who went overboard from the Summit cruise ship.  The Summit was sailing from San Juan, Puerto Rico, where it is currently based, to Barbados when the cruise employee disappeared. At the time we had no information.

Today the U.S. Coast Guard issued a statement that the missing crewmember is a Filipino woman, age thirty, employed as a bartender aboard the cruise ship.  The cruise line states that she was seen jumping overboard Sunday morning, approximately 6 - 7 miles off the northeastern coast of Culebra Island, Puerto Rico.  It is less than clear whether eyewitnesses observed this, or whether the incident was captured on the ship's CCTV cameras.

Summit Cruise Ship The cruise ship notified the Coast Guard of the incident from the cruise ship at approximately 12:50 a.m. Sunday.  We would be interested in learning when the cruise ship left San Juan, as the incident occurred shortly after departure. 

The Coast Guard suspended its search last night.

Royal Caribbean / Celebrity cruise ships have seen the most alleged suicides over the course of the last 2 years.  As we have said before, the Filipinos on cruise ships work incredibly long hours and are away from their families for long periods of time.  At this point, it is unknown what led this young woman to jump if this is what happened.

A Filipino crewmember allegedly jumped from a Celebrity ship earlier this year - Another Celebrity Crewmember Goes Overboard

You can read about RCCL / Celebrity crew overboards (all nationalities) below: 

Crew Member Goes Overboard from Celebrity Constellation Cruise Ship

Crew Member Missing from the Grandeur of the Seas - Why Are So Many People Disappearing From Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships?

Another Overboard From A Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship? - Oasis of the Seas

Crew Member Overboard from Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas

"Man Overboard" Reported on Radiance of the Seas

Asleep At the Wheel: What Does the Delayed Reporting of Neha Chhikara's Disappearance from the Monarch of the Seas Reveal About Royal Caribbean's Shipboard Security?

Wife of Royal Caribbean Crew Member on Monarch of the Seas Goes OverBoard

Does anyone have information about this latest incident? 

Update on Alleged Sexual Assault of Child Aboard the Carnival Liberty Cruise Ship

This week we have been contacted by a number of readers who want to know the status of the criminal proceeding against a Carnival crewmember who is accused of sexually abusing a 14 year old girl aboard a Carnival cruise ship.

The incident occurred last month and you can read our initial account of the incident here.   

The crewmember involved is identified as Kert Clyde Jordan, age 35 from the country of Grenada, who worked as a waiter aboard the Carnival Liberty cruise ship.

According to the affidavit of the arresting FBI agent, the young girl was vacationing with family members aboard the Liberty cruise ship during a cruise from October 29th to November 5th of this year.  On the last night of the cruise at around 11:45 PM, crewmember Jordan encountered the girl, age 14, on the upper deck (Lido deck).  She told him that she was 14 years old.  At around 12:15 Carnival Liberty Cruise Ship - Sexual Abuse of MinorAM, Jordan led her a bathroom where he engaged in sexual acts with the child until around 2:00 AM.

The girl reported the incident to her mother the following day after the family returned home following the cruise.  Her mother took her to a hospital in her home state where she underwent medical treatment.  The local police were notified and, in turn, contacted the FBI here in South Florida on November 9, 2011.

On November 19, 2011, the FBI boarded the cruise ship and questioned Jordan, who waived his Miranda rights.  The FBI agent showed him a photograph of the girl, who he acknowledged seeing on the cruise and admitted that she advised him that she was 14 years old.  He also stated that he took photographs of the minor with his cell phone.

The FBI agent also stated that Jordan admitted to committing sexual acts with the girl.

Under federal law, sexual contact with a minor is a felony.  Here Jordan was charged with violating United States Code Section 2243(a)(1) which prohibits a sexual act with a child over the age of 12 but under the age of 16.   

If Jordan in fact waived his Miranda rights and admitted that he knew that the girl was only 14 years old, he will likely be convicted.  The maximum sentence for this type of crime is 15 years in prison. 

Jordan's arraignment was last week and a jury trial will be scheduled for later this year.  He remains in jail. 

Our prior article on this case drew a number of comments, including from people who claim to be family members or friends on the cruise ship.  Some of the comments question the veracity of the minor's claim because she reported the incident after the cruise.  Victims of sexual abuse often report the crime after the fact.  In this case the minor reported it the following day, which is not unusual at all.

There are some unusual comments to our article, including comments from someone who claims to have been a passenger who engaged in sex with Jordan on the same day as the incident involving the 14 year old girl.

We have no basis to verify these comments.  But if true, they raise the issue whether this crewmember engaged in sexual activities with women and underage girls in public bathrooms on the ship during prior cruises.

 

Photo credit:  wikipedia (Captain-Tucker)

Crew Member in Critical Condition in Hawaii

Newspapers in Hawaii are reporting today that a twenty-seven year cruise ship employee was pulled from the water at Kalapaki Beach this afternoon.

The local police are saying that bystanders brought the man to shore and administered CPR.  Paramedics later continued CPR after arriving on the scene, and transported the crew member to Wilcox Hospital, where he is listed in critical condition.

The crew member is from an unidentified cruise ship docked in Nawiliwili Harbor which is the major port for Kauai.  If you are familiar with this incident and know what cruise ship the crewmember is from please leave a comment below.  
 

 

Jury Hits Celebrity Cruises with $1,000,000 Verdict for Unnecessary Pacemaker Surgery

Yesterday, a jury in Miami returned a $1,000,000 verdict against a Miami based cruise line whose ship employee underwent an unnecessary surgery to insert a pacemaker which he did not need.

The case involves a Celebrity Cruises chef, Shalesh Buttoo, who experienced headaches and pain to his face while working on a Celebrity cruise ship.  Although only 31 years old and apparently in good health, a doctor in Santo Domingo inserted a pacemaker into the crewmember's chest.  The issues at trial focused on whether Mr. Buttoo needed such a surgery and, assuming he did, whether the surgery was properly performed.   

In 2009, the cruise line had flown Mr. Buttoo from Europe, where the Celebrity cruise ship was based, to Santo Domingo.  We wrote about the danger of sending injured or ill crewmembers to Santo Domingo in order to reduce medical expenses for crew back in November 2009.  You can Medical Treatment in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic?  read our thoughts here.  You can read another article we wrote here: Cruise Ship Medical Care - Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft.

For those readers not up on international geography, Santo Domingo is in the Dominican Republic, adjacent to Haiti, on the island of Hispaniola. 

Mr. Buttoo testified at trial that the pacemaker caused him debilitating injuries and forced him to use a walker.  The pace maker not only medically unnecessary but was improperly placed and caused inflammation.  He eventually traveled to Miami for follow up medical care where cardiac surgeons removed the pacemaker.

The jury found the cruise line negligent in its care and treatment of its crewmember and returned a $1,000,000 verdict.  Cruise lines are vicariously liable for the bad medical treatment rendered to their crewmembers.

Mr. Butto's trial lawyer in Miami, Earvin Gonzalez, argued that Celebrity Cruises sent the ship employee to Santo Domingo to save money because the doctors in the Dominican Republic are much cheaper than in Europe or here in Miami where Celebrity Cruises is based.  Mr. Gonzalez commented on the verdict:

“I am pleased that the jury was able to appreciate the level of harm caused by Celebrity and awarded damages to compensate Mr. Buttoo for what he went through.  Although no amount of money will ever erase the horror of being implanted with a heart device he did not need, the amount awarded allowed Mr. Buttoo to feel that justice was served.  It is important for ship owners to recognize the need to provide their crew with quality health care and to listen to their needs, rather than taking a calloused and uncaring approach.  The crew is part of the Cruise line’s family and they should be treated like family members and not like indentured servants.”

Celebrity Cruises was represented by Jeffrey Foreman and Noah Silverman of the Miami firm Foreman Friedman.  They declined to respond to our request for a comment.

$800,000 Arbitration Award for Injured Carnival Crewmember

An arbitrator in California recently awarded substantial compensation on behalf of a seriously injured Carnival crewmember.

California attorney Stephen Estey issued a press release which stated that he obtained an arbitration award for a crewmember working aboard the Carnival cruise ship Imagination in the amount of $800,000 for injuries sustained in June 2008.  The press release states that Polish citizen Marcin Sokolowski was employed by Carnival as an assistant Maître D.’  His duties Imagination Cruise Ship - Crew Injury - Arbitrationincluded lifting heavy bins of food and equipment.   Although some of the bins weighed in excess of 100 pounds, Carnival refused to provide him with a dolly to assist him in loading and unloading the bins. 

In June, 2008, crewmember Sokolowski felt a "pop" in his low back while lifting the bins.  He felt immediate pain and reported this to the ship's doctor, who only prescribed pain medication. When the crewmember's pain persisted over the next few days, the ship doctor injected him with pain killers and tried to "adjust" his lower back. 

Sokolowski's condition declined and a doctor in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico recommended surgery after a MRI of his lumbar spine confirmed that he had a herniated disc at L5-S1 on the right side.

In mid August, 2008, surgeons at the University of California at San Diego Medical Center performed  a lumbar discectomy; unfortunately, Sokolowski suffered permanent damage to the nerves radiating to his leg.  The press release states that the U.S. neurosurgeon and, subsequently, a disability commission in Poland found Sokolowski to be permanently disabled.  The arbitrator awarded total compensation in the amount of $800,000. 

As we reported earlier today, arbitration awards for back injuries have ranged for as little as $75,000 to a high of $1,250,000 in a case we handled earlier this year.

I do not know Mr. Sokolowski or his counsel but his story is the same story injured cruise employees tell us.  Crewmembers sustain serious injured on cruise ships and then undergo medical "treatment" on the cruise ship consisting of masking the pain and delaying the cure.  By the time that board certified U.S. doctors finally treat them, the crewmembers often have sustained additional and permanent neurological damage.   

Given the range of cruise ship arbitration awards so far, Mr. Sokolowski's lawyer did a good job obtaining compensation for his client.   

If you are a crewmemmber, from the Caribbean, Europe, India or South or Central America, injured on a cruise ship, please consider reading Arbitration of Cruise Line Crewmember Cases.

Arbitration of Cruise Line Crewmember Cases

In the last few years, the major cruise lines have been trying to enforce arbitration provisions which they inserted into the crew member's employment agreements.

Many of our crew clients around the world ask us "what is arbitration?" and was is the difference between an "arbitration" and a "trial."

Arbitration is a process where disputes between parties are decided by an "arbitrator" or a panel of "arbitrators."  In the crew cases we have arbitrated, the process is started by filing a claim with the Cruise Ship Arbitration - CrewMember American Arbitration Association / International Centre for Dispute Resolution.  This is the administrative body, typically called AAA or the ICDR, which oversees the process. 

The biggest difference between arbitration and a trial, is that a trial takes place before a judge and a jury.  There is no judge or jury in arbitration. 

Arbitrators are typically other attorneys or retired judges who are selected by counsel for the parties.  When there are three panel arbitrators, counsel for the crewmember will select one arbitrator and counsel for the cruise line will select one arbitrator.  Those two selected arbitrators will select a third arbitrator.  The arbitrators are sworn to be fair and impartial.

Once the arbitrator or arbitrators are selected, a date for the arbitration hearing will be selected.  Unlike a jury trial which could easily last more than a week, an arbitration hearing may last just two days.  There are relaxed rules of evidence.  The arbitrators will typically receive into evidence hearsay medical reports and affidavits of witnesses without the other side being permitted an opportunity to conduct cross examination.   

Pre-hearing discovery is limited.  There is no requirement to conduct discovery, although in most cases the crewmember will give a deposition and appear for a medical evaluation by a doctor selected by the cruise line defense lawyer.  We will always have our crew clients examined by a doctor who will appear live at the arbitration hearing, and we will take a deposition of a representative of the cruise line.

The cruise lines are responsible for the filing fee and the fees of the arbitrators.  These costs and fees can be expensive.  A cruise line paid around $60,000 in the ICDR filing fee and the fees of three arbitrators in a recent case.  Obviously, no crewmember could afford to arbitrate if they were responsible for these fees.  

There is the issue of where the arbitration hearing will take place.  Many arbitration agreement stipulate that the hearings will take place in the country where the cruise ship is flagged or the country of the crewmember's citizenship of the crewmember.  In many cases, the cruise line will nonetheless agree to arbitrate in Miami, because it is too expensive to pay the fees and costs associated with flying Miami based arbitrators and defense lawyers to far away places like India.  Quite frankly, I would love to arbitrate cases in India, Romania, Serbia, and throughout the Caribbean islands.    

Another big difference between arbitration and a trial is that the entire arbitration procedure, from start to finish, should take less than one year.  Given the congestion of our court docket in the state court system here in Miami, a date for jury trial could take two years or more.  This is good news for injured crewmembers who have no income and are in need of resolving their cases in an efficient manner.

Once the arbitration award is decided, it is not appealable except under very rare circumstances.  This is good news because the cruise lines can't drag out an appeal for another year. 

It is generally thought that a down side of the arbitration proceeding is that the amount of the arbitration awards are generally considered to be less than what a jury might otherwise award.  But the range of arbitration awards in my experience and to my knowledge have not been unreasonably low.

Of the six or so arbitration awards I am familiar with regarding crewmembers with injured backs for example, there was a low award of around $75,000, several in the $300,000 to $400,000 range, one for $800,000, and the high award of $1,250,000 which our firm handled this year.

If you are a crewmember injured on a cruise ship, don't hesitate to contact our office for a free consultation to discuss your rights.

Long Hours, Repetitive Injuries & Bad Medical Care Plague Royal Caribbean Crewmembers

Royal Caribbean Crewmembers - Miami Florida Cruise LawyerWe just settled a case we filed on behalf of a Jamaican crewmember who sustained a wrist injury while working as a cleaner aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  She is now able to support her two boys back in Ocho Rios (photo left). 

Her job responsibilities involved cleaning every single public lady bathroom on the cruise ship (around 30).  Mopping the floors, scrubbing the toilets, wiping the stalls and mirrors, every day of the week - Saturdays and Sundays included of course.  In addition, every embarkation day she was required to deliver hundreds of bags luggage from the elevators to the passengers' cabins.

She developed a painful and debilitating wrist injury.  She went to the ship doctor who gave her Ibuprofen and a sling to wear.  She then returned to full time duty wearing a sling.  I don't know how a one armed cleaner can possibly clean 30 bathrooms every day of the week and then carry hundreds of pieces of luggage on top of that.  Her salary was around $550 a month.

Royal Caribbean eventually sent her back to Jamaica.  Two general surgeons ended up operating on her wrist.  What they did exactly no one knows because neither one of these doctors prepared an operative report.  There are no hand specialists anywhere in Jamaica.  The crewmember's pain, numbness, swelling and limited motion did not improve.  Shortly after the second surgery and without ever providing physical therapy, the cruise line terminated her medical treatment and stopped paying the $12 a day daily stipend.  

After she called and explained her predicament, we filed suit, arranged for her to obtain a tourist visa, and then flew her to Miami for treatment with a U.S. board certified hand specialist.  After around $60,000 of medical care we forced the cruise line to pay, her symptoms finally resolved. We can't mention the amount of her settlement because the cruise line requires a confidentiality agreement regarding the settlement figure, but we can state that she was happy and, most importantly, pain free when she went home.

Cleaners, waiters, and cabin attendants work insane hours on Royal Caribbean ships.  Working 12 hours a Royal Caribbean Crew - Injuries - Accidents day minimum and up to 16 hours on embarkation day, they are instructed not to report more than 10 to 11 hours of work on their times sheets.

The human body is not designed to perform hard manual labor over 330 hours a month. 

Repetitive injuries to waiters who carry trays weighing 50 pounds or more are common.  Neck injuries, disc herniations in the low back, and rotator cuff injuries in the shoulder are common.  Then the cruise line sends these hard working employees to the four corners of the earth to receive bad medical care.         

The photo to the right is of another Jamaican client who sustained a severe wrist injury working as a cleaner on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  My partner, Lisa O'Neill, is shown discussing her injury in a hotel here in Miami.  My partner does not like to be mentioned on this blog, but she is the backbone of the team which we have who cares for injured crewmembers.   A substantial part of our law practice is flying injured Royal Caribbean crewmembers back to Miami for medical treatment which the cruise line refuses to provide.      

 

Photo credits:  Jim Walker

Twitter and Cowardly Cruise Lines

For the past two years, I have been interested in the use of Twitter as a method of educating the public about dangers on cruise ships.  Dangers that are real.  Dangers that the cruise lines don't want the public to read about.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter is well aware that I tweet daily on issues that the cruise lines don't discuss - sexual assaults of women and children, mistreatment of crewmembers, and the disappearances of people on the high seas. 

Yes, I know that I am annoying.  There are lots of cruise fans and travel agents on Twitter who use the #cruise hash-mark to market the joy of cruising, and I spoil the fun.  50% of the people who Oceania Cruises - TwitterI interact with on a routine basis disagree with me 100% of the time it seems.  But I know that my message is getting out there.  I would like to think that if one parent realizes that its not safe to leave your kids unsupervised on a cruise ship, then my last 5,500 tweets have been a worthwhile exercise.   

I am particularly fascinated by the way that cruise lines use Twitter and other social media.  Are they engaging in discussions with the public where they address unpleasant subjects with candor and in the process develop a reputation of transparency?  Or, are they just using Twitter and Facebook to create fan pages or other cult clubs?  Do they run and hide when they read tweets critical of their business practices? 

Earlier this week, I wrote an article about Oceania Cruises trying to convince a Judge in Miami to impose a limit of liability of only $65,000 in a case where it is alleged that an Oceania Cruises crewmember raped a 13 year old child on the Regatta cruise ship.  Stories like this are important.  Most parents don't understand the significant number of sexual assaults which occur on cruise ships.  Few parents could possibly imagine that if a crewmember raped their little girl, the cruise line would try and make certain that the child didn't receive fair and just compensation for her physical and emotional injuries.

I tweeted a few references to my blog article about Oceania Cruise's disturbing behavior.  I always invite a cruise line's response.  I even invite disagreeing cruise lines and travel agents an Oceania Cruisess - Twitteropportunity to write a guest blog - unedited - to tell the other side of the story.            

Oceania Cruises, which has been following me on Twitter for over a year, had no interest in discussing the story.   Instead, it "un-followed" me. 

"Unfollowing" critics seems like a poor way to manage a business' online reputation.  Instead of explaining its conduct or at least expressing concern for the girl's well being, the cruise line just turned and ran.   

Twitter is a proving ground of truth and transparency.  Twitter is not a place where slick unprincipled marketers can withstand scrutiny.  It is not a place where cowardly cruise lines like Oceania can survive.   

Royal Caribbean Demonstrated "Gross Indifference" to Passengers' Lives

NBC Los Angeles reports today that Royal Caribbean Cruises demonstrated "a gross indifference to the life and health" of passengers by continuing to cruise with a ship that "that allowed poison gas exposure to its passengers," according to Miami Dade County Judge Marc Schumacher.

The ruling today involved a leak of hydrogen sulfide that killed three Royal Caribbean crew members and injured 19 others in September 2005.

Bjoern EidissenOver the 2005 Labor Day weekend, the Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Seas cruise ship had just returned to San Pedro, California after a cruise to Mexico.

More than three thousand, four hundred people were on board the cruise ship.  

Crewmembers were attempting to replace a leaking section of pipe connected to the ship's food waste system.  The pipe burst and hydrogen sulfide gas escaped into the engine room.  The poisonous gas killed three crewmembers.  Nineteen other crewmembers were rushed to the hospital. 

Passengers on the cruise ships complained at the beginning of the cruise that they smelled the noxious gas the first night of the cruise, raising the issue whether the cruise should have been canceled.

Staff Captain Bjørn Eidissen was injured when he responded to the crisis. 

He alleges that Royal Caribbean provided inadequate and delayed medical treatment and then terminated his employment. 

According to the news report, when county health investigators measured the levels of hydrogen sulfide gas in the engine room five hours after the incident the levels were at 100 parts per million -well above OSHA’s limit of 20 ppm. 

Photos taken during a Coast Guard investigation of the incident document the "extensive corrosion" they say they found in engine room pipes where the leak originated.  The Coast Guard report concludes: "early signs… of hazardous H2S gas …were missed."

Staff Captain Eidissen reportedly observed the holes in the engine room pipes.  Despite patches that were applied over the holes, he felt the ship was unsafe and warned his superiors.  "It was totally crazy," Eidiseen said in an interview from his home in Norway. "We should never have sailed . . . the cruise line knew about it and they ignored the danger."

Judge Schumacher's order states: "Royal Caribbean’s actions demonstrated a gross indifference to the life and health of not only the plaintiff but other passengers onboard the Monarch of the Seas when it continued to cruise with measures that allowed poison gas exposure to its passengers."

In addition to compensatory damages, the Court held that Eidissen could seek punitive damages for the cruise lines' egregious conduct.

A copy of the order can be viewed here.  The order indicates that there was a prior gas leak on the Monarch in March 2005, which the cruise line was aware of yet it failed to take reasonable steps to fix the problem and protect the crew and passengers.

 

 

The case is handled by our friend, Miami lawyer Jack Hickey.  He issued a press release last year, stating in part that when the cruise ship was drifting, at anchor, or at dock, the noxious gas was sucked back into the vessel and into the passenger areas including cabins, through the air conditioning intakes. This reportedly allowed the methane and hydrogen sulfide gas to leak into habitable areas on the ship including the areas in which Mr. Eidissen worked. The Monarch of the Seas received numerous passenger complaints about a foul smelling gas, in addition to several complaints from a stevedore company, dockside businesses, and the workers who eventually fixed the pipe while the ship was in dry dock.

Although the cruise line initially denied liability, it subsequently filed a stipulation that it is legally responsible for releasing the gas.

Royal Caribbean is being defended by Curtis Mase

We have found over the last 10 years, Royal Caribbean has consistently exhibited the worst corporate malfeasance of any of the Miami based cruise lines.  Last year, we reported on an incident when 6 crew members were taken to the hospital in Baltimore for suspected carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a welding operation in the engine room as the Celebrity / Royal Caribbean cruise ship was returning to port.  Read: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Reported Aboard Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship

 

Photo credits:

Top:  Bjørn Eidissen (via facebook)

Bottom:  NBC Los Angeles

Royal Caribbean Ordered to Pay $1,250,000 to Injured Crewmember

An Arbitration panel in Miami, Florida has ordered Royal Caribbean Cruises to pay $1,250,000.00 to a crewmember following an injury aboard the Jewel of the Seas cruise ship.

The crewmember, who is from Serbia, sustained a serious back injury in June 2008 when a crew member violently slammed a door into her back while she was walking down a narrow hallway.  She sustained a large herniated disc.  She reported to the ship infirmary and the ship doctor found her unfit for duty.  However, her supervisor instructed her to continue working.

Jewel of the Seas - Cruise Ship Medical Care - Crew Member - ArbitrationThe ship doctor thereafter refused to take her medical condition seriously, and did not take an x-ray or order a MRI at a port of call.  After seven weeks of continuous work, her medical condition deteriorated badly.  She collapsed and had to be taken from the cruise ship on a stretcher with a IV morphine drip to manage her pain.

Royal Caribbean sent her back to Serbia and refused to arrange for medical treatment.  It paid her only $12 a day for lodging and food, which is impossible to live on.  It paid her consistently late.  It took the cruise line over five months to finally authorize back surgery in January 2009.  The doctor then performed surgery at the wrong level.  Royal Caribbean thereafter refused to arrange or pay for her rehabilitation or arrange for follow-up x-rays or a MRI.

After she retained Walker & O’Neill to represent her, the cruise line continued to refuse to meet its legal obligation to provide her with the necessary medical treatment.  When our firm complained, the cruise line terminated her living expenses. One of the in-house lawyers overseeing the cruise line’s medical department, Tony Faso, decided to abandon her.  Mr. Faso sent an email to Walker & O’Neill stating:

"I am sure any arbitrator will agree with me. I am sure that I will get some ridiculous response from you. I really don't care . . ."

Walker & O’Neill then flew the crew member here to Miami, and arranged for her to see a U.S. board certified orthopedist who determined that the first surgery was a failure.  Royal Caribbean nonetheless refused to reinstate the crew member’s benefits or provide her with the necessary medical care.

The three member Arbitration panel found Royal Caribbean’s refusal to pay maintenance and cure benefits to be:

" . . . not reasonable.  The denial of those benefits lacked any reasonable defense . . . "

The Arbitrators awarded the crew member $1,250,000.00.

Royal Caribbean was also found responsible for $11,650.00 for the administrative costs of the International Center for Dispute Resolution ("ICDR") as well as $48,970.00 for compensation of the Arbitrators.  

This award is the highest arbitration amount awarded to an injured crewmember since cruise lines began arbitrating cases. The award demonstrates the consequences of a cruise line unlawfully abandoning an ill crewmember and spitefully terminating her medical benefits. 

The crew member was represented by James (“Jim”) Walker and Lisa O’Neill of Walker & O’Neill P.A. and Jonathan Aronson of the Aronson Law Firm.

Royal Caribbean was represented by Curtis Mase of the Mase, Lara & Ebersole law firm.

Another Celebrity Crewmember Goes Overboard

Multiple new sources in the U.K. are reporting that a crewmember from the Celebrity Eclipse cruise ship went overboard last night and is presumed dead.

Sky News reports that, according to the cruise line, a Filipino crewmember was captured on closed circuit television (CCTV) climbing over a railing and jumping from the cruise ship.  The luxury cruise ship, operated by Celebrity Cruises here in Miami, was eight miles north of Cherbourg, France, heading to Southampton when the incident happened.  The cruise ship alerted the French Coast Guard Celebrity Eclipse Cruise Ship Overboard - Missing Crewmemberand turned the vessel around in an attempt to rescue the crewmember.

The French Coast Guard stated "We deployed our resources to find him but it was to no avail and we can now presume that he is dead . . . The water was very cold and there is no hope for him."

We last reported on a Celebrity crew overboard just two months ago - Crew Member Goes Overboard from Celebrity Constellation Cruise Ship.

Unfortunately, overboards from cruise ships in the Royal Caribbean / Celebrity Cruises fleet appear to be a regular occurrence.  In March, we wrote an article about another crew member disappearing - Crew Member Missing from the Grandeur of the Seas - Why Are So Many People Disappearing From Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships?

Of course, missing crew members are not limited to Royal Caribbean cruise ships - Carnival Cruise Employee Goes Overboard - Does the U.S. Media Care When Foreign Crew Members Disappear at Sea?

There is no official database of passengers and crew who go overboard from cruise ships. The cruise lines say that this is something that they just don't track.  Perhaps they should start studying the problem.  The best source for tracking cruise overboards is cruise expert Professor Ross Klein's website which lists 160 overboards in the past ten years.

In this latest case, the news sources are indicating that the crew member was a Filipino, which probably means that he was a waiter.  The Filipinos on cruise ships work incredibly long hours and are away from their families for long periods of time.  At this point, it is unknown what led him to jump if this is what happened.

Does anyone have information about what happened?  Please leave a comment below.   

 

Photo credit:  Travel Weekly Blog  

Update on Missing Disney Crewmember Rebecca Coriam

Local ABC affifilaite channel 7 in Los Angeles has this update on the disappearance of Rebecca Coriam, a youth counselor employed on the Disney Wonder cruise ship:

 

 

If you have information about Rebecca, please contact her family:

Website:    Rebecca-Coriam.com
Email:         help@rebecca-coriam.com
Coriam Family:         07747359968
Media Spokesman:     07932815970

You read other articles about Rebecca's disappearance, click here.
 

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Medical Care - A 19th Century Hospital?

Today we received emails commenting on the bad medical treatment provided on board Royal Caribbean cruise ships and the recent $2,900,000 verdict against the cruise line for its negligent medical treatment rendered to an injured crew member from Nicaragua.  Here are the emails:

On the $2,900,000 verdict we reported on last week:  "Having worked for Royal Caribbean I totally believe this is justified!  Well done Jury!"

Death Wish?:  "I too could write a book about the atrocities of medical care onboard during my 4 Royal Caribbean - Medical Care - Medical Treatment - Cruise Ship contracts.  I suffered an injury and was sent to see a doctor in Curacao, and I'm an American citizen!  When I said that I wanted to see a doctor on port day in Miami I was told that they could not arrange it (we were still 4 days away from Miami) and I would have to wait until the following port day, 11 days later if I did not want to see the doctor in Cuaracao." 

19th Century Hospital:   "While working on ships we had 1 doctor terminated for downloading porn onto his work computer.  He stated he was doing "medical research."  Then there was the cruise where 3 people died, 1 from a stroke and 2 from heart attacks.  Both doctors were terminated at the end of that cruise.  Why?  Because apparently the nurses had to talk them through CPR!  Absolutely disgusting.  I've told family members and friends that if they ever get hurt or injured on a cruise ship the last place they want to go is to the ship's infirmary.  The "medicine" dished out is reminiscent of early 19th century hospitals, where one only went if he or she had a death wish."

Fend For Yourself:  "I am an American citizen who worked for Royal Caribbean.  I left the ship in the last quarter of my last contract with an injury. It was even tough for me to get RCCL to cover decent medical treatment for me as an American citizen.  I cannot even imagine what it is like for crew members who are sent back to their countries of origin.  Forget about any sort of living compensation while shoreside for treatment.  I was able to live with my parents, but if I hadn't had that option I would have had quite a bit of difficulty.  It is shameful the way they sign crew members off of ships to fend for themselves."   

November 11, 2014 Update: Breaking News! Cruise passengers are now permitted to sue the cruise lines for medical negligence. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that cruise lines are no longer permitted to assert an "immunity defense" when their ship doctors and nurses commit medical malpractice. Read: 11th Circuit Rejects Cruise Lines' Immunity Defense to Medical Malpractice Claims. Contact us for further information.

 

We have written articles about Royal Caribbean's abuse of its crew members:

Cruise Ship Medicare Care - Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft 

Titanic Dreams - Royal Caribbean Wins Worst Cruise Lines in the World Award

 

Have you received medical treatment on a Royal Caribbean?  What was your experience? 

Photo Credit:  Jim Walker

Coast Guard Searches for Crewmember Missing From Pacific Venus Cruise Ship

The U.S. Coast Guard issued a press statement that it is searching for a crew member from the cruise ship Pacific Venus, which was sailing from Hawaii back to Yokohama, Japan.

The 24 year-old crew member was noticed missing at approximately 2 p.m., on Saturday, February 20th, after he failed to show up for his post aboard the cruise ship. The Master of the Pacific Venus' Pacific Venus cruise ship - missing crewmember called the Coast Guard in Honolulu at 5 p.m. Saturday to report the missing crew member and to say the ship had turned around to look for him.

The Pacific Venus spent several hours Saturday afternoon searching for the crewmember before sunset in an area where he was last seen been aboard the cruise ship.

The Coast Guard deployed two C-130 long-range search aircraft to search for the overboard crewmember.

The Coast Guard also reports that a "Good Samaritan" vessel, a Japanese vessel Nippon Maru, answered a call to help through the Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue (AMVER) program, and searched for the crewmember.

A newspaper in Hawaii reports on the story in an article entitled "Coast Guard Continues to Search for Overboard Cruise Ship Crew Member" and indicated that the Coast Guard will continue searching for the overboard crewmember.

 

Credit

Pacific Venus cruise ship                      ykanazawa Flickr photostream