German Cruise Ship M/S Berlin Stuck in Dublin

FTI Berlin Lifeboat Non Conformity This weekend I was notified by a passenger, on a German cruise ship named the Berlin, that the ship has been stuck in Dublin, Ireland for the past several days. 

I was not familiar with the cruise ship or the German cruise line, FTI, which operates it. I have learned that the Berlin is considered to be a small cruise ship, carrying a little over 400 passengers. It was built in 1980 and is flagged in Malta. 

The Berlin arrived at its scheduled port of call early in the morning of June 14, 2018 in Dublin, where it has remained for the past three days. The delay has already caused the passengers to miss the remaining port of call. It appears that the passengers will be disembarked today in Dublin and flown back to Bremerhaven. Embarkation for new passengers will reportedly occur tomorrow in Dublin. 

"We arrived on 14 June suppose to sail same date 17.00.  Suppose to sail yesterday then said today finally this morning captain said to guest waiting for information from the home office and port authorities.  Guests were given 250 euro on their cards and refunded their excursion fares." 

The cause of the delay seems to be a problem with one of its 6 lifeboats which, reportedly, is "out of order."  The exact problem with lifeboat no. 6 has not been disclosed to the guests or crew but it was discovered by port authorities during an inspection on June 14th.

Maritime regulations including Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulations mandated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) require a minimum number of operational lifecrafts (a combination of lifeboats and liferafts). 

Photo credit: Anonymous

Interested in this issue? Read Floating Drydocks at Sea - A Growing Problem? It seems that passengers on cruise lines operated by German companies are subject to  the same problems on U.S. based cruise lines.

FTI Berlin Lifeboat Non Conformity

Royal Caribbean Unreasonably Delays Reporting Overboard Crew Member from Vision of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the SeasOn December 8, 2017, a crew member went overboard from the Vision of the Seas cruise ship operated by Miami based Royal Caribbean Cruises. I reported on the incident at the time based on what passengers were stating about the cruise. 

The Vision sailed out of Galveston on December 4, 2017 on a seven day cruise, leaving and returning to Galveston, to ports in Progresso and Cozumel, Mexico.  During the return cruise to Galveston, a crew member could not be accounted for. He apparently checked into his job in the early morning hours but had disappeared from the cruise ship sometime thereafter. A ship-wide search was conducted without success.

I wrote at the time that there was no indication that the ship stopped or turned around to conduct a search in the water. Unfortunately, the scenario fits a typical pattern when a crew member goes over the rails un-witnessed late at night or in the early hours of the morning on a Royal Caribbean ship. Royal Caribbean has not invested in the available automatic man-overboard technology (using heat sensors, infrared, motion detection and/or radar technology) which can send a signal to the bridge, capture the image of the person going overboard, and track the person by radar in the water. Instead, the ship will eventually review closed-circuit television images, conduct a search of the cabin on the ship, often not perform a search at sea, and belatedly notify the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Royal Caribbean registered the Vision of the Seas in the Bahamas which is responsible for conducting investigations when passengers or crew members go overboard from cruise ships registered in that flag of convenience ("FOC") country. The Bahamas Maritime Authority ("BMA") just published its investigation into this man overboard situation on the Vision. You can read the report here

The BMA report offers a rare insight into how Royal Caribbean responds to and investigates man overboard situations. The report also attached internal security summaries and portions of Royal Caribbean's safety and quality ("SQM") manual which outline the cruise line's written policies and procedures regarding a "missing person." 

The report reveals that Royal Caribbean repeatedly failed to inquire into the missing crew member's whereabouts and failed to timely report his absence from the ship to the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean register their cruise ships in countries like the Bahamas in order to avoid U.S. labor regulations and U.S. income taxes. They are used to having FOC states look the other way and not criticize them in situations like this, but the BMA report reveals very disturbing information about the shoddy operations of this cruise ship.

The BMA report indicates that the crew member was a 24 year-old citizen of Mauritius. The report  mentions that the crew member was a facilities cleaner who worked at the pool area on deck 9. He woke up around 4:30 A.M. in a cabin which he shared with his girlfriend who was also from Mauritius. He reported to work at 5:00 A.M. He walked to elevators which took him to deck nine and then he took an elevator to deck five. He walked to the stern on deck 5, placed his cleaning bucket on the deck, climbed over the stern rail and then climbed back onto the deck, and then walked toward the port side where he apparently jumped overboard. 

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the Seas

CCTV images (which officers on the ship first reviewed approximately eight and one-half hours later) show the crew member's movements on decks 9 and 5 but do not show the crew members actually going overboard because a floodlight blocked the CCTV camera on the port/aft side on Deck 5 with a view of the stern of the ship. 

There was no mention in the report of an automatic man overboard system which would have immediately sent a signal and alarm to the bridge that the crew member went over the rails. 

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the Seas

Unlike other cruise lines (like NCL), Royal Caribbean does not monitor the CCTV cameras on its cruise ships. 

The BMA reveals the following chronology:

  • 04:30 - Crew member awakes and leaves cabin which he shared with his girlfriend; 
  • 05:00 - Crew member reports to work and his supervisor assigns him the deck 9 pool deck to clean;
  • 05:09 - 5:14 - Crew member shown on CCTV heading to and walking on deck 9 and then goes to deck 5 where he climbs over the stern railing near the crew life-raft canister area which does not provide direct access to the sea and then he climbs over the rail back onto deck 5;
  • 05:14 - Crew member walks to port side of the stern which has direct drop to the water and apparently jumps overboard (although CCTV camera is blocked);
  • 09:30 - Crew member fails to attend mandatory safety training;
  • 12:00 - Designated safety officer responsible for training goes to lunch without noting that the crew member was absent from training; 
  • 12:40 - Crew member's supervisor, the Facilities Head Cleaner, notes that the crew member is missing from his work station;
  • 12:45 - 1st Announcement made in crew areas;
  • 13:05 - Bridge was informed;
  • 13:16 - 2nd announcement made in crew areas;
  • 13:40 - 3rd announcement made in crew and areas;
  • 13:40 - 14:45 - Officers review CCTV footage; take statements from the facilities head cleaner and head cleaner; staff captain and master interview the crew member's girlfriend and isolates her in a different cabin with a security guard posted outside the door;
  • 14:45 - Security officer notifies Global Security department in Miami of a "possible missing person;"
  • 15:20 - Search of ship begins; 
  • 15:45 - Security Officer seals crew member's cabin, locks cabin door with padlock and "crime scene tape;" officers conclude that there is no clear view of crew member jumping overboard because the area of the railing is not covered by CCTV (blind area) but concludes that "CCTV clearly showed a CM …. entering the area where he possible jumped over board and did not return back;"
  • 15:47 - Master notifies U.S. Coast Guard in Galveston by telephone about "missing person" situation;
  • 16:49 - "Whole ship search" completed but missing crew member not found. 

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the Seas

There are a couple of conclusions which can readily be made from this chronology:

It took seven and one-half hours before the supervisor noticed that the crew member was missing from his work station.  It took eight and one-half hours before the safety officer reviewed the CCTV images. It took over nine and one-half hours after the crew member went overboard (and two hours after the first public announcement of the missing man were made on the ship) before the security officer finally notified the security department in Miami that a crew member probably went overboard. It then took over another hour to finally notify the U.S. Coast Guard of the overboard crew member. At this time, it Royal Caribbean SQM Safety and Quality Manual was then over ten and one-half hours after the crew member went overboard. 

It appears that the officers on the Royal Caribbean ship were indifferent to whether the Coast Guard even conducted a search after this extraordinary delay.  The Security Officer wrote in his report (attached to the BMA report) that "we are not aware if a search was carried out by USCG."

The Royal Caribbean SQM (blurred in original) requires the master of the cruise ship to "immediately" notify the cruise line's security and marine operations departments by telephone in any "suspected overboard situation." Unless there is an actual and reliable sighting of the person going overboard, the SQM also prohibits the Master from turning the ship around to conduct searches in the water and even then only after the Master first notifies the cruise line's marine operations department in Miami. 

Notably absent from the flag state report is any mention of the fact that the cruise ship lacked an automatic man overboard system. The report's conclusions and recommendations do not discuss the obvious problem that the bridge was not immediately aware that the crew members went over the rails. The only conclusion of significance was that if the security "trainer had reported him absent when training was to commence (i.,e., at 9:30, over four hours after the crew member went overboard) then his own work supervisor may have raised the alarm considerably earlier." The only recommendation in the report was to review "possible impediments to all cameras should be made and rectified where found." 

Vision of the Seas SQM Safety and Quality Manual Royal Caribbean 

This is hardly a reasonable conclusion or recommendation. Eliminating blind spots in CCTV cameras (to be reviewed only after-the-fact when crew members have already gone overboard long ago) or requiring diligence in requiring attendance in crew training (again with the hope that a person not attending a training session will somehow result in a supervisor learning that a crew member went overboard hours earlier) will not possibly achieve immediate notification of a man overboard. 

A couple of year ago, I wrote about the problem of crew members going missing from Royal Caribbean cruise ships without explanation. During a three year period between 2009 and 2012, at least thirteen crew members went over the rails of Royal Caribbean (and Celebrity) ships, including the Majesty of the Seas, Monarch of the Seas (twice), Radiance of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas. Oasis of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Summit, and Monarch of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas (two). Most of these cases were never investigated by the flag state, which, it seems, could not care less. 

Until the United States Coast Guard becomes concerned with the absence of automatic man overboard systems on cruise ships calling on U.S. ports and institutes serious action against the companies for the extreme delays in reporting overboard crew and passengers (like preventing the ships from sailing), cruise lines like Royal Caribbean will continue to act in this irresponsible manner.  

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Image credits: Bahamian Maritime Authority
 

Bedfellows CLIA & NTSB Team Up for Cozy Meeting on Cruise Ship Safety

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is beginning a two-day meeting today in Washington D.C. regarding the topic of passenger safety aboard cruise ships. The meeting was requested and largely organized by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), the trade group for the cruise lines, to showcase the cruise industry.

Participating in the meeting will be NTSB members, CLIA representatives, cruise line employees, Coast Guard officials, and delegates from the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The IMO is an United Nations entity which makes safety recommendations for cruise ships but is powerless to enforce the recommendations or discipline or punish cruise lines which ignore the recommendations.

The NTSB refused to invite the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization to Washington D.C. and NTSB Meeting Cruise Ship Safetyrefuses to permit the ICV to participate in the meeting.  The ICV is a grass-roots, non-profit organization consisting of thousands of members who are dedicated to making cruising safer. Our firm has many former clients who are members of the ICV, including Lynnette Hudson, the daughter of Princess Cruises passenger Richard Liffridge from Georgia who perished in a fire aboard the Star Princess cruise ship.

The NTSB hearing is opening now with remarks from the Coast Guard about cruise ship accident investigations and fire protection. It is a shame that the NTSB and CLIA refuse to permit the ICV's involvement in the meeting given the first hand experience of the ICV members in dealing with dangers aboard cruise ships.  Ms. Hudson previously inspected the cruise ship which killed her father to make certain that it finally had a fire detection and suppression system installed. She testified before the United States House of Representatives regarding the cruise ship fire which killed her father. You can read about that fire and Ms. Hudson's recommendations to prevent similar fatalities here: Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?

Other ICV members were aboard the Costa Concordia when it crashed into the rocks and killed 32 souls. 

When I realized that the NTSB was excluding the ICV, I send emails to the NTSB spokesperson, Eric Weiss, requesting an explanation why only CLIA members and cruise line employees were welcome. Mr. Weiss ignored my emails. But he recently spoke to a Miami Herald reporter stating that: “Security and crime is not in our jurisdiction. This is about cruise ship safety, not security.” 

The ICV has many members personally affected by the absence of safety systems and protocols on cruise ships. The ICV has participated in five Congressional hearings addressing safety issues such as engine failures and fires. It appears that CLIA and the NTSB are systematically excluding any organization with victims who have personal experiences regarding cruise ship dangers while inviting only employees and friends of the cruise lines who wish to shield the industry from criticism. 

I realize that the cruise lines are desperate for favorable press after the debacle of the Carnival Splendor and the Carnival Triumph, with both cruise ships igniting shortly after Coast Guard inspections, as well as the deadly disaster involving the Carnival-owned Costa Concordia. But excluding cruise victims and orchestrating a rigged meeting with dog and pony shows by CLIA and cruise line representatives is shameful. 

NTSB's relationship with the cruise industry has always been a mixed bag.

Years ago, the NTSB's chairman was Jim Hall, a man of personal integrity who never wavered from who his commitment to the safety of the traveling public.

Mr. Hall earned a reputation for objectivity and credibility when he was the NTBS's top dog from 1994 - 2001. He was involved in investigating serious accidents in both the aviation and cruise industries. He NTSB Cruise Safety Meetingvoiced his concerns that there would be continued problems in the maritime industry because there was no real oversight over the cruise lines. Consider the comments which Mr. Hall made to Newsweek last year:

"Jim Hall, head of the National Transportation Safety Board during the Clinton administration, says the industry is watched over by “paper tigers” like the International Maritime Organization and suffers from “bad actors” much like in the poorly regulated motor-coach industry, which saw its latest fatal bus crash in Southern California earlier this month. “The maritime industry is the oldest transportation industry around. We’re talking centuries. It’s a culture that has never been broken as the aviation industry was, and you see evidence of that culture in the [Costa Concordia] accident,” says Hall."

After Mr. Hall retired as chairman, the NTSB went in a different direction. From 2006 - 2008, Mark Rosenker served as the NTSB chairmen but he catered to the cruise industry. In 2007, CLIA's Board of Directors wined and dined Rosenker during the annual Sea Trade cruise convention (now called Cruise shipping Miami) here in Miami. He gave a nice speech to CLIA (you can read here) which he began by stating " I am very pleased that your safety record is excellent." This was a rather amazing and outrageous thing to say given the fact that just a year earlier, the Star Princess ignited off the coast of Jamaica and burned through 100 cabins and killed our client's father, Richard Liffridge, mentioned above. 

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 voluntarily provided safety information confidential."

Rosenker and CLIA were a perfect match. Both were interested in suppressing damaging information about cruise mishaps from the public.

After Rosenker retired from the NTSB, CLIA paid him as a consultant for the cruise industry. His job largely appears to tell everyone who will listen that  "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,” as he told the cruise industry publication World Cruise Industry Review in 2010.  

In 2012 and 2013 Rosenker continued his gushing praise 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 told another cruise industry publication that “every aspect of the cruise industry is heavily monitored and regulated under US, EU and international law.”

Senator Rockefeller admonished Rosenker during his testimony last year when he repeated the cruise industry's talking points before a Senate hearing on cruise ship safety issues last year, because of his obvious bias for the cruise lines.

The cruise line routinely hires from the NTSB, FBI, Coast Guard, USPH and other federal agencies. NTSB Cruise Safety MeetingMany former federal officials seem to pander to the cruise lines while in public office. Former Coast Guard officials often quickly turn into paid cruise line consultants who are pleased to appear in cruise industry publications still wearing their Coast Guard uniform and medals standing in front of an official Coast Guard logo while attesting to their wonderful experiences cruising.

Of course, no current or past federal employee should engage in such hyperbolic cheer-leading like this. It is unprofessional and unseemly. It is a conflict of interest. But some federal officials seem motivated to angle for private sector jobs in the rich cruise industry which pays no federal income taxes and is overseen, if all all, by poor, flag of convenience nations like Panama and the Bahamas and the "paper tigers," mentioned by Mr. Hall, at the IMO.

So the NTSB-CLIA love-fest begins this morning. Where is the integrity of Jim Hall? Where are the victims of cruise ship fires and sinkings? Who is speaking for the dead and injured?  Have all of the federal agencies crawled in bed with the cruise lines? 

Poop Cruise Reveals Shortcomings of Port and Flag State Inspections

Cruise fan sites rushed to Carnival's defense following the CNN special on the Triumph fire.

CNN cited maintenance records and advisory notices showing one of the generators on the cruise ship was poorly maintained and lacked the recommended spray guards to prevent ruptured fuel lines from igniting. The documents revealed a ship not in compliance with the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) recommendations from the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

But cruise fan sites, primarily Cruise Critic and the increasingly popular Cruise Currents (formerly Mikey's Blog), cited documents which Carnival leaked to the press suggesting that the cruise line was in compliance with SOLAS. 

Carnival Splendor Fire You can see documents provided to cruise-friendly Cruise Currents here.

Cruise Critic quoted Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen saying that the U.S. Coast Guard inspected the Carnival Triumph days before the February 7th sailing and allegedly found it to be in compliance with all SOLAS requirements.

"The ship would not be allowed to sail if it were not in compliance with SOLAS requirements," Gulliksen said.

But this is where Carnival's argument falls apart.

The Coast Guard also inspected the Carnival Splendor a few days before it caught fire in November 2010. Remember a U.S. aircraft carrier had to sail to the scene and drop food from helicopters to the stranded passengers? The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard spent millions attending to the sticken ship before it was towed back to the U.S.  

Does the fact that the Coast Guard inspected the Splendor and permitted it to sail mean that the cruise ship was seaworthy and in compliance with SOLAS? Hardly. The Coast Guard investigated the Splendor and prepared a scathing report of its many SOLAS violations and deficiencies.

One of the Carnival ship's large diesel engines sustained a catastrophic failure with the rods and pistons cracking and exploding out of the engine which permitted lube oil and fuel oil to ignite. The post-fire investigation conducted by the Coast Guard revealed that the pistons sustained long term metal fatigue which was not checked due to an absence of appropriate maintenance and record keeping by Carnival. Other parts of the engine showed severe, advanced corrosion reflective of an absence of regular inspection and maintenance. 

Although the Coast Guard was critical of Carnival's neglect in inspecting and maintaining the engine which failed, it should be pointed out that the Coast Guard conducted an annual Control Verification Exam on November 7, 2010 and passed the vessel. What an embarrassment for the Coast Guard to have inspected the cruise ship right before the fire and permitted it to sail with passengers.

The root of the problems with the Splendor and the Triumph is that the inspections conducted by the flag and port states of these poorly maintained ships were inadequate.

The port state (where the ship is registered, like Panama or the Bahamas) is indifferent and incompetent. The reason why foreign corporations like Carnival flag their ships like the Triumph in places like the Bahamas is that it knows that the Bahamas will leave it alone. The business model of the Carnival's of the world is to avoid all U.S.taxes, wage and labor laws, and health and safety laws. A poop cruise is the result.

Yes, the U.S. Coast Guard conducts inspections sometimes when the cruise ships are in U.S. ports, but these "port state" inspections are hardly vigorous. The Coast Guard is facing a budgetary crisis and is grossly under-funded. They need a small army to perform a thorough inspection during the short time a single cruise ship is in a U.S. port. There are sometimes nearly a dozen ships in port over a weekend. The ships are huge of course. Coast Guard inspections are skimpy and are at the opposite end of the spectrum compared to the rigorous Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspections.   

The cruise industry is extremely wealthy, but the cruise lines don't pay U.S. income taxes. There is simply not enough money in the U.S. budget to hire a sufficient number of Coast Guard inspectors to check on the every-increasingly large fleet of cruise ships.

As matters now stand, the U.S. spends many millions for Coast Guard and Navy services when the foreign-flagged cruise ships break down due to a lack of maintenance.

 

Photo Credit: cntraveler.com

Day of the Seafarer? Cruise Lines Increase Responsibilities & Hours of Officers But Decrease Pay

Day of the Seafarer 2013 - Royal Caribbean CruiseToday is the "Day of the Mariner."  According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), today is the day to recognize the dedication and hard work of seafarers in the shipping industry.  

Most of the focus of this blog over the years has been on the frequent abuse of the lower rank crew members, like the cruise ship cleaners, cabin attendants, and waiters. However, it's just not the crew who are being abused. There has been an increasing trend in the cruise industry to overwork and mistreat the professional mariners / deck officers who work aboard the major cruise lines.

Every single cruise ship relies on highly trained, professional and knowledgeable marine officers to safely run the ship's operations.  The safety of the passengers & and the security of the ship depend on the officers' flawless execution of navigation duties 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In the cruise industry, safety can be achieved only by highly skilled officers who are well rested and physically and psychologically fit for duty.

But there has been a trend in the last few years to increase the work load of the ship's officers while substantially decreasing their pay. Some officers face a 50% reduction in their pay.  If they complain, the cruise lines are quick to terminate their employment and replace them with less qualified or experienced mariners.  

One cruise line for example, Royal Caribbean, has progressively deteriorated the working conditions, physical and mental fitness and morale of its marine officers in the last 5 years. The work load of the officers has risen to the point where officers work well in excess of the hour limitations recommended by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). The officers are required to work up to and in excess of 14 hours per day every day, which is the standard 8 hours of watch that is expected for watch keepers and 6 hours of "overtime" work for "secondary" duties.

Would you fly in an airplane knowing that the pilots responsible for the flight had been working 14 hours or more a day for the past 8 weeks?

Royal Caribbean has progressively downsized its marine / deck departments over the years. The secondary work loads (deck maintenance, lifesaving, navigation) used to be spread out between multiple officers and a dedicated chief officer for maintenance and a dedicated safety officer for safety training. These roles have now been combined into fewer and fewer officers while the cruise ships get bigger and bigger.

Royal Caribbean has now increased contract lengths by an extra 4 weeks for these over-tired, over-worked, under-paid officers. The cruise line seems to consider the officers "disposable" if they try and bring up the topic of excessive work loads. The company can fire highly experienced and loyal officers with impunity. 

There are also rumblings in the ranks of Royal Caribbean that the cruise line has steadily focused on hiring officers of less professional competency. The replacements are increasingly coming from countries where you can buy a license. Some officers from these countries cannot speak English, and they do not fully understand and were never really trained on the proper operations of the complex bridge systems on today's modern ships,

Royal Caribbean - Money - ProfitThere is no question that the cruise lines are pushing their crew and their ships harder and harder.

The cruise industry is placing unreasonable demands on professional seafarers as well. At the same time, the cruise lines are inserting one-sided arbitration clauses in the seafarer's employment contracts which strip the officers of their rights under U.S. law and permit the cruise lines to get away with dangerous conditions and work practices. It is no coincidence that there are more and more cruise mishaps reported in the news.

If its really the "Day of the Seafarer," it's important for the world to understand that the cruise lines are raking in the cash at the expense of crew members and officers alike. Cruise executives are getting richer and richer while the seafarers we salute today are working increasingly longer hours for less pay with fewer rights. 

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Dead Ships & Endangered Passengers - Cruise Lines Ignore International Maritime Organization Guidelines

Yesterday the New York Times published an insightful article about the failure of the cruise industry to design their cruise ships with redundant engine systems such that if one set of engines is knocked out by a fire or explosion, another set of engines in a separate compartment would provide power to the cruise ship.

Entitled "Lack of Backup Power Puts Cruise Passengers at the Ocean’s Mercy," the article explains that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) proposed guidelines calling for cruise lines to to equip cruise ships with backup engines and generators. The redundant engine systems and back up systems are are needed not only to maintain electricity, refrigeration, and toilet operations, but to Carnival Triumph Engine Room Firemaintain power to prevent the ship from pitching violently in strong waves.

Just yesterday I spoke with a retired Coast Guard officer about what happens when a ship at sea loses all power. He expressed concern of how the cruise ship would be evacuated if the vessel loses power. There would be no way to lower the lifeboats!  

The newspaper explains that pursuant to the IMO recommendations, any cruise ship built after July 2010 is required to have redundant engine systems. But the cruise industry largely chose not to add backup systems to new cruise ships.

The IMO, a United Nations organization, has no authority to impose sanctions when cruise lines ignore the IMO's guidelines.

A naval architect, Larrie Ferreiro, is quoted in the newspaper explaining that a cruise line can design the ships either to put more equipment or more people on it: “The more passenger cabins you can fit into that envelope the more revenue you can get." Only 10% of the cruise ships have redundant systems, according to the NY Times.

In the unregulated world of cruising, this means that 90% of the cruise ships out there may become "dead in the water" when an engine room fire breaks out. That places passengers and crew at unnecessary risk of injury or death at sea.   

 

Photo Credit: Carnival Triumph engine room - US Coast Guard   

An "Outlaw Industry" Watched By "Paper Tigers"

Newsweek's Daily Beast Blog published an insightful article about the real issues behind the Triumph cruise ship fire. Entitled "Carnival Cruise From Hell," the article explains that the situation involves a lot more than just another stinky ship bobbing around on the high seas. Rather, Newsweek writes that the fiasco is "a troubling indicator of pervasive safety problems in a booming industry with little oversight."

Written by Eve Conant, the articles points out that last month, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded the entire U.S. fleet of Boeing 787s over fire-safety concerns. But where is the maritime equivalent of the FAA overseeing the cruise lines? It has been outsourced to third world countries like the Bahamas which has neither the interest or capability of regulating the billion dollar U.S. cruise industry. 

Newsweek interviewed me for the article, but criticism from lawyers who routinely sue the cruise lines are often met with skepticism.  

Jim Hall - Cruise Danger - National Transportation Safety Board NTSBWhat's impressive about the article is that Newsweek interviewed a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Jim Hall.

Unlike recent NTSB officials who angled for lucrative consulting jobs with the cruise lines and gave the industry a free pass, Jim Hall earned a reputation for objectivity and credibility when he was the NTBS's top dog from 1994 - 2001. He was involved in investigatng serious accidents in both the aviation and cruise industries. He voiced his concerns that there would be continued problems in the maritime industry because there was no real oversight over the cruise lines.

Here are the recent comment's made by Hall to Newsweek:

Jim Hall, head of the National Transportation Safety Board during the Clinton administration, says the industry is watched over by “paper tigers” like the International Maritime Organization and suffers from “bad actors” much like in the poorly regulated motor-coach industry, which saw its latest fatal bus crash in Southern California earlier this month. “The maritime industry is the oldest transportation industry around. We’re talking centuries. It’s a culture that has never been broken as the aviation industry was, and you see evidence of that culture in the [Costa Concordia] accident,” says Hall.

Ships may seem and feel American but are mostly “flagged” in countries like the Bahamas or Panama in order to operate outside of what he says are reasonable safety standards. “It is, and has been, an outlaw industry,” says Hall. “People who book cruises should be aware of that.”

Cruise lines are an "outlaw industry" watched over by "paper tigers?"  Spot on.  And remember these comments are by a former chairman of the NTSB.  

Over Cruise Industry's Objection, IMO Creates Air Pollution Buffer Around U.S. and Canada

On Friday, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) passed a regulation requiring cruise ships, tankers and cargo ships to switch to low-sulfur fuel when they operate within 230 miles of the U.S. and Canada. 

As reported in the Houston Chronicle, the new regulations should cut emissions linked to thousands of illnesses and premature deaths each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The United States and Canada requested the IMO to pass the new regulations to protect their nations' air quality and keep their citizens healthy.

Bunker Fuel - Cruise Ship PollutionThe Houston Chronicle reports that the ships which will be affected by the new rules are almost exclusively foreign flagged and operated - like Princess Cruises' Coral Princess cruise ship, left.

These ships burn a tar-like, nasty sludge known as "bunker fuel," which we have discussed in prior articles.  The sludge contains sulfur levels significantly greater than U.S. law allows for other diesel engines and is a major source of tiny, airborne particulates which cause cancer and lung disease. 

The newspaper article also indicates that the new restrictions will cut allowable levels of sulfur in fuel by 98 percent, soot by 85 percent and smog-forming pollution by 80 percent.

There are excellent articles discussing the new pollution buffer by the Associated Press and the New York Times.

The cruise industry's trade group, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), fought against the new pollution regulations, arguing that the switch to low-sulfur fuels would decrease cruise line profits.  If the cruise lines had their way, they would choose to burn bunker fuel - like Princess Cruises' cruise ship, the Coral Princess, smoking up the port in Alaska (above).

After the IMO passed the new regulations, CLIA issued a statement that it supports the “goals and intent” of the new pollution buffer zone. 

Hogwash.

Over the next few years, you will see the cruise industry try and avoid the new IMO rules.

 

Credits:

Princess Cruises' Coral Princess           AlaskanLibrarian's Flickr photostream