NTSB Cites Human Error in Carnival Pride - Pier Crash in Baltimore

Carnival Pride AllisionThe National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its report yesterday regarding the allision* between the Carnival Pride and the pier and passenger walkway in Baltimore last year. 

On May 8, 2016, the Carnival Pride was attempting to dock at the cruise terminal in Baltimore, Maryland, when the ship's bow struck the pier and an elevated passenger walkway on shore, causing over $2,000,000 in damages.

The Carnival cruise ship was returning from a cruise to the Bahamas. It had previously taken on a pilot while it was in U.S. inland waters. 

The staff captain later took the helm and was navigating the Pride to the terminal. As the ship approached the pier, the angle of approach was too steep and the speed was too fast.

The captain took control of the ship from the staff captain and applied full thrust away from the berth to slow the ship but not before the bow struck the pier support columns.

The NTSB concluded that the probable cause of the crash was the staff captain’s errors during the docking maneuver (approaching the pier with excessive speed and at too steep of an angle) and the captain’s insufficient oversight. 

You can see photos of the extensive damage here.  

Read the full report here

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

Photos credit: Top - CBS Baltimore; bottom - NTSB report via gCaptain.

* Definition of "allision:" the action of dashing against or striking upon; example - by a vessel against an object ashore, in contrast to a "collision" between two vessels.  

Carnival Pride Allision Baltimore

Were You on one of the June 25th HAL Promech Flightseeing Excusions? Call the NTSB Now!

Promech Excurion Crash - HALCruise passengers from the Westerdam and the Noordam Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ships were on three Promech excursion flighseeing planes on the fateful day of June 25th when 8 HAL passengers died.

These passengers experienced substantially similar experiences regarding the weather conditions as the dead passengers.  They experienced the same or very similar flight conditions as the doomed excursion plane. They are familiar with the cruise line's cancellation policy. At least one couple tried to cancel the flight but were told by HAL that it would access a cancellation fee of around $450 per person. So they didn't cancel because of the extreme penalty. They flew on one of the Promech planes which took off before the plane which crashed. They can tell the investigators exactly what their flight was like.

All of the passengers completed post excursion questionnaires.  

All of these passengers should be questioned by the NTSB.  

HAL should turn over copies of all of the passenger questionnaires to the NTSB. 

Most of these passengers have never been contacted by the NTSB.

If you were a passenger who flew on a Promech flightseeing excursion on June 25th in Ketchikan, we recommend that you do the following five things:

  1. Call the NTSB to the attention of Clint Johnson, NTSB Alaska, office line 907-782-4842.
  2. Contact HAL and ask for a copy of the questionnaire you completed. Once you obtain it (if HAL cooperates), fax it to the NTSB.
  3. Maintain custody of any photos or video you took on the day in question, and send copies of the weather conditions, aircraft. etc. and any images taken from the excursion plane to the NTSB as well. 
  4. Keep all of the documentation regarding the excursion in question which you received from HAL or Promech.
  5. Encourage others on the excursion to do so too. 

Keep a copy of everything you receive and everything you write. 

It's very important. Thanks.

Photo Credit:  U.S. News

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? 

Former Norwegian Cruise Line Captain: "Let's Not Wait for a Cruise Line Disaster to Protect Passengers"

Former Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Safety Manager and and Master Mariner Bill Doherty has prepared an industry paper which has been submitted to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Senator Jay Rockefeller.

Captain Doherty is a principal in the expert maritime consulting firm, Nexus Consulting.

His cruise industry paper is entitled "Let’s Not Wait for a Cruise Line Disaster to Protect Passengers." 

William Doherty Nexus ConsultantsCaptain Doherty has over 45 years of experience in the maritime community and is a veteran of the U.S. Navy. He was the Head of Maritime Affairs for the Chief of Naval Operations during Operation Desert Storm. He previously was the manager of safety at NCL. His industry paper advocates for greater resources to be dedicated toward passenger safety and security.

Captain Doherty states that “cruise lines do not currently have a global plan to address ‘worst case scenarios. Similar to the oil industry’s unpreparedness prior to the ‘Exxon Valdez’ disaster in Alaska, there is no coordinated, global system in place in case of a disaster aboard a cruise line – and here we’re talking about human lives. We’re advocating a plan to preemptively safeguard souls at sea in case of tragedy. Let’s not wait for a cruise line to have an ‘Exxon Valdez moment' before we protect future passengers."

Captain Doherty previously testified before the U.S. Senate regarding cruise ship safety issues following the Costa Concordia disaster. He was featured in a New York Times article about the increasingly gigantic size of the modern cruise ships (and whether it is possible to safely evacuate such a ship). He was recently quoted in the Popular Mechanics article This is How to Prevent Cruise Ship Disasters.

His paper is a must read if you are interested in a true mariner's view of cruising and what must be done to make it safer. Read the paper here.

About Captain Bill Doherty: Captain Doherty is a 1967 graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, a licensed US Coast Guard Master-Unlimited tonnage, and qualified First Class Pilot, Prince William Sound, Valdez, Alaska. Captain Doherty has served on numerous U.S. Navy warships and was the Head of Maritime Affairs for the Chief of Naval Operations during Operation Desert Storm. Over the course of his career, he has commanded tankers, container ships, research vessels, high-speed ferries, and was an instructor at his alma mater. Before retirement, his latest position was as Safety Manager for Norwegian Cruise Lines. Captain Doherty now serves as the director of maritime affairs for Nexus Consulting, and has appeared as a cruise safety expert before the United States Senate.

About Nexus Consulting: Nexus is an ISO 9001:2008 certified Maritime Safety and Security Firm was established in 2005 with a focus on security operations in high-threat theaters and cruise passenger safety. In 2008, Nexus Consulting was the first maritime security firm to advocate for armed security teams embarked on commercial ships. In 2009, in the wake of the Maersk Alabama hijacking (made famous in the acclaimed film “Captain Phillips”), Nexus embarked one of the first armed security teams on commercial vessels to protect US mariners, and has been providing security services to protect merchant mariners ever since.

Correction to headline: Captain Doherty was the former safety manager at Norwegian Cruise Lines. I erroneously referred to him as a former captain at NCL.

Cruise Ship Fires & Missing Children: Will the Bahamas Ever Release Reports?

The fire on the Carnival Triumph cruise ship is being investigated by the Bahamas because Carnival elected to register the Triumph in that country to avoid U.S. taxes, labor and safety laws. As the "flag state" for the Triumph, the Bahamas is charged with the responsibility of investigating fires, casualties and crimes on that ship. The Bahamas requested the involvement of the U.S. Coast Guard as well as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The questions arise will the Bahamas really conduct an objective and honest investigation? Will it ever release a copy of the final report into the investigation into the fire?  And if so, when?

Carnival Triumph Cruise Ship Fire In considering these questions, remember that in the last disabling fire on a Carnival cruise ship several years ago, the public has still not seen the report of the flag state. In November 2010, the Carnival Splendor caught on fire and was disabled.  Because Carnival flagged the Splendor in Panama, Panama was responsible for the official investigation. Panama called upon the U.S. Coast Guard to assist it. The Coast Guard finished its reports to the officials in Panama long ago.

The Coast Guard quickly sent out "marine safety alerts" about the design defects and construction and maintenance shortcomings in the Splendor engine room.  Remarkably, the Coast Guard did not even identify the Splendor in its alerts.

It's now going on two and one-half years later but Panama still has not released a report.

Will Panama ever release the report?  Not if Carnival doesn't want it to.

Who has authority to force Panama or the Bahamas to release a report or punish them if they refuseto do so?  No one. There is no U.S. federal oversight organization. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is toothless.  A former NTSB chairman called the IMO a "paper tiger."  This is exactly how the cruise lines want the system to work.

Two years ago, Disney youth counselor Rebecca Coriam disappeared from the Disney Wonder cruise ship.  The Bahamas was responsible for investigating the disappearance because Disney registered Disney Cruises Rebecca Coriamthe Wonder in Nassau to avoid U.S. taxes, labor and safety laws.  

The Bahamas sent a lone policeman to Los Angeles to meet the cruise ship when it returned to port. He conducted a short visit on the ship and concluded his report long ago. But the Bahamas refuses to send Rebecca's mother and father a copy of the report.  

After the Triumph was towed to Mobile, a newspaper article appeared in a Bahamian newspaper that the Bahamas was sending detectives to the U.S. to investigate a sexual assault on the Triumph. The Bahamas denied that the ship where the rape was alleged was the Triumph. It disclosed only that a Bahamian flagged ship was involved. The Bahamas promised to provide information once its detectives returned from the U.S. Of course, it has released nothing.    

If your child vanishes on the high seas, or you are raped during a cruise, or your family flounders for a week on a stinky fire-stricken ship, flag states like the Bahamas and Panama don't believe that they have any obligation to release any information to you.  Their alliances are with the cruise lines which fly their flags. Companies like Carnival and Disney hide behind the foreign flags and are complicit in the conspiracy to deceive the public.

It's a dishonest, secretive, rotten system.  Its a system designed to conceal the truth and to avoid the foreign flagged cruise lines from embarrassment.  

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.  

Cruise Line Safety Panel - Independent Experts or Paid Cheerleaders?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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