Another Rape Alleged on the Love Boat

News sources in Alaska are reporting that Alaska State Troopers are investigating an incident where a female crew member alleges that she was sexually assaulted on a Princess Cruises sailing between Seattle and Alaska this week. 

The crew member states that two other crew members sexually assaulted her while the cruise ship was sailing to Juneau. The Alaska State Troopers say the assault took place between 4 AM and 6 AM on Monday.

A spokesperson for the Alaska State Troopers says that “Yes, suspects have been identified;” however, Princess Cruises Star Princess Sexual Assault“No arrests have been made.”

The Princess cruise ship is making additional port calls as it heads back to Seattle, the point of origin for the cruise. Both the victim and the suspects are still aboard the cruise ship.

Princess Cruises released a statement claiming that after reporting the alleged assault, the woman "indicated she no longer wanted to pursue the matter with law enforcement." 

It's a shame to see that the alleged victim was not taken off the cruise ship for medical evaluation and counseling and provided with a safe environment where she could be away from the alleged perpetrators.

Its also disturbing to see the cruise line issue a press statement claiming that the alleged victim doesn't want the matter further investigated.  It smacks of Princess trying to minimize what happened for marketing purposes.

The incident occurred aboard the Star Princess.

We have written about the problem of sexual assaults on Princess cruise shipsin the past:

Unsafe on the "Love Boat?" - Sexual Assaults on Princess Cruise Ships

Princess Cruises Sexual Assault Trial Begins

Princess Cruises Captain Pleads Guilty to Sex Crime Against Girl on Princess Cruise Ship

Cruise Rape Case Begins - Bermuda Press Tries to Conceal Connection to Princess Cruises

Do you have a thought about this issue?  Please leave a comment on our Facebook page here.

 

Photo Credit: Star Princess - Jim Walker Seattle Washington

Star Princess Responds to Malvinas Protest at Port of Ushuaia By Playing "God Save the Queen"

Malvinas - Falkland Island - Cruise Ship ProtestsOver the past year, there have been a number of protests at ports in Argentina against cruise ships which stop in the Falkland Islands.

Argentina asserts sovereignty of what Argentinians refer to as the "Malvinas."  Britain claimed sovereignty over the islands in the late 1700s; Argentina claimed possession in 1820; and the islands were a British protectorate from 1887 to 1965. 

The dispute resulted in a war between Britain and Argentina back in 1982, resulting in a death toll of 900 between the two countries.

Cruise ship flying the "red ensign' flag (U.K., Bermuda) have been the target of protests which have resulted in the ships not being permitted to dock or detained at port.

With the discovery of oil on the islands, the matter has become even more contentious. Several Patagonian provinces have passed what is called the "Gaucho Rivero bill" which bans the calling of red ensign vessels linked to the Falklands’ oil industry.  Certain groups have interpreted this bill to include all ships flying the red ensign flag including cruise ships.

Last weekend a protest was staged when the Star Princess operated by Princess Cruises arrived in the Argentinian port of Ushuaia. Protesters posted banners protesting the arrival of the cruise ship and burned tires outside the fence of the port.

The newspaper Merco Press covered the story and posted photographs (below) of the demonstration.

The newspaper reported that the Princess cruise ship responded to the demonstrators by blaring "God Save the Queen" though the ship's loudspeakers.

The protesters blocked access to the port for several hours to express its side of the Falklands / Malvinas dispute. But with the support of what was reported to be "over 200 provincial riot police including mounted police and dogs, plus a hundred members from the Coast Guard," authorities opened another gate at the port to permit excursion buses to take the cruise passengers from the Star Princess on a local tour. 

Falkland Islands Maldives Cruise Ship Protest

Photo Credit: Merco Press

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Carnival Triumph Lawsuits - A Just Cause or a Money Grab?

On February 10th the Carnival Triumph's engine room caught fire fire and was quickly extinguished. No one was burned. No one choked and gasped for air. No one died. No family members mourned the loss of their loved ones or buried their dead.

Three weeks later there is a litigation frenzy with lawyers from New York to Miami to Mississippi suing Carnival for billions of dollars.

And you wonder why people hate lawyers.

Star Princess Cruise Ship FireDon't get me wrong.  I don't like the cruise lines. As a former National Transportation Safety Board chairman said, the cruise lines are an "outlaw industry" which suffers from "bad actors."

But suing Carnival if you are not physically injured or seriously sick is wrong, as I have said in other articles.  

There are a hoard of lawyers out there soliciting your business who will sue Carnival whether you have bothered to see a doctor or not.  Just Google "Triumph cruise lawyer" and see the long line of lawyers asking you to call them, such as:

"Carnival Triumph Lawsuit Attorney" - Video - New York lawyer asking for one billion dollars!

"Carnival Triumph Cruise Ship Lawyer" - Video - Florida lawyer who filed class action lawsuit.

What are these attorneys advocating?  None of these lawyers have ever gone to Congress advocating the rights of cruise passengers or crew members injured at sea. Is this just about money?

Contrast this latest Carnival fire on the Triumph with the last fire where a passenger was killed on the Carnival-owned Star Princess cruise ship (above right). Georgia resident Richard Liffridge died when he and his wife, Vicky, tried to crawl down a burning smoke filled hallway as the fire engulfed the ship.

Star Princess Cruise Ship FireAs explained in the LA Times article "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters:"

"Victoria Liffridge recalled that she and her husband crawled along a passageway filled with thick, black smoke as flames shot above their heads. It was "like being in an oven," she said. The couple became separated. 'The last words I heard him say were, "Vicky, don't let me die, she said. Victoria Liffridge crawled to safety, only to be told later that her husband had not survived. When she identified his body it was covered in soot from head to toe."

Mr. Liffridge left behind his wife, four children and many grandchildren.   

We represented the Liffridge family. Richard's daughter, Lynnette, joined the International Cruise Victims organization and testified before Congress regarding the cruise ship fire. She demanded changes to protect future cruisers. She later boarded the same cruise ship where her father died and made certain that the ship was retrofitted with sprinkler systems and heat detectors which were lacking from the ship's balconies where the fire started which killed her father.

Will anyone of the inconvenienced passengers on the Triumph call on their Congressional representatives and ask for a Congressional hearing about cruise ship safety like Lynnette did?  Will anyone travel to Washington D.C. at their own expense to hold the cruise lines accountable?  Will anyone demand changes on the cruise ships to protect the public?  Will anyone work behind the scenes and board the Triumph and see with-their-own-eyes if anything has been done to ensure the safety of the next families who will cruise on the ship?

Or is this just a lawsuit money-grab for a few thousand dollars and a free Carnival cruise? 

Cruise Ship Fire

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Did Princess Cruises Fail to Rescue a Second Fishing Boat?

Princess Cruises released a press release today claiming that the fishing boat observed and photographed by several passengers on the Star Princess cruise ship is not the Fifty Cents fishing boat which contained three young men from Panama. 

You will recall that two young Panamanian fisherman died after a cruise ship failed to stop and provide d assistance to them as they floundered in a disabled boat 100 miles at sea. One man, Adrian Vasquez, age 18, survived after floating in the derelict boat for a month.  When rescued, Vasquez identified a large white cruise ship as the vessel which refused to stop.

The story became more interesting when it was revealed that several passengers (bird watchers) on the Star Princess with high powered Star Princess Cruise Shiplens observed people on a fishing boat waving in distress. They alerted the cruise ship's officers but the ship refused to stop.  

You can read our coverage of this saga here.

This case has ended up in court with lawsuits filed by the survivor and the wives and children of the two dead men. Princess Cruises has argued that it has no legal duty to rescue mariners in distress.

Today Princess Cruises issued a press release arguing that it has "new evidence (which) proves Princess Cruises did not fail to rescue adrift fishermen as alleged."  The evidence the cruise line points to is not new at all. They are referring to computer generated images created for the cruise line at the request of lawyers to be used to defend the cruise line's legal interests.  Princess Cruises hired an "expert" to offer an opinion that there are differences between the fishing boat photographed by the cruise passengers and the computer images of the boat based on snippets of video of the boat on which survivor Vasquez was eventually rescued.  You can see the comparison of the actual photo and the computer created images below.

I'm not convinced at all. The "two" vessels are similar in size.  Both have white hulls.  And Fifty Cents Fishing Boat - Princess Cruisesboth have blue trim, although the size of the trim looks different.  But that may be due to the blurry and distorted images which were taken from a long distance. I'm sure that the lawyers for the families of the dead men will retain their own experts to analyze the photo and the computer images to see if they have been altered or enhanced and arrive at their own experts opinions about the matter.

One thing I observed in the video of the Fifty Cents which Princess posted is that it shows a blue awning / tarp at Vasquez's feet, after he was rescued. The photos taken of the fishing boat in distress by the bird watchers clearly show a blue tarp.  

Two different white hull fishing boats of the same size, both with blue trim, and both with blue tarps?  

But if Princess' paid experts are right that the boat which the bird watchers observed and photographed was not the Fifty Cents, that hardly exculpates Princess. Remember there is no question that the fishing boat that the cruise passengers observed was in distress and its occupants were waving for help far out at sea and, yet, the Princess cruise ship kept on sailing.  If Princess, the bird watchers and Vasquez are all right, this would logically and reasonably point to a conclusion that Princess Cruises failed to rescue Fifty Cents and a second fishing boat in distress as well.

Princess' press release states that Princess Cruises "has demanded the lawsuits be immediately dismissed . . . "   But it has filed no motion before the court and submitted no evidence into the record.  It has not offered to produce its experts for deposition and cross examination.

It looks like Princess wants to fight this lawsuit in the press.  Here's part of the Princess press release:

 

Princess Cruises - Fifty Cents Fishing Boat - Star Princess Cruise Ship

 

Robert Peltz of Leesfield & Partners, which represents the family of Fernando Osorio, one of the young men who perished, has issued the following statement:

“This latest move by Princess is the ultimate ‘Hail Mary’ – a hopeless pass and last ditch effort to avoid liability on a legitimate claim. The facts are simple and straight forward. The picture taken by passenger Jeff Gilligen shows the Fifty Cents boat and its passengers Adrian Vasquez, Fernando Osorio and Elvis Diaz desperately reaching out to the Princess cruise ship for rescue. We have solid evidence that confirms that the picture shows the Fifty Cents. Instead of taking responsibility for their actions, Princess seems intent on paying so-called ‘experts’ to give them a way out through comparison of grainy, out-of-focus pictures and ‘computer stitched images’. A jury will decide this case and provide the accountability that Princess is clearly incapable of doing on its own.”
 

 

Photo credit: Top - Wikipedia / Yankeeman 312;  Bottom - Princess Cruises

 

Canadian Air Force Rescue of Stricken Sailboat Assisted By Star Princess Cruise Ship - This Time Princess Cruises Doesn't Abandon Mariners in Distress

The Vancouver Province contains a dramatic story involving the Canadian Air Force's rescue of two British Columbia sailors whose storm battered sailboat was pitching wildly in 80 km/h winds and high waves near the Queen Charlotte Islands.

The Canadian Air Force deployed a helicopter to try and winch the two men off the deck of the Magnolia sailboat but the torn rigging and swaying mast posed a hazard. A photo of the sailboat, illuminated by a helicopter spotlight, is to the right.  

Meanwhile, the Star Princess cruise ship was nearby heading to Alaska.

Everyone remembers the Star Princess. The notorious cruise ship recently made the headline when it sailed by three Magnolia Sailboat RescuePanamanian men in the little fishing boat, 50 Cents, leaving two men to perish at sea, while three cruise passengers pleaded for the cruise ship to stop and assist the disabled fishing boat. We wrote about the dreadful incident - Two Dead Fishermen: Did Star Princess Cruise Ship Ignore Mariners in Distress?

This time the Star Princess didn't look the other way.

As explained in the Vancouver Province, the giant ship tried to break the wind and calm the waves. But instead the cruise ship's presence added to the danger because the wind and current would move the cruise ship in unexpected directions. "It drifted much too fast towards us," said a Canadian Air Force rescuer who was in the water at the scene.

The helicopter diver had to drop into the water twice and then swim over to the bobbing sailboat to rescue the men.

The helicopter eventually lifted the two sailors to safety, and the Star Princess headed on to Alaska.  

If you were on the Star Princess and have photos, video or comments about the rescue to share, please let us hear from you.

 

Consider reading:

Duty of Cruise Lines to Assist Persons In Distress: Moral, Legal & Practical Considerations On The High Seas

 

Photo: Canadian Air Force (Sgt Robin Richardson, 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron)

Princess Cruises Shows Its True Colors: "We Have No Duty To Rescue Mariners in Distress at Sea"

In a court filing yesterday, Princess Cruises moved to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the 18 year old survivor, Adrian Vasquez, following the infamous "sail by" incident. You will recall that the Star Princess cruise ship failed to assist Vasquez and two other young Panamanian men (who perished) in a small disabled fishing boat drifting 100 miles out at sea.

In a motion to dismiss filed in Federal District Court on Miami, Princess argues that it has no legal duty to assist mariners in distress on the high seas.  It cites the Brussels Convention (also known as the "Salvage Treaty") for the proposition that although the captain of a ship has the duty to provide assistance to disabled vessels at sea, the cruise line itself has no legal obligation whatsoever.  It argues that it cannot be held liable for the captain's refusal to assist mariners in distress.

Star Princess - Fifty Cents - Adrian VasquezThis argument defies common sense and basic legal concepts.  The captain was an employee of Princess Cruises.  Why shouldn't the cruise be vicariously liable when its captain and crew act irresponsibly? 

The cruise line's legal argument is also at odds with PR statements it made after it can under international public condemnation for refusing to divert the Star Princess to assist the three men, ages 16, 18 and 22, who were adrift at sea after their boat lost its engine power. Princess released a very public statement on April 19, 2012 stating:

"Princess Cruises is dedicated to the highest standards of seamanship wherever our ships sail, and it is our duty to assist any vessel in distress. We have come to the aid of many people at sea, and we will continue to do so."

But in its motion to dismiss filed yesterday, Princess is now singing a different tune:

"Simply put, the law does not impose a duty on ships to investigate whether every passing vessel may need assistance nor does it impose civil liability on the owner of a vessel if the ship's crew fails to recognize that another vessel passing miles away needs help."   

Ah, a cruise line telling the public one thing but instructing its lawyers to say just the opposite behind the doors of the courthouse.  A cruise line best known for "The Love Boat" showing very little love at all.

Princess Cruises' argument, if accepted by the court, will establish a dangerous precedent.  

Captains of 99% of foreign flagged cruise ships live outside of the U.S. The captain of the Star Princess cruise ship resides in England and is probably not subject to jurisdiction in the U.S. or Panama (where the families of the men reside). Captains of cruise ships are under pressure from cruise lines to strictly maintain schedules for economic reasons.  If cruise lines like Princess can escape civil and criminal consequences when their ships abandon people at sea, there will be no incentive for the cruise industry to act responsibly.

Princess has the ability to easily compensate the families for their suffering.  It is just one of many cruise lines under the umbrella of Carnival, which collects tens and tens of billions of dollars from tax paying U.S. citizens but pays virtually no U.S. corporate taxes itself.  

Princess should not use the U.S. legal system to abandon the families of these three young men after abandoning their children to die an excruciating death at sea.  

Should a cruise line be permitted to tell the U.S. public that "it is our duty to assist any vessel in distress  . . .  and we will continue to do so," and then try to kick a young man's case out of court by arguing it had no legal duty to assist him when he was dying 100 miles out at sea?

 

Read our prior articles about the case: 

Two Dead Fishermen: Did Star Princess Cruise Ship Ignore Mariners in Distress?

Duty of Cruise Lines to Assist Persons In Distress: Moral, Legal & Practical Considerations On The High Seas

 

Photo credit:  AP / Daily Mail

Second Lawsuit Filed Against Princess Cruises For Failing to Rescue Mariners in Distress

As expected, Princess Cruises was named as a defendant in a second lawsuit filed in Miami arising out of the high profile case where the Star Princess cruise ship sailed by a small fishing boat called Fifty Cents with three young men aboard 100 miles out at sea, leaving two of the men to die.

Three passengers observed the small vessel with the men waiving in distress and alerted the cruise ship's crew.  Princess initially claimed that the cruise ship communicated with the men aboard the fishing boat who allegedly thanked them for avoiding their nets - a story that was publicly ridiculed. Princess then changed course and claimed that the passengers' account of seeing the stricken fishing Fifty Cents Fishing Boat - Sail By - Princess Cruisesboat was never communicated to the bridge. 

This lawsuit against Princess Cruises was filed on behalf of the family of 16 year old Fernando Osorio Rodriguez, the youngest to die.   He reportedly died later at night on the same day that the Princess cruise ship sailed by.  He left behind his mother, father and four siblings.

The first lawsuit was filed on behalf of 18 year old Adrian Vazquez, who survived after suffering at sea for a month.  he was finally rescued some 600 miles from the fishing village where the men sailed from. 

The Miami Herald, which usually avoids stories which put the cruise lines in a bad light quoted Rodriquez's lawyer, Ira Leesfield, stating "It’s always been the moral and legal obligation of larger, well-equipped vessels to help people out . . . I don’t think you can put the expediency and the convenience and the economics of the ship that could rescue and save people’s lives before the value of people’s lives, and I think that’s what happened here. It’s really inexcusable.” 

We were the first to report on the case in the U.S. in our articles:

Two Dead Fishermen: Did Star Princess Cruise Ship Ignore Mariners in Distress

Duty of Cruise Lines to Assist Persons In Distress: Moral, Legal & Practical Considerations On The High Seas

Survivor of Infamous Star Princess "Sail By" Sues Princess Cruises

Lawsuit By Panamanian Survivor Against Princess Cruises Hits The National Press

The U.S. national media has now focused on a lawsuit arising out of the notorious "sail by" where a Princess cruise ship sailed by three desperate Panamanian men lost at sea in a disabled little fishing boat.  Two young men from Panama, age 16 and 24 died.  One man, Adrian Vasquez, age 18, survived but had to endure the horror of watching his friends suffer and die at sea.

We first reported on the lawsuit in Survivor of Infamous Star Princess "Sail By" Sues Princess Cruises.

Now all of the major newspapers and media sources are on to the story.  The article Panama Fisherman Sues Cruise Line For Not Helping is on the first page of Yahoo News.  

Adrian Vasquez - Fishermen - Princess Cruises - PanamaThe facts of this case are particularly outrageous and could not come at a worst time for the cruise industry. First, the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship alters course to impress the residents of Giglio (not to mention his girlfriend) and wrecks the cruise ship and kills 32 people.  Now, the captain of the Star Princess refuses to alter course and kills two men in the process.  

It is always interesting to scan through the comments to news articles to get a feeling how the public reacts to stories like this about the cruise lines. The comments about Princess Cruises and the cruise industry today are brutal. Here are examples from the Yahoo article:

"Maritime law and morality was abandoned. A place in hell is reserved for anyone involved in abandoning those in need of rescue at sea . . . "

"I don't trust Cruise Lines period, I'm glad this man is suing the cruise-liner, restitution for the victims families."

"I hope the goal is not to settle but to seek punishment for this criminal act."

"It's called manslaughter. The captain should be charged. He knows the maritime law. - and he's just as bad as that Italian captain who was the 1st one off the sinking ship."

"I hope he wins the case, although Princess will probably try to crush him with lawyers and legal stall tactics."

This is a case which Cruise Law News will be watching closely.  Cruises lines like Princess will not try and reach a reasonable settlement with the young Panamanian man.  Princess Cruises' first step will be to try and dismiss the case from Florida and prevent the case from reaching a jury.

Stay tuned.

 

Read our other articles on this story:

Duty of Cruise Lines to Assist Persons In Distress: Moral, Legal & Practical Considerations On The High Seas

Two Dead Fishermen: Did Star Princess Cruise Ship Ignore Mariners In Distress?

 

Art Credit: Hung, Drawn and Cultured

Survivor of Infamous Star Princess "Sail By" Sues Princess Cruises

The lone survivor of the infamous "sail by" incident, where the Star Princess cruise ship failed to respond to the disabled Panamanian fishing boat Fifty Cents, filed suit yesterday against Princess Cruises.

We were the first in the U.S. to write about this terrible incident in our article last month: "Two Dead Fishermen: Did Star Princess Cruise Ship Ignore Mariners in Distress?" 

You will recall that the case involves the plight of Adrian Vasquez, age 18, and the suffering and death of two of his friends, Oropeces Betancourt and Fernando Osorio.  The three sailed from the small fishing village of Rio Hato in Panama on February 24, 2012.   The boat lost power and drifted 100 miles out to sea. The small boat had been adrift for over two weeks when the large Princess Cruises Star Princess sailed within sight. Notwithstanding the frantic efforts of the men to signal that they were in distress, and the efforts of three cruise passengers who witnessed the spectacle, the cruise ship kept sailing.

Adrian Vasquez - Fifty Cents - Star Princess - Cruise Sail ByThe lawsuit alleges that Princess Cruises acted negligently (count I) and / or recklessly and intentionally (count II) in failing to aid the three mariners in distress.  The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Osorio (age 16), "having lost all hope as the Star Princess sailed away," died later that day.  Mr. Betancourt (age 24) suffered for another 5 days and then perished.  Survivor Vasquez was rescued around two weeks after the Princess cruise ship sailed out of sight.

The lawsuit claims that even after the initial sighting of the derelict vessel by the three passengers (confirmed by a crewmember), the passengers confronted an officer on the ship and asked what happened to the small fishing boat.  The Princess officer provided no explanation and walked away.

The lawsuit alleges that Princess Cruises admitted in a press release that it was its responsibility pursuant to the "Law of the Sea" to provide assistance to any vessel in distress.

We explained this legal obligation in our blog "Duty of Cruise Lines to Assist Persons In Distress: Moral, Legal & Practical Considerations On The High Seas."

Bermuda (where the cruise ship is flagged) and Panama (all three men were from Panama) have stated that they are investigating the incident

The lawsuit was filed here in Miami, in the Miami-Dade courthouse. 

The lawsuit was filed by local Miami lawyers Dickman, Epelbaum & Dickman.

Princess Cruises, although incorporated in Bermuda to escape U.S. taxes and wage & labor laws, is headquartered in Santa Clarita, California with a significant base of operations in South Florida.

 

Photo credit:  AP / Daily Mail

Panama Opens Criminal Investigation Into Princess Cruises - Captain Perrin to Face Homicide & Failure to Rescue Inquiries

A reader of Cruise law News in Panama brought an article in the Panamanian newspaper Prensa, entitled "MP Abre Sumario a Capitán de Crucero" to my attention this morning.    

As I predicted last week, Panama has decided to proceed with a criminal investigation into the conduct of the Master of the Princess Cruises cruise ship Star Princess, for failing to assist three young Panamanian men who were adrift 100 miles out to sea aboard the Panamanian fishing boat Fifty Cents.  

Several passengers observed the fishing boat in distress and tried to convince the cruise ship to assist. Initial reports indicate that officers aboard claim that they were avoiding fishing nets and allegedly were thanked Princess Cruises - Star Princess - Panama Fifty Centsby the fishing boat. Princess Cruises later claimed that the captain of the cruise ship was never informed of the people in distress.     

The article explains that the Public Ministry (MP) of Panama launched an investigation into the deaths of two Panamanian fishermen, who went adrift in their fishing boat on February 24, 2012. 

The investigation was initiated by a Panamanian lawyer who filed a complaint on April 18, 2012. The aunt of one of the dead fishermen, Fernando Osorio, was quoted by a newspaper in Panama, My Diary, "I ask that you drop the full weight of the law" on the captain. She referred to her 16 year old nephew as a human being, not an animal to be left in the sea.

The General Secretariat of the MP referred the investigation to the Homicide Division of the Judicial Investigation Department.

Last week, I wrote about the duties owed to persons in distress at sea and the rights of the cruise ship flag state, Bermuda, and the  government of Panama to pursue criminal charges: Duty of Cruise Lines to Assist Persons In Distress: Moral, Legal & Practical Considerations On The High Seas

My prediction?  Bermuda will do a favor for its cruise line customer, Princess Cruises, and exonerate Captain Perrin. Panama will issue an arrest warrant for the captain and a writ of attachment to seize the next Princess cruise ship sailing through the Panama Canal . . .    

 

Read our first article about this case: Two Dead Fishermen: Did Star Princess Cruise Ship Ignore Mariners in Distress?

Photo credit: MY DIARY | Roca Gonzalez Edilsa

Duty of Cruise Lines to Assist Persons In Distress: Moral, Legal & Practical Considerations On The High Seas

The Star Princess' refusal to assist the three young men aboard the disabled Fifty Cents fishing boat has captivated the world's attention.  My first article on the troubling story - Two Dead Fishermen:  Did Star Princess Cruise Ship Ignore Mariners In Distress? - elicited strong comments by the public. One comment on my blog from "Martin" about the captain of the Princess cruise ship summed up the essence of the problem:

"They have forgotten the human being."

There is a palpable sense of outrage that Princess abandoned three young men on the high seas.    

Where does this sense of anger come from?  What are the moral and civil obligations which arise from the tragic and entirely avoidable deaths of the young Panamanian men.

Moral and Biblical Duty to Assist Your Fellow Man 

Bible, Matthew 7:12  When I was a kid, my mother raised me with one fundamental governing principle in mind.  She taught me that my purpose in life was to help others. Although I did not realize it at the time, she was paraphrasing the Bible, Matthew 7:12:     

"Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the Law and the Prophets." (New Living Bible Translation)

The maritime obligation to assist people in distress at sea, in my view, is based firmly on the "Golden Rule" of helping others in the same way that you would want to be if you were in distress. 

The same life guiding principle is found in other faiths. There is an equivalent passage in the Torah, which warns people "never to turn aside the stranger, for it is like turning aside the most high God." The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said that "the highest expression of faith is to love for others what you love for yourself and to dislike for others what you dislike for yourself."  In Buddhism, you will find "Act not on others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful."

The maritime duty of a mariner to assist less fortunate mariners in peril on the high seas can be traced back to the Medieval Sea Codes where unwritten maritime traditions from the times of Jesus were first reduced to parchment.  

A mariner on a seaworthy vessel who sails away from seafarers in distress on a derelict vessel is, in essence, sailing away from himself and God Almighty in the process.

Modern Legal Considerations 

The duty to assist at sea is a fundamental part of U.S. maritime law.  In Caminiti v. Tomlinson Fleet Corp., 1981 MAC 201 (E.D. Ohio), passengers went overboard from their pleasure craft.  Two ships passed by and didn't stop, with one of the ships even shining its spotlight on the men struggling in the water before callously proceeding on.  The men drowned.

The shipping companies denied they had any obligation to assist the drowning men. The Court disagree, finding that the "law of the sea has always demanded a higher degree of care, vigilance and diligence." The duty to rescue "strangers in peril" exists even if the ships did not cause the peril in the first place. The Court stated that to accept the shipping companies' argument would create a situation "shocking to humanitarian considerations and the commonly accepted code of social conduct."   

Currently, there are three international conventions which impose a duty on ships to assist individuals in distress at sea.

The first is the International Maritime Organizations (IMO) regulations found in the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS). The second is the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCOLOS). The third is the International Convention of Salvage (1989) (“Salvage Convention”).  All three conventions essentially state that a captain of a ship once notified of persons in distress shall proceed with all speed to their assistance. 

Tulane Maritime Law Professor Martin Davies wrote an interesting law article which discusses the legal basis for these legal duties - Obligations and Implications for Ships Encountering Persons in Need of Assistance at Sea.  Professor Davies refers to the Director for the Center for Seafarer Rights in New York who states in a footnote: "there is no doubt that watchkeepers on some vessels, at least, pointedly look the other way as they close on small craft far from the shore.  Quiet words undoubtedly been spoken to masters about the inadvisability of being too zealously on hand and available . . ."

Fifty Cents Fishing Boat - IgnoredThe conventions include criminal penalties; there is the potential for the captain to be imprisoned and he and his employer to be fined.

Generally, these obligations can be enforced in a criminal context only by the “flag state.” All cruise ships fly "flags of convenience" in order to avoid U.S. taxes and labor and safety laws. For example, Carnival flies the flag of Panama. Royal Caribbean flies the flags of Liberia and the Bahamas. And Princess Cruises, which operates the Star Princess, flies the flag of Bermuda.

These countries are generally considered to be hesitant to enforce these conventions. They do not want to upset their cruise line customers.  Maritime Professor Davies writes: "many ocean-going commercial ships are registered under flags of convenience in countries notoriously unlikely to be zealous in enforcing the legal obligations imposed by the conventions." 

Bermuda has a maritime law which applies, called the Merchant Shipping Act of 2002, which recognizes the duty to assist ships in distress.  It states in part:

"The master of a ship, on receiving at sea a signal of distress or information from any source that a ship or aircraft is in distress, shall proceed with all speed to the assistance of the persons in distress unless he is unable, or in the special circumstances of the case considers it unreasonable or unnecessary . . ."

The Bermuda law includes criminal penalties, ". . . on conviction on indictment, to a fine of $50,000 or to imprisonment for a term of two years, or both."

Practical Considerations When Cruise Lines Violate International Conventions 

The legal framework is in place for Bermuda, as the flag state responsible for enforcing the IMO regulations, to investigate and proceed with a criminal hearing against Princess Cruises and its captain. The question is whether Bermuda will act and, if so, will act in good faith and seriously attempt to put the Princess captain behind bars.

I was interviewed last week by the BBC Radio and I expressed my doubts whether Bermuda will zealously proceed against Princess Cruises.  After all, Princess is Bermuda's customer.  Bermuda enjoys a chummy relationship with the California-based cruise line which favored Bermuda with its business. You can hear the BBC interview, including comments by one of the U.S. passengers who spotted the disabled fishing boat, here (the radio segment starts at the 36:25 mark).    

Bermuda states that it intends to conduct an investigation into the cruise ship’s failure to respond to the disabled fishing boats’ pleas for assistance.  But Bermuda does not have an impressive record Princess Cruises - Star Princess Cruise Shipinvolving criminal cases involving Bermuda flagged cruise ships. We have handled maritime crime cases against Bermuda flagged cruise ships, including a case where a woman was raped on the Star Princess, where Bermuda never even opened a file. 

If Bermuda white-washes the investigation and exonerates the captain, which I expect to be Bermuda's motivation for suddenly becoming interested in criminal conduct involving its ships, there is legal authority that other countries with an interest in the matter can to bring criminal action against the captain and the cruise line. Panama, whose citizens were killed by the captain's alleged dereliction of duty, can and should assert criminal jurisdiction if Bermuda fails to act or acts in bad faith.

This is a very significant issue because Princess cruise ships sail through the Panama Canal. If I were Princess Cruises, I would be very concerned that the Panamanian authorities will seize one of my cruise ships if it enters Panamanian waters.

Back to the Bible: An Eye For An Eye

In addition to the criminal issues, it is a certainty that the families of the survivor and the two dead young men will bring a civil action for compensation against the cruise line and the captain, either in the United States and/or Panama. It is also likely that they will file a notice of lien to seize a Princess cruise ship if one decides to sail through the Panama Canal.  

The civil lawsuit against Princess will also include punitive damages against the cruise lines seeking to punish the cruise line for its alleged willful and wanton conduct.  Like the obligation to assist others, the concept of punitive damages can be traced back to the Bible, Exodus 24:21: an "eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot."

 

Photo credits:

Fifty Cents Sail Boat - Jeff Gilligan

Star Princess - Jim Walker

 

A quote to remember this story: "Treat People As You Would Like to be Treated - Karma Is A Bitch Only If You Are" (author unknown). 

Two Dead Fishermen: Did Star Princess Cruise Ship Ignore Mariners in Distress?

Did Princess Cruises forsake young fishermen to die an excruciating death in order to keep its cruise itinerary?

That's what Don Winner, a blogger for Panama-Guide.com, wants to know.  Mr. Winner reports on some disturbing developments in his article "Panama Castaways Were Spotted By Cruise Ship Passengers - And Ignored By Ship's Captain."

The story involves the intersection of the paths of two ships, from different worlds so to speak,  The first vessel  - Fifty Cents Fishing Boat - Star Princess Cruise Shipthe Star Princess Star, a large luxury cruise ship operated by Princess Cruises of the Love Boat fame - filled with passengers enjoying a fun vacation.  The second vessel - Fifty Cents, a small (26 foot) fishing boat - with three young men aboard: Fernando Osorio, age 16; Adrian Vasquez, age 18; and Oropeces Betancourt, 24, all from Panama.

The crucial moment came on the morning of March 10, 2012 when the Star Princess was making the crossing from Ecuador to Costa Rica.  Mr. Winner writes that the little fishing boat's engine was dead and the boat was adrift when the giant Star Princess was seen steaming in its direction. The fishermen, who had been at sea for 2 weeks, waived for assistance but the cruise ship passed by.  The distraught fishermen must have concluded that their frantic waves were not seen by anyone on the cruise ship.

But it turns out that three cruise passengers (all bird watchers, with either keen vision and/or equally keen binoculars) observed the men calling for help and urgently alerted a crew member and pressed the matter further.  The cruise ship failed to stop.  One passenger tried to email the Coast Guard. When she contacted Princess' corporate offices in California, she was given the usual corporate non-response.     

The Star Princess' failure to assist the stricken vessel resulted in Oropeces Betancourt, 24, dying of dehydration later that same day. The youngest fisherman, Fernando Osorio, 16, died five days later after suffering from dehydration, sunburn and heat stroke.  Another nine days elapsed before Adrian Vasquez, 18, who survived on fish and rain water, was finally saved (while unconscious) from his ordeal near the Galapagos Islands, 600 miles from where the three young men had originally sailed from.

The Guardian newspaper in the U.K has picked up on the story. One of the three passengers who spotted the small boat, Judy Meredith, 65, from Bent, Oregon, told Adrian Vernandez - Fifty Cents - Star Princessthe Guardian:  "Finding out later that the Fifty Cents continued at sea for over two more weeks was horrific news. And two of the men died and both could have lived, had the cruise ship responded to our urgent request."

Mr. Winner subsequently contacted Vasquez, who confirmed that they had seen the cruise ship and had "signaled frantically with his red T-shirt and the orange life vest, believing it would rescue them."

Mr. Winner has published AIS tracking data (see below) indicating that the Star Princess was in the area at the time.  He has written a second article: "Captain Edward Perrin - In Command Of Cruise Ship That Failed To Rescue Panamanian Castaways" which appropriately questions why the Master of the Princess cruise ship failed to respond to the emergency.  As Mr. Winner correctly points out:

Regulation 33 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) Chapter V states:

"The master of a ship at sea which is in a position to be able to provide assistance on receiving a signal from any source that persons are in distress at sea, is bound to proceed with all speed to their assistance,

According To The Merchant Ship Search and Rescue Manual (MERSAR):

"It is accepted as the normal practice of seamen, indeed there is an obligation upon masters, that they render every assistance within their power in cases where a person or persons are in distress at sea. These obligations are set out in regulation V/10 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea." 

Princess Cruise Ship - Star Princess - Tracking Info AISThe families of the young dead fishermen deserve an explanation why their children died at sea in this manner.

What say you Captain Perrin?  

Will Princess Cruises let you talk?

This story deserves a wider audience and discussion. Please take a moment to post the story on your facebook page, tweet it, and ask Princess Cruises and its parent company, Carnival, for an explanation.

I asked Carnival for a statement and was told to contact Princess Cruises who I have not heard from yet.

April 18, 2012 Update:  Here's Princess Cruises' official statement we received last night.  It's disappointing to received something like this 5 weeks after the incident:

"We’re aware of the allegations that Star Princess supposedly passed by a boat in distress that was carrying three Panamanian fishermen on March 10, 2012. At this time we cannot verify the facts as reported, and we are currently conducting an internal investigation on the matter.

We were very saddened to learn that two lives were lost aboard the boat, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families involved.

Princess Cruises is dedicated to the highest standards of seamanship wherever our ships sail, and it is our duty to assist any vessel in distress. We have come to the aid of many people at sea, and we will continue to do so."

April 18, 2012 Update:  NPR has a story today indicating that one of the passenger contacted Princess Cruises after the cruise to see what action was taken. She says a customer relations representative told her "the captain reported a different version of the incident — and that according to the captain's log, the ship had been passing through a fishing fleet."

Meredith says she was told that the Star Princess contacted the boat and "that they were asking the ship to move to the west, because they didn't want their nets to be damaged. And that the ship altered course. And they were waving their shirts because they were thanking the ship." 

Did Captain Edward Perrin falsify his logs?

One thing that readers should remember is that Princess is conducting what it calls an "internal" investigation.  This means that it is obviously not public.  It's a closed, secret investigation that no one will know about except Princess' management and lawyers.

The other disturbing although predictable thing is that that Bermuda, the flag state, admits that it has not even decided to conduct an investigation.  Remember, Princess incorporated in Bermuda and flies flags of convenience on its ships to avoid paying U.S. income taxes or comply with U.S. safety laws and labor / wage laws.  Bermuda has a poor record of investigating crimes and instances of dereliction of duty.    

KPIC in Oregon has a video interview with one of the cruise passengers who spotted the disabled boat and says that he is "heartbroken" by the deaths of the men he saw waving for help. 

April 19, 2012 Update:  Princess has a new PR plan.  

Princess changes course, admits error, says Captain didn't know and is "devastated."

Not as devastated as the family of the dead.

 

 

Other coverage:

Panama-Guide.com 

KTVZ Oregon Video of Judy Meredith - watch video

BBC Radio 4 - 9 minute interview of cruise passenger who spotted boat, and Jim Walker regarding maritime law (starts at 36:25 mark) 

Examiner "Princess Cruise Line accused of ignoring doomed Panamanian fishermen

Christopher Elliott "Did Princess ship ignore a vessel asking for help?"

Mail Online U.K.  "Another Costa calamity: Concordia's sister cruise liner 'ignored' passenger pleas to help stranded fishing boat... on which two of its three crew died"

Guardian newspaper U.K. (by Gwyn Topham who has also written about cruise lines' poor response to overboard passengers) 

TVN Noticias "Crucero ve a pescadores panameños varados y pasa de largo"

Sun Sentinel "Report: Carnival reviewing claims a Princess ship ignored distressed fishermen"

MSNBC: "Passengers say cruise ship ignored stranded fishing boat"

National Public radio (NPR): "Cruise Ship Didn't Aid Drifting Boat, Passengers Say"

KPIC (Oregon) Cruise Passenger Heartbroken after Princess Cruise Ship Doesn't Stop

Columbia newspaper Semana: "Crucero ve a pescadores panameños varados y pasa de largo"

Swedish newspaper: "Kryssningsfartyg uppges ha ignorerat nödställda fiskare

German newspaper:  "Kreuzfahrtschiff soll Fischer in Seenot ignoriert haben

Huffington Post: "Princess Cruise Ship Allegedly Ignores Fishing Vessel In Distress"  

Globe and Mail "Drifting fishermen die after luxury cruise liner sails past but doesn't stop"

 

Photo credits:

Top: Fifty Cents fishing boat - Jeff Gilligan

Middle:  Adrian Vasquez rescued - AP via Mail Online

Bottom: Star Princess AIS tracking - Don Winner @Panama_Guide

Cruise Ship Fires: An Open Letter to Cruise Critic's Editor Carolyn Spencer Brown

Richard LiffridgeCarolyn:

I read your recent article in the Conde' Nast Traveler entitled "Ironically, the Costa Allegra Fire Gives Me More Confidence in the Cruise Line." 

You write: "Carnival Cruise Lines and Princess Cruises had major fire outbreaks and not a life was lost."

Perhaps you forgot about my clients' husband and father, Mr. Richard Liffridge. Mr. Liffridge was sailing with his wife Vicki Liffridge when the fire broke out on the Princess cruise ship, the Star Princess.  The fire erupted on a balcony and burned through one hundred cabins.  As explained in the LA Times article "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters:"  

Victoria Liffridge recalled that she and her husband crawled along a passageway filled with thick, black smoke as flames shot above their heads.  It was "like being in an oven," she said.  The couple became separated.  'The last words I heard him say were, "Vicky, don't let me die, she said.  Victoria Liffridge crawled to safety, only to be told later that her husband had not survived. When she identified his body it was covered in soot from head to toe.

Mr. Liffridge left behind his wife, four children and many grandchildren.

After the fire, Princess Cruises lied to the public, saying that Mr. Liffridge died of a "cardiac arrest," as if his death and the fire were unrelated. This contrasted with his autopsy report that concluded he died in the soot-filled hallway as a direct result of the fire due to inhaling incombustible toxic particles.

Mr. Liffridge's daughter, Lynnette Hudson, was invited to Congress to testify about the ordeal and the shabby way that Princess Cruises treated her family after the fire.  

Princess Cruises Star Princess Cruise Ship Fire Carolyn, I realize that the cruise industry has launched an aggressive media campaign to try and salvage its tarnished image with a series of false "talking points" after the Costa Concordia capsizing and the Costa Allegra fire. I am well aware that the cruise lines are asking their travel agents and friends in the media to publish positive articles about the joys of cruising.  But lying to the public just perpetuates the cruise lines' reputation for dishonesty.

Educate yourself.  Take a moment and read the MAIB report on the fire that killed Mr. Liffridge.  Read our tribute to Mr. Liffridge and take a moment and look at some of the photographs of Mr. Liffridge and his family. Read our article: "Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires: Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?"

Remember, the motto of the Conde' Nast Traveler magazine is "truth in travel."  

Tell your readers the truth.  

Jim Walker

 

March 6, 2012 Update:  Although neither Ms. Spencer-Brown nor Conde Nast bothered to respond to us, today Conde Nast corrected the false article with the following statement: 

"*Correction: In the original publication of this article, we stated that no lives were lost in the ship fires mentioned.  That was incorrect.  One death was caused by the Star Princess fire, and per Princess Cruises, the cause of the death was smoke inhalation."

Today, Ms. Spensor-Brown was back to shilling for the cruise lines after a story was published about a NCL cruise line assistant cruise director who was arrested for child pornography and sexually abusing a 16 year old girl.  She decided to blame the parents:

"Carolyn Spencer Brown, from Cruise Critic, says typically cruises are very safe. "There's a lot of checks and balances along the way to keep people as safe as possible . . .  You're still responsible for your child."