Crystal: A Cruise Line with a Conscience? Try Again.

The headline in the Asbury Park Press stunned me - "Crystal: A luxury cruise line with a conscience."  

Surely this must be a joke I thought, given Crystal's dreadful environmental record of polluting the oceans and air.

But the article was serious. it talked about Crystal donating used furniture to a "Spanish organization that supports recovering addicts." It mentioned that it turned the guests' used toiletries into soap for Crystal Symphony Cruise Ship"800 impoverished families" over three years. It "contributed goods to charities in Africa." 

The article also mentioned that Crystal is refurbishing the staterooms aboard the Serenity later this year to install purification equipment, "creating the industry’s first hypoallergenic cabins for passengers with allergies and/or respiratory ills."

But neither the Serenity nor the Symphony have installed advanced sewage treatment systems, resulting in a grade of "F" for the company’s zero percent sewage treatment score. The Crystal cruise ships also burn dirty fuel, including burning cancer-causing sulphur fuel in port because Crystal has not invested in shore-side power hook-ups. Friends of the Earth has consistently awarded Crystal "F's" in how this cruise line treats the water and air.

In the eyes of environmentalists, Crystal is best known for an incident in 2003 when a Crystal ship dumped around 35,000 gallons of grey water, sewage, and bilge water in a marine sanctuary in Monterey Bay. It had promised earlier not to foul the marine sanctuary's waters.

According to the L.A. Times, Crystal Cruises said didn't have to report the incident to authorities because it broke no laws. It is "perfectly legal" under maritime laws to discharge even untreated wastewater more than 12 miles offshore, and the ship was 14 miles offshore at the time, said Crystal spokeswoman Mimi Weisband.

"We didn't break any law," Weisband said. "We did break a promise."

The city of Monterey thereafter banned all Crystal cruise ships for life.

When the Friends of the Earth gave Crystal Cruises an "F," Cruise spokesperson Weisband responded by saying that Crystal Cruises "deserved an A ... if not an A+."

The elite Conde Nast Traveler cruisers may consistently vote Crystal the "world’s best cruise line," but its the one cruise line that has never exhibited an environmental conscience. 

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0

Independence of the Seas Mooring Mishap Kills Two in St. Kitts

This morning we were contacted by passengers aboard Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas indicating that two dockworkers were killed when the cruise ship was leaving the port.

The passengers described the incident as occurring when the two dockworkers were in a small vessel trying to remove the last mooring lines. The Independence of the Seas' wake allegedly swamped the vessel with its azipods and threw the two men into the water. The vessel then allegedly slammed into the Celebrity Silhouette and overturned.

The two men were described as wearing life-vests, although one vest apparently became loose when the man was tossed into the water.

The passengers who we communicated with were critical that the Independence "launched rescue but not fast enough. Celebrity took 30 min after we launched rescue to respond."  They described a "lack of quick response and feeling of helplessness."

The incident occurred yesterday around 5:00 PM.  The Independence was delayed approximately 3 Independence of the Seas St Kittshours.

The incident has already been posted on social media sites.

The Times Caribbean Blog posted this on Facebook (and the photo to the right):  

"Eyewitnesses suggest that the Cruise Liner may have pulled out before the men had enough time to clear the berthing area. As a result the sea currents created by the massive cruise liner may have caused the smaller berthing boat to capsize and the men were apparently sucked below water by the current and drowned."

The news account also indicated that "the small boat was capsized when our rear azipods pushed us away from the dock. The two men where thrown overboard and never resurfaced, only one had on a life vest, the other man's life vest came off when he was thrown into the water. The capsized boat was then pushed into the back of the Silhouette. All of this viewed from my aft balcony, kinda puts a damper on an otherwise wonderful cruise. Very sad for the families of these two men.'" 

CNN iReport posted information (based on the Times Caribbean account) and a local newspaper in St. Kitts, SKNVibes, published an article as well.

The St. Kitts & Nevis Observer identified the two men. 

April 5 2014 UpdateLinesman expresses safety concerns following colleague's death.

If anyone has additional information or photos or video of the incident, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit: Times Caribbean

Brazilian Cruise Pollution Debate Continues: Sewage or Silt?

A week ago we discussed a controversy which erupted in Brazil when around 60 bathers on Turtle Beach in the beautiful resort town of Buzios became ill. Government officials suspected that a cruise ship discharged noxious liquids and waste into the waters. 

A newspaper in Brazil, Globo, covered the story and posted aerial photographs of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship with discolored water around it.  It looked to me that the muddy-looking water was probably sand and silt which had been churned up by the vessel's engines. We posted the photos on line. The issue nonetheless remained what made the bathers at the beach so sick?

Brazil took samples of the contaminated water at the beach, as well as samples from several cruise ships in the area. The test results were inconclusive. The cruise association in Brazil denies that any of the cruise ships discharged anything and maintains that all ships comply with international maritime standards addressing the discharge of waste water.

The controversy reported in the press has led to at least one cruise passenger coming forward to claim that other cruise ships may be fouling the waters in Brazil.

Globo reports that cruise passenger Jesus Alcinir, age 50, from Panama, was sailing on the MSC Orchestra with his family last November to Buzios. He observed what he believed was a nasty looking and terribly smelling liquid that seemed to leave the ship. He took a photograph which you can see below.

He told Globo: "I was watching the sea. That transparent color, that blue sea with green, when out of nowhere this spot that seemed to come out of our ship emerged. The smell was very strong at the time and I was upset to hear that it could be some fluid that would be polluting the environment."

A crew member said that because the ship just stopped and lowered an anchor, silt would have been disrupted and muddied the water.

Passenger Alcinar was unconvinced, particularly because of the strong smell. 

I suppose that the smell could have been from the muck and perhaps decomposing organic material like seaweed. I would also think that if the cruise ship was going to illegally open its bilges, it would do so at night while the ship was underway. 

No samples were taken of the water. 

Being accused of discharging waste in Brazilian waters in the last thing that MSC needs. Last December we posted a video of MSC crew members seemingly throwing garbage bags in the water near a marine sanctuary in Brazil. 

Sewage or silt? Join the discussion on our Facebook page.

MSC Orchestra Cruise Ship

Photo Credit: Jesus Alcinir via Globo

Governor Parnell Continues to Advance Dirty Cruise Industry's Interests

Governor Parnell and the pro-cruise pollution legislators in Alaska have some new talking points in their efforts to weaken the cruise line waste water restrictions. They say that its not the cruise sewage that will harm the state's image but their opponents' "hype" that easing the standards will result in "dirty water and terrible discharges."        

Putting aside for a moment the nasty spectacle of dumping partially treated sewage into the water, the fact is that cruise ship water treatment devices clearly do not treat all of the wastewater discharged in Alaskan waters in compliance with Alaska’s water quality standards regarding ammonia, as well as the heavy metals - copper, nickel and zinc.

Alaska Cruise Ship Pollution It's unhealthy and dangerous to release these heavy metals into the waters where they will find their way in the fish, particularly salmon. 

Three years ago, the cruise industry flat out threatened Governor Parnell that it would boycott Alaska unless he would agree to work with the cruise lines to avoid pollution regulations. Read Governor Parnell Gets Punked.

Instead of demanding better technologies to address this problem, as required by the 2006 initiatives, Governor is heading the state in the other direction where no efforts will be made to address the problems with heavy metals. Meanwhile, the sewage (whether partially treated or not) will continue to fill the Alaskan waters.   

A newspaper in Ketchikan explains that this is a huge problem given the enormous amount of sewage and toxic by-products which cruise ships will dump in Alaskan waters:

"About 30 cruise ships carrying a total of nearly one million people visit Alaska over a five month period. This result is over one billion gallons of cruise discharges being dumped into unknown areas of Alaska state waters every year."

The newspaper also points out that on January 29th, as the relaxed laws were being fast tracked by legislators, Princess Cruises was fined $20,000 (a slap on the wrist) when one of its cruise ships, the 2,590 passenger Golden Princess, discharged 66,000 gallons of chlorinated pool water into Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.  

Zinc, nickel and copper in the fish and chlorine in the water. Alaska is heading backwards.

Read our last article on these disturbing developments in Alaska:

The Dirty Alaskan Cruise Industry Just Got Dirtier

The Dirty Alaskan Cruise Industry Just Got Dirtier

In 2006, Alaskan citizens sent a clear message to the cruise industry that cruise ships could not treat the beautiful waters of Alaska like a toilet.  

Seven years ago Alaskan voters approved legislation that prohibited cruise ships from discharging "untreated sewage, treated sewage, graywater or other wastewaters in a manner that violates any applicable effluent limits or standards under state or federal law, including Alaska Water Quality Standards governing pollution at the point of discharge.” 

Alaska Salmon Fisheries - Cruise Ship PollutionThe Alaskan regulations strictly restricted the level of ammonia, copper, nickel and zinc.  As of 2009, cruise ships were routinely being caught violating the Alaska regulations.  In this chart, in 2009 alone, there were forty-one (41) violations of Alaska'a waster water and air emission laws by Celebrity, HAL, NCL, Princess, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean and Silverseas, with Carnival-owned Princess and HAL cruise ships being the greatest offenders. 

The Miami-based cruise industry is used to getting its way. Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean are used to dumping untreated sewage in the waters of powerless Caribbean countries. Most port nations and even most states in the U.S. where the cruise lines base their cruise ships have not enacted any waste water discharge regulations whatsoever.  

But Alaska was different,  It not only passed legislation that banned the nasty cruise line practice of opening the bowels of the huge ships into the state's waters but it took steps to levy a realistic head tax of $50 per passenger to offset the damage to Alaska's infrastructure caused by the massive cruise ships.

The cruise lines did not like Alaska's exercise of its state rights one bit. The cruise industry spent millions of dollars lobbying against waste water regulations. It attacked the green water scientists, removed the honest water experts from oversight panels, inserted cruise industry hacks, and bullied state officials and concerned citizens.  

Carnival led the charge. It threatened Alaskan Governor Parnell that it would pull its ships from Alaska and it sued the state along with other cruise lines to avoid the $50 head tax.

Alaskan Governor Parnell backed down and sent a message to the cruise industry that the state's water emission laws are negotiable. Alaska caved in and reduced its $50 head tax. Alaska began sliding down the slippery slope as the cruise lines increased their lobbying and threatened to boycott Alaska. 

The result today is that at Governor Parnell's urging, the House of Representatives just voted to essentially repeal all of the 2006 waster water initiatives. The debate is now moving to the Senate.

A repeal of the 2006 laws will be disastrous to the waters of Alaska.

Alaskan Cruise Ship - Pollution Waste WaterAs explained in this thoughtful blog, "a single cruise ship produces 210,000 gallons of sewage, over a million gallons of greywater, 130 gallons of hazardous wastes such as poisonous metals, and 25,000 gallons of oily bilge water in a single week-long cruise. There are 28 very large cruise ships which operate up to 150 days annually in Alaska. Such large quantities of pollution are a threat to Alaska’s critical fisheries." 

This results is approximately 1,064,448,000 gallons of sewage and wastewater being dumped into Alaska state waters every year. The really sinister part of the abandonment of the pollution laws is that Republicans rejected Democratic amendments which would have required disclosure of the location of sewage discharges and protected fisheries from sewage discharges.

The thought of the cruise industry dumping over a billion gallons of cruise ship crap into the salmon filled waters is really gross.  They can keep the locations secret too.  I hate to think of all of the norovirus-laden poop floating around with the fish.  But this is the reality of a cruise industry which projects itself as a steward of the seas but is actually the Alaskan waters' worst enemy.

 

Photo:

Salmon - earthjustice.com

Princess Cruises Fined for Dumping 66,000 Gallons of Chlorinated Water into Glacier Bay in Alaska

KTOO news station in Alaska reports today that the Environmental Protection Agency fined Princess Cruises $20,000 for dumping water from six swimming pools aboard the Golden Princess cruise ship into Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in 2011.

The EPA announced the fine against the cruise line yesterday.

Princess was forced to sign a consent agreement admitting responsibility and subjecting itself to a final court order. Princess admitted that it violated the Clean Water Act in May 2011 when it discharged Princess Cruises Pollution Glacier Bay Alaskamore than 66,000 gallons of pool water into the pristine waters of Glacier Bay.

Princess Cruises claims that a "software malfunction," on the Golden Princess, somehow caused all six of the pool valves to open. This dumped chlorinated water from all of the cruise ship’s pools as well as whirlpools into the national park and preserve.

The waste-water permits for large cruise ships prohibit the discharge of pool and spa water in national parks and refuges. 

The fine comes at a time when the Governor of Alaska is agreeing to roll back the strict water emission laws of Alaska as urged by the cruise industry

Princess Cruises has the worst environmental record in the Alaskan waters, and has been caught discharging illegal levels of waste water over the recent years.  Before the state of Alaska began passing strict environmental laws, the cruise industry openly dumped raw sewage and chemicals throughout the Alaskan waters.   

"Most Wanted" for Cruise Ship Pollution: Royal Caribbean Chief Engineer Michael Psomadakis - But Is He Really The Only Culprit?

Do you know this former Royal Caribbean crew member?

He's on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s "Most Wanted" List. Here's the story:

In 1993, Michael Evangelos Psomadakis was the chief engineer aboard RCCL's Nordic Empress cruise ship which routinely discharged oil into the water. But the Nordic Empress was no island to itself.  RCCL's fleet of ships was regularly dumping pollutants from Biscayne Bay here in Miami to the pristine waters in Alaska.

The pollution was right outside of the cruise executives' offices at the port of Miami all of the way to Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Pollution Alaska and back.  I can't imagine the abuse of the waters in Europe, Africa, and South America.

There were many Psomadakis's throughout the RCCL fleet of cruise ships.  

Psomadakis - like his employer Royal Caribbean - lied to the Coast Guard about the pollution. A big mistake. This was no Bush administration with its let's-trust-the-big-corporations-and-look-the-other-way mentality. The U.S. justice system, under the leadership of environmentalist Janet Reno, investigated Royal Caribbean and discovered that many RCCL cruise ships were dumping oil & chemicals throughout their routes. A nasty business. Ms. Reno caught the Royal Caribbean bad boys under the corporate leadership of CEO Richard Fain, who claimed to know nothing, with their proverbial pants down.   

Attorney General Reno slammed the cruise line, calling the cruise line "flim-flam" artists. She oversaw the imposition of penalties totaling $27,000,000 for engaging in a "fleet wide conspiracy . . . to save millions of dollars by dumping oily waste into the ocean," according to the the New York Times.

The case was prosecuted here in U.S. courts even though the cruise line claimed that the U.S. had no authority because the company was registered in Liberia and the cruise ship flew a flag of convenience in Liberia (and Liberia had already dismissed the case of course).

Psomadakis escaped FBI agents at a Miami hotel "simply by walking out another exit," as reported by the New York Times. He got away from the FBI and made it back to back to Greece all by himself?

At the end of the day, Royal Caribbean admitted it was a corporate felon, no only for the illegal discharges but for systematically lying to the Coast Guard and Attorney General's office for years. The New York Times article covered the story

If you are interested in what the environment would be like without the U.S. government regulating a renegade Liberian-incorporated-corporation like Royal Caribbean, take a read of the New York Times article here.   

The problem was that Royal Caribbean didn't change it's ways. After the first two million-dollar-fines, Royal Caribbean continued to illegally discharge oil, waste and fecal matter everywhere.  The illegal discharges even increased, reflecting the arrogance of the Liberian holier-than-thou corporation. The cruise line responded with a bogus marketing campaign claiming that it was an environmental steward Royal Caribbean Save the Waves - Cruise Ship Pollution of the seas.  It adopted a PR campaign that it was "Saving the Waves" (see photo) by encouraging its employees (and guests) not to throw any garbage overboard.

But while the crew members wore their "Save the Waves" buttons above deck and served passengers cocktails, Royal Caribbean engineers below the decks fabricated secret by-pass values to dump everything from raw sewage to chemicals used in the photography labs directly into the ocean.  Do you really believe that the cruise executives didn't know?

Fifteen years later, CEO Fain and President Goldstein are still at the helm of the cruise line. Fall guy Psomadakis is on the lam. Yeah, an engineer from Greece is the real culprit behind the wide spread fleet-wide dumping and defiance of the U.S government. 

The most recent news from this cruise lines?  Royal Caribbean will soon deliver us another ostentatious, Oasis-class, bunker-fuel burning, polluting, gigantic cruise ship, ordered by the least environmentally friendly, flim-flam cruise line in the industry.    

Deadly Cruise Ship Emissions Equal Sulfur Dioxide Spewed From 13,100,000 Cars A Day, But Cruise Lines Fight Air Pollution Laws

Five years ago, the Bush administration proposed legislation prohibiting the use of maritime fuels with high sulfur content within 200 miles of the U.S. The Obama administration had the bill passed into law. In turn, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) announced that it planned to create a buffer zone around the U.S. and Canada where ships would be prohibited from burning the world's dirtiest transportation fuel - bunker fuel.

The new regulations are suppose to go into effect shortly.  The container shipping industry states that it intends to meet the new standards. But the cruise industry, which vigorously opposed the legislation and IMO regulations in the first place, states that it cannot comply with the pollution laws.

The health risks posed by the cruise industry's use of high sulfur fuels are enormous.  I published an Bunker Fuel - Cruise Ship Pollutionarticle years ago called "Bunker Fuel - Nasty Tar Sludge!  which explains how bunker fuel - which is a tar-like substance - is the nastiest and most toxic fuel on planet earth.  It is unconscionable to burn it.

Today the Washington Post puts the issue into greater perspective:

"The gleaming white Sapphire Princess docked in this deep-water port (Whittier Alaska) this month, unloading its passengers and taking on another 2,600 guests headed first to Glacier Bay and, eventually, Vancouver, B.C. Every day of that trip the cruise ship — whose web site invites passengers to see Alaska’s “pristine landscapes” — will emit the same amount of sulfur dioxide as 13.1 million cars, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and as much soot as 1.06 million cars .  .  .

The new rule requires large ships to cut the sulfur content of their fuel, which now averages 2.7 percent, down to 1 percent next month; in 2015 it must drop to 0.1 percent.

The EPA estimates that the new rules will avoid between 12,000 and 31,000 premature deaths each year by 2030, with the benefits outweighing the costs 95 to 1. Put another way, when the stricter limit goes into effect in 2015 it will be akin to taking 12.7 million cars off the road per day and eliminating their sulfur dioxide emissions, or the soot from 900,000 cars. Air pollutants from burning ship fuel off the Pacific Coast contribute to lung disease and affect air quality as far away as North Dakota, according to agency officials."

The cruise lines (and curiously enough, the State of Alaska) have launched  what the Post calls a "counter-offensive" against the pollution law.  

According to the Post, once the new law is fully implemented and the additional costs of the cleaner fuel are passed on to the consumer. cruising will cost about $7 per day more.  The cruise industry claims that it could add as much as $19.46 a day per passenger.

The cruise lines claim that the cleaner fuel will hurt their business.  The Republican lawmakers in Alaska, under intense cruise line lobbying, profess that the new law is bad for tourism. When cruise ships are required to burn .1% sulfur fuel in 2015, cruising may cost $50 to $100 a week more. But the EPA claims that tens of thousands of lives will be saved each year with annual benefits in reduced health care expenses between $47 billion and $110 billion. 

The cruise industry has tried to use the court system to avoid air pollution laws before.  Last year,the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the cruise and shipping industries, holding that the state of California can regulate the cruise industry and require vessels that call on the state’s ports to use cleaner fuel.  

The cruise industry and its trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), have a paradoxical relationship with the air and water around their cruise ships.  They market themselves as environmentally friendly but, in truth, they are hardly the steward of the air and seas. They are the single greatest threat to the clean air and water of Alaska.

Consider the photo below of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in Alaska, filling the bay up with toxic fumes from bunker fuel.   

 

Bunker Fuel - Alaska - Pollution 

 

Chart credit:  Washington Post

Photo credit: Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas cruise ship -  AlaskanLibrarian's Flickr photostream

Did NCL Hide Evidence of Cancerous Drinking Water From Passengers?

The Sunday Times of London published a disturbing story today regarding paint used on cruise ships and other vessels which could leach into the ship's water tanks.  The newspaper reports that the potable water supplies may have been contaminated and posed a cancer risk to thousands of cruise passengers.  

The paint could leach the toxin acrylonitrile, described as a tumor-causing probable carcinogen, Acrylonitrile - Cruise Ship Waterinto the cruise ship's drinking water. 

After an inspector, Brian Bradford, discovered the problem with the paint, the paint manufacturer, Danish corporation Hempel, successfully sought an injunction against Mr. Bradford to keep him quite.    

The New York Post picked up the story today, and published an article "Cancer Scare Over Cruise Ships’ Suspect H2O."  The Post refers to the Sunday Times "bombshell report" and raises the alarming question whether "thousands of New Yorkers may have been exposed to cancer-causing drinking water aboard a flotilla of luxury cruise liners." 

The Post refers to a "defective paint"  used inside water tanks on many ships, some owned by cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line as well as other companies.

The articles report that Hempel managed to keep the danger secret due to a "super-injunction" which effectively gagged Mr. Bradford from blowing the whistle on the paint manufacturer and the cruise lines.  The articles state that Mr. Bradford was a paint inspector who was overseeing the repainting of water tanks on the Norwegian Dawn and the Norwegian Star. 

Cruise Water Gag OrderThe Post states that "Bradford discovered a black residue on tanks, told Norwegian Cruise Line about it, and was axed."  Mr. Bradford remains muzzled for speaking out about the danger, but the Sunday Times apparently is not bound by the injunction.   

Norwegian Cruise Line issued a statement, claiming that: “the drinking water on Norwegian Star and Norwegian Dawn has always been and remains safe.”

We reported on the problem with the allegedly toxic cruise ship water last March in our article Did Cruise Industry Hide Evidence of Toxic Water Tanks?   Our article was based on an article which was published in the Telegraph in London.  At that time we raised the issue of what cruise ships had the Hempel paint and which cruise lines knew of the problem.  

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein also published an interesting editorial on this problem - Is Drinking Water Safe on Cruise Ships?  

It's interesting to see the London based newspapers taking the lead reporting on such a public hazard involving the cruise industry based here in Miami. 

When will the major U.S. media focus on this important story?

 

Photo credit:  Top - heraldsun.com.au

Cruise Ship Passenger Dropped in Frigid Water Dies

Sad news.  Cruise passenger Janet Richardson, who was dropped from off of a stretcher while rescue staff tried to transfer her from the Ocean Countess cruise ship to a rescue vessel, died in the hospital in the U.K.

Ms. Richardson suffered from some medical problems and apparently was experiencing internal bleeding when a decision was made to take her to hospital by a rescue vessel.  We have reported on the disastrous circumstances which thereafter followed in prior articles.

Janet Richardson Cruise ShipThe news sources we have read indicate that she remained in the freezing waters from 4 to 8 minutes.  An autopsy may indicate whether her death was due to her illness or the shock of the fall and exposure to freezing water.

According to the U.K. press, Ms. Richardson's husband, George, said: “Janet died peacefully on Thursday night in the Cumberland infirmary with her family and friends around her."

The cruise ship was operated by Cruise and Maritime voyages.  A spokesperson for the cruise operator told the U.K. press: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the richardson ­family at this sad time.”

We first learned of Ms. Richardson's passing when her niece left a message on our YouTube site which has a video regarding the incident:

"This is my auntie .  .  .  such a lovely kind and very caring person who will be greatly missed, we all love you so much  . . ." 

 

Photo credit:  Patrick Hill via BBC News 

Video Update on Botched Cruise Passenger Rescue

SkyNews has an interesting update on the situation involving  cruise passenger Janet Richardson who was dropped from off of a stretcher while trying to transfer from the Ocean countess cruise ship to a rescue vessel into -3 Celsius waters off the coast of Norway (there is a reason why I live in South Florida).  Regrettably, Ms. Richardson does not seem to be improving.

We have written prior article about this incident: Cruise Passenger Dropped into Freezing Waters During Botched Rescue and yesterday we posted photographs of the terrifying ordeal. 

 

 

Video:  SkyNews

  

Cruise Passenger Dropped into Freezing Waters During Botched Rescue - Continued

Today, a number of newspapers in the U.K. published articles about an incident we reported on April 6th - Cruise Passenger Dropped into Freezing Waters During Botched Rescue - involving a seriously ill British passenger from the Ocean Countess cruise ship who was inadvertently dumped into freezing waters off of the coast of Norway by the crew of a rescue vessel.  Our article was based on a news account from the U.K.'s Champion newspaper.     

The rescue vessel and cruise ship drifted apart as the passenger, 73 year old Janet Richardson, was in a precarious position between the two vessels, causing the crew to dump the passenger from the stretcher into the icy waters. 

The most remarkable photographs (taken by Patrick Hill) are found in the U.K.'s Mail Online, showing the sequence of events as the crew attempts to transfer the stretcher between the vessels (top), the passenger in the water after being dumped (middle), and the vessels begin to leave the passenger behind (bottom).

As we mentioned in our prior article, the passenger remained in the water for approximately eight minutes before being finally pulled into the rescue vessel.  It is extraordinarily negligent for the passenger not to have been thrown a rope immediately or for her not to have been fitted with a rope attached to a life-vest, not to mention being dumped from the stretcher into the water in the first place.  

Ocean Countess Rescue  

Ocean Countess Rescue  

Ocean Countess Rescue

Photo credit:  Patrick Hill via U.K.'s Mail Online

Did Cruise Industry Hide Evidence of Toxic Water Tanks?

The Telegraph newspaper in the U.K. contains an interesting story today about the use of gag orders by large corporations in England to prevent the public from learning of potential safety hazards.     

Called "hyper-injunctions," the gag orders are used to protect a corporation's reputation by barring an individual from discussing embarrassing information which may affect a corporation's business and legal interests.  

Cruise Ship Water Tank - Potable Water - Toxic?The newspaper reports that  a hyper-injunction was obtained at the High Court in 2006 which prevented an individual from "saying that paint used in water tanks on passenger ships could break down and release potentially toxic chemicals." 

The injunction barred the person from discussing the case with members of Parliament, journalists and lawyers, along with the US Coast Guard and any ship owners, and also forbids any speculation linking chemicals in the paint with the illness of any individuals.

According to the Telegraph, the unidentified individual was given a two-week suspended sentence after talking to a lawyer about whether he would take the case.  A U.K. politician commented on the situation saying: 

"What we have, therefore, is passenger vessels trundling around the world with potentially toxic substances being released into the tanks.  One of those who worked on the tanks collapsed as a result.

From a health and safety point of view, we want to think that the water we are drinking is safe and that it will not cause health problems.  The difficulty in this case is that we do not know.

What we do know is that corporations used the massive force of the law to gag an individual and truss him up so much that he could not really challenge the process."

The article does not mention who obtained the gag order.  Did a cruise line use the "hyper-injunction" to suppress information from a former employee?

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

November 13, 2011 Update:  Looks like NCL and Royal Caribbean cruise ships contained the paint in question.  The terminated paint inspector was Brian Bradford.  You can read about the new information here.

 

Will Cruise Ships Use Water Guns Against Pirates?

Pirate attacks against cruise ships have occurred and will continue to occur in the future.  It's a subject we have written about:  Cruise Line Liability for Injuries to Passengers and Crew Members Caused by Pirate AttacksAre Cruise Lines Taking Adequate Steps to Protect Passengers from Pirate Attacks?, and Somali Pirates - A Threat To Cruise Ships? 

A marine expert warned that the successful capture of a cruise ship with thousands of passengers on board would provide Somali pirates with “the mother of all ransoms.”

Cruise ships have used a wide variety of measures against pirates, including Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD) which emit powerful sound waves. 

A  company Security Alliance For Effective Solutions, LLC (SAFE) has designed a new device designed to prevent pirates from boarding ships. Called the "Nemesis 5000," the revolving water gun shoots an 80mph “360-degree curtain of water” to blast the pirates and keep them from using harpoon ladders to scale the side of vessels. The water blast is twice the blast as a high pressure fire hose.

The Express newspaper in the U.K. reports that at least 28 vessels and more than 500 hostages are currently being held by Somali pirates who netted more than $120 million in ransom payments last year. 
 

 

 

Cruise Ship Norovirus - Something in the Water?

For those of you who read Cruise Law News know that I report regularly on the numerous norovirus cases which plague the cruise industry.  I am rather fascinated by the cruise lines' PR departments which always blame norovirus outbreaks on the passengers for bringing the virus aboard, rather than contaminated food and water which infect the passengers.

Norovirus - Cruise Ship - Contaminated Water - Pig - VeraAccording to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whereas "person to person" transmission of norovirus has been documented, "norwalk gastroenteritis is transmitted by the fecal-oral route via contaminated water and foods."  The FDA indicates that contaminated water is one of the most likely causes of norovirus.  The FDA reports that "water is the most common source of outbreaks and may include water from municipal supplies, well, recreational lakes, swimming pools, and water stored aboard cruise ships.

The question I have always wondered is how does the water become infected with norovirus?

So I was rather exciting after receiving an email yesterday from a kindred spirit from Britain, Mr. Pat Gardiner, who combines a maritime background with a keen interest in zoonotic disease.  Mr. Gardiner referred me to a recent study from Swedish researchers finding a direct correlation between pig effluent and water sources contaminated with norovirus.  Mr. Gardiner agreed to be a guest blogger, and for that my little blog is richer. 

Be sure to read Mr. Gardiner's rather fascinating background at the end of the article.    

Norovirus - Something in the Water - By Pat Gardiner:  

The constant outbreaks of Norovirus on cruise ships are bringing a powerful industry to its knees, quite aside from the distress and risk to the passengers.  Yet, new evidence yesterday suggests the problem may be ashore and entering the ship with the water supply.

Eureka moments do not come from thin air.  They come from relevant, sometimes diverse experience in the right place at the right time.  Few people can have had the delights of a career in Britain’s most successful seaports, retiring early to raise livestock in an area plagued by constant animal epidemics.

The writer has had a ten-year battle with the British authorities over the appalling handling of Pig - Water - Cruise Ship Norovirusanimal disease spreading to the human population.  Years ago, he noticed an apparent link between the locations of severe animal disease and the schedules of cruise ships. The ships were calling at ports worldwide in areas where pig disease was rife.

Norovirus is a disease shared between humans and pigs.

Few passengers, once on board, give a thought to the source of the water they use to wash and brush their teeth.  Every cruise ship fills with water, before, during and after every voyage at pretty well every port of call. That water comes from the public supply.

So a ship leaving the UK for a cruise to the Norwegian Fjords would take water from the same country as the passengers embarking – Harwich for example. Vessels calling at Harwich were some of the first to encounter norovirus at the same time as the pigs in the area were getting ill. Now, even ferries from the Scottish mainland to the Scottish islands are becoming infected.

For years, the mechanism by which the norovirus reached the ship baffled the writer.

Smuggling of live pigs and bacon sandwiches on board seemed unlikely for passengers bent on a holiday of glamour and luxury.

Then yesterday the ultra clean Swedes provided the missing link. They found norovirus in the sludge intrinsic to their public water system.

Pat Gardiner - Pigs - Pathogens - Water - Cruise ShipsWe know that pig effluent can contaminate the surface water and the water supply. Incidents are frequent despite the best efforts of everyone. We know that pigs can carry norovirus.  

We also know that, like everyone else, the Swedes have had outbreaks of various pig diseases.

If the water authority do not look for norovirus or do not detect it, the pathogen will be pumped straight into the cruise ship: directly into the ideal environment for spread to a usually elderly population in an enclosed area.

Any vessel calling at, or sailing via, ports in pig farming country is at risk.

It would be grand to think that the writer has repaid the debt of a satisfying career in shipping by helping to solve one of the most damaging problems imaginable, both to shipping and their customers.

Testing the water is cheap and easy, and the ship owners can do it tomorrow.

 

About Pat Gardiner:

Mr. Gardiner was too modest to provide me with a biography, but I managed to piece together his background from newspapers and information on line. 

Mr Gardiner started out in the maritime shipping business in the 1960's, working for Blue Star Line in Britain.  He rose to the top of the ship and line agencies in Britain's premier port of Felixstowe.  Pat Gardiner - Maritime Shipping  He has enjoyed a long standing relationship with the U.S., which includes working with what is now the U.S. Sealift Command. He managed his own companies (which acted as agent for U.S. Line among others).  He is a well known figure in the U.K. port and shipping business, and also wrote for newspapers about the shipping and port business.  He twice sold his group of successful shipping and freight businesses, and retired from the maritime freight business while he was still in his forties.   

After his retirement, Mr. Gardiner developed an interest in animal health and zoonotic disease.  In the process, he developed an appropriate distrust of the U.K. veterinary services.

He is the author of two blogs - Animal-Epidemics and  Go Self Sufficient.

Mr. Gardiner is a pancreatic cancer survivor.  He also survived a unsuccessful campaign to ruin his reputation by members of the pig farming and vet industries. 

In 2005, Mr. Gardiner drove across the U.S. in 2005 with his wife.  They are pictured above at my favorite vacation destination, a U.S. national park (Grand Canyon).  Mr. Gardiner can be reached at: patgardiner@btinternet.com 

 

Additional information:

The "Gardiner Hypothesis:"  Mutated Circovirus in pigs, the consequences of being treated with heavy use of antibiotics, is followed by MRSA in pigs and then MRSA and C.Diff epidemics take off in humans. A circovirus mutation in Britain in 1999 was covered up. The resulting epidemics spread first around the UK, then to Canada and from there, most recently, to the United States.

Learn a new word:

"Zoonotic diseases" - diseases caused by infectious agents that can be transmitted between, or are shared by, animals and humans.

Read Other Cruise Law News Blogs About Cruise Ship Norovirus:

Norovirus On Royal Caribbean's Jewel Of The Seas?   

Centers for Disease Control: "Shut Mercury Cruise Ship Down!"

"Cruise Ship Sickness" - Is Norovirus In The Food and Water?

U.S. to Block Arrival of Queen Victoria After Norovirus Outbreak?

Cruise Ship Norovirus - Clean the Damn Toilets!

Best in Law Blogs: 

Mr. Gardiner's article won a top 10 award for Best in Law Blogs today as part of Lexblog's 3,000 blogs.

Thanks Pat!  

 

 Credits:

Photographs          Pat Gardiner

Diagram            Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, Virginia Tech

What's Up With The Water on Carnival's Liberty Cruise Ship?

Obtaining accurate information from the cruise industry is difficult.  Whenever passengers have a complaint, the cruise lines either ignore them or the cruise lines' customer relations departments send them a nonsensical letter several weeks later dismissing their complaints or offering a 25% on a future cruise.  This often infuriates the passengers who have no intention of ever sailing on a particular cruise line again and are seeking specific information to their legitimate inquiries. 

There are websites which provide an excellent source of information that the cruise lines don't want you to know.  One is CruiseJunkie, run by Professor Ross Klein in Canada.  Dr. Klein tracks safety issues, environmental concerns, and passenger and crew complaints. He has testified several times regarding cruise ship crime before our U.S. Congress.

Carnival Cruise Ship Liberty - WaterThis morning I read an interesting article on CruiseJunkie regarding a passenger's complaint that the water in the sink and toilet was brown and disgusting looking.  The passenger was a cancer survivor and was concerned whether the water may have been toxic.  Photos of the sink and toilet are courtesy of CruiseJunkie.  Take a look. 

Gross!

But the purpose of writing about this is not just to gross you out.  It is to demonstrate how cruise lines respond to concerns like this.

The shipboard officers and crew offered no assistance or explanation, and would not even send a few complimentary bottles of water to the cabin.  And when the passenger returned home and wrote to Carnival, the cruise line's "Guest Care" team sent what the passenger accurately characterized as a "nonsensical letter" stating "Designing memorable trips is the heart of our business . . . Great food and service . . . will create wonderful memories . . ."  The letter ended with no explanation regarding the source of the contaminated water but regretted that the passenger "felt let down."

The passenger contacted the Florida Division of Consumer Services, the US Public Health Service, and the Federal Maritime Commission - all of whom informed him that they have no regulatory authority over the cruise line industry.

This is what happens when the cruise industry is unregulated and is not obligated to report incidents to health or safety regulators.  Cruise lines like Carnival are not forthcoming with truthful information.  Whether it's the senior PR spokesperson or a low level clerk in the customer services' department, they will write a letter or issue a press statement treating the U.S. public like idiots.  

So the mystery of the disgusting water on Carnival's Liberty will remain, like many disturbing incidents on cruise ships, a mystery.    

Carnival Cruise Ship - Liberty - Water

Photographs courtesy CruiseJunkie.com

May 3, 2010 Update:

This is not the first time passengers have complained about the water on Carnival's Liberty cruise ship.  A reader brought the following YouTube video to our attention.  Take a look: 

 

 

 

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Earth Day - Spotlight on Cruising - A Dirty Business

Bunker Fuel - Air Pollution - Cruise ShipsCaitlin Burke returns as a guest blogger today to discuss environmental issues and the cruise industry.  We have written many articles about cruise ships and the problem with pollution

Black water, gray water, oily bilge water, sewage, bunker fuel, smokestack exhaust . . . all discharging and billowing out of cruise ships and into our ocean and air. 

According to Friends of the Earth, a large cruise ship (the largest of which can carry over 5,000 passengers and crew) on a one week voyage is estimated to generate 210,000 gallons (or 5 large swimming pools) of human sewage and 1 million gallons (33 more swimming pools) of gray water (water from sinks, baths, showers, laundry, and galleys). Cruise ships also generate large volumes of oily bilge water, sewage sludge, garbage and hazardous wastes.

The few international regulations which apply to cruise ship discharges and emissions are archaic and are ignored by the cruise industry with little consequence.  

A few states, like Alaska, have strict state guidelines. But take a look at Cruise Junkie’s website and see how often cruise lines "comply" with waste water restrictions. A quick browse of the list leads to the conclusion that cruise ships are not so eco-friendly.

Oceania reports that "cruise ships are one of the largest sources of unregulated ocean pollution and exempt from the discharge permitting program of the Clean Water Act, the nation’s preeminent water pollution control law." Oceania further reports that "this means that the monitoring, inspection, reporting, and enforcement provisions of this law do not apply to cruise ships ... As a result, the public has no way of knowing whether or not they are following their corporate environmental policies."

The cruise industry’s practices has the attention of Congress. Senator Dick Durbin and Congressman Sam Farr are on a mission to change the cruise industry. In October 2009, these Earth Day - Cruise PollutionCongressmen introduced two bills in both Houses of Congress to prevent cruise ships from discharging raw (untreated) sewage in U.S. coastal waters. Congressman Farr released a statement that "laws currently allowing cruise lines to dump untreated sewage three miles from the shore endangers public health, the environment and the economy."

Senator Durbin introduced "Durbin’s Bill," which will extend the Clean Water Act to regulate cruise ship wastewater. Congressman Farr introduced an almost identical bill. 

Both bills are commonly referred to as the Clean Cruise Ship Act.

In honor of Earth Day, I encourage you to do some research regarding the cruise industry’s practices of discharging waste and emitting bunker fuel particles.  Support the Clean Cruise Ship Act.  Make certain that you do your part to protect our waters and the air we breath.

"Generations come and generations go, but the Earth is forever."

Cruise Ships - Slick Marketing - Serious Pollution

For additional information, watch the Friends of the Earth Video "Investigating Cruise Ship Pollution."  

 

Credits:

Cruise Ship Cartoon      Shields via earthIsland.org and Campaign to Safeguard America's Waterways

Smokestack                  ScienceDaily.com

 

"Cruise Ship Sickness" - Is Norovirus In The Food and Water?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports numerous outbreaks of norovirus on cruise ships operated by Celebrity Cruises, Cunard, Holland American Lines, and Royal Caribbean. 

Every time there is an outbreak, the cruise lines blame the passengers who board the cruise ships.  The media picks up in this theme and often reports that the problem is not with the cruise ships but the passengers who board the ships already infected with norovirus.  For example, in a recent article in the New York Times Travel Section "Stomach Bug Hits Cruise Ships," respected journalist Michelle Higgins writes " . . . the contaminated ships have since been disinfected  . . .  but Norovirus - Cruise Ship - Contaminated Water?such measures can’t prevent a sick passenger from coming aboard and infecting others."  Ms. Higgins suggests that " the best defense is simple: wash your hands."

Unfortunately, the issue is not so simple.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whereas "person to person" transmission of norovirus has been documented, "norwalk gastroenteritis is transmitted by the fecal-oral route via contaminated water and foods."

Contaminated Water Supplies On Cruise Ships?

The FDA indicates that contaminated water is one of the most likely causes of norovirus.  The FDA reports that "water is the most common source of outbreaks and may include water from municipal supplies, well, recreational lakes, swimming pools, and water stored aboard cruise ships.

So whereas you always hear reports of extra cleaning of the bathrooms and cabins on infected cruise ships, there is never a mention of whether the potable water is tested and the results of the testing.

Contaminated Food Supplies On Cruise Ships?

In addition to water supplies on cruise ships being a potential source of the virus, food supplies on cruise ships can also sicken the passengers.

The FDA reports that "shellfish and salad ingredients are the foods most often implicated in norwalk outbreaks. Ingestion of raw or insufficiently steamed clams and oysters poses a high risk for infection with Norwalk virus. Foods other than shellfish are contaminated by ill food handlers."

It would be interesting to determine the job positions of the crew members infected with norovirus.  For example, the CDC reports that sixty-nine crew members were reported ill on Celebrity's Mercury and Millennium cruise ships during recent cruises.  How many of these crewmembers were cooks, waiters or food handlers?  

Norovirus - Cruise Ship - Contaminated Food?The issue of eating oysters and other shellfish on cruise ships presents a double whammy.  Cruise ships dump sewage 12 miles from shore, and the fecal material can contaminate shellfish which filter-feed.  Both cruise passengers and people ashore can then be infected by eating contaminated shellfish. 

Uncertainty Regarding Cause of Virus and Transmitting Agent

Although the CDC tries to determine the "causative agent" of the outbreak, this means that they are trying to determine the nature of the pathogen (i.e., whether it is norovirus or some other virus).  But the CDC does not report whether the virus came from a person boarding the cruise ship or, the more likely scenario if the FDA is correct, from contaminated food and water on the cruise ship.

The issue arises where do the cruise lines obtain their potable water?  From U.S. based vendors or from the Caribbean islands?  What testing is done at the ports before the water is brought aboard?  Where do the food products come from?  Is any of the food inspected by the FDA before it is loaded on the cruise ships?  

The CDC reports that around 600 passengers became ill on Celebrity's Mercury cruise ship on the last two cruises alone.  Are we to believe that all 600 people simply failed to wash their hands?  Or is there something in the food and water? 

Cruise lines should be required to publicly report the test results of the cruise ship's water samples, so that the U.S. public can determine the true cause of cruise ship illnesses.

If contaminated water is the culprit, all of the external cleaning of cruise ship surfaces is not going to solve the problem.   

Additional Information: 

Passengers can track the reported outbreaks on the CDC web page which tracks "Outbreak Updates for International Cruise Ships."  Not all norovirus outbreaks are required to be reported to the CDC and the CDC website is incomplete. 

A good source for additional information is found on "Illness Outbreaks on Cruise ships."  We have reported on numerous cases of cruise line illnesses in prior articles