newspaper in the Bahamas recently covered the news regarding Miami federal district judge Patricia Seitz threatening to temporarily ban Carnival-owned cruise ships from calling on U.S. ports.

The Tribune newspaper in Nassau points out that Carnival is building what it describes as a $100-million mega cruise port in Grand Bahama, and the company “promised it would not hurt the island’s fragile environment.” Carnival is reportedly leasing 329 acres of Bahamian land in an area known as Sharp Rock in East Grand Bahama, which the newspaper describes as an “eco-sensitive zone.” The Tribune writes that Carnival executive Giora Israel (Carnival Corp.’s Senior Vice President of Global Port & Destination Development) said the company is allegedly “big on protecting the environment.” She promised that “Carnival would not harm the environment during the construction phase, and would preserve 110 acres as a natural wetland.”

The Bahamian newspaper raised the issue, in so many words, whether Carnival can be trusted at this point? The newspaper discussed several examples of Carnival’s recent environmental crimes, including dumping gray water into Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park.  This involved the Carnival owned Westerdam, operated by Holland America Line, which illegally dumped 26,000 gallons of gray water into Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska in September of  2018 and thereafter failed to immediately report the discharge.

While the Bahamian newspaper refers to the fouling of the pristine waters of Alaska, amazingly it does not mention the fact that Carnival was also polluting the beautiful waters of the Bahamas.

As the Miami Herald reported yesterday, cruise ships owned by Carnival Corporation illegally dumped more than 500,000 gallons of treated sewage and 11,000 gallons of food waste mixed with plastics, aluminum and other physical objects into the ocean during its first year on probation. The majority of the illegal dumping took place in the waters of the Bahamas.

The Tribune vaguely refers to the Carnival Elation which was discharging plastics and other non-food items overboard in December of 2018.  Although the reports submitted by the parties do not mention the location of this illegal discharge, the fact of the matter is that the Carnival Elation was regularly sailing from Jacksonville to numerous locations in the Bahamas, including Nassau, Freeport and Princess Cay in December of 2018. It continues to do so today.

As covered by my previous article, Carnival pled guilty to pollution and is currently being monitored by a Third Party Auditor (TPA) which submits reports to the Court.

The Government’s Quarterly Status Report, dated April 8, 2019, stresses that the Carnival Elation “knowingly and deliberately” discharged plastic items from the ship, which it characterized as “one of the most significant violations of probation.”  It constitutes a violation of MARPOL Annex V and potential felony violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.  The government auditor on the Elation informed the Carnival environmental officer that “plastic and other non-food items were mixed with the vessel’s food waste and that the garbage was not being properly segregated.” However, Carnival reportedly took no remedial measures and subsequently discharged the waste with the knowledge that it contained plastic waste. (This is undisputed by Carnival).

The Government explained to the Court that plastic pollution is likely the “most widespread pollution event adversely impacting the marine environment. The adverse impact is extensive and tragic. Virtually all species of marine wildlife, many of which are threatened or endangered, including seabirds, cetaceans (e.g., whales and dolphins), and sea turtles ingest plastic and then die of starvation because it clogs their stomachs. Plastic pollution in the ocean is of epidemic proportion and has the potential to threaten the health of the oceans, coral reefs, food safety and tourism.”

The photograph above to the left shows a “food waste chute” on a Carnival ship with clumps of food mixed with plastic, silverware and bottle caps. The photo was sent to this office by a Carnival crew member who wishes to remain anonymous. The photo shows how food and non-food items are routinely mixed together and then thrown into the chute to be dumped into the water.

The Government also referred to several other Carnival owned ships which discharged plastic and other non-food items overboard. These governmental filings state that the items included “plastic straws, plastic knives, rubber bands, plastic corn on the cob holders, broken plastic cups, paper clips, aluminum bottle caps, aluminum foil wrappers,” and other items. The Government believes that Carnival’s problems remain “ongoing” and “systemic” in nature.

The filings by Princess and the Court Appointed Monitor (CAM) also discussed another incident in November 2018 when the Carnival Conquest unlawfully discharged approximately 66,000 gallons of ballast water in the waters of the Bahamas.  (It does not appear that the Bahamian newspaper realized that this also took place in the Bahamas). In this incident, a Carnival bridge officer reportedly offered to fabricate documents in order to cover up the illegality of the discharge by changing the time and location, so that it would appear to have been in an area where such discharges were allowed. The CAM informed the Court that the unlawful discharge occurred in “a prohibited area where the defendant has previously made other illegal discharges from multiple vessels.”

CAM’s First Annual Report includes other references to illegal discharges in Bahamian waters:

  • “Between June 4-27, 2017, the Carnival Elation discharged approximately 1,270 of treated sewage and 22 cubic meters of food waste in Bahamian Archipelagic waters in violation of MARPOL . . . “
  • “. . .  on June 15, 2017,  the Carnival Conquest, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Magic, and Carnival Vista made prohibited discharges of sewage and food waste in Bahamian Archipelagic waters.”
  • “. . . on November 27, 2017, the Carnival Vista discharged cleaning chemicals in Bahamian Archipelagic waters . . .”

The Court so far has permitted the filing of only CAM’s report regarding Carnival’s first year of pollution. The 2018-2019 report undoubtedly shows additional illegal discharges and pollution violations.

The Bahamas is a flag state where many hundreds of cruise ships are registered. The majority of cruise ships owned by Royal Caribbean fly the flag of the Bahamas in order to avoid U.S. income taxes as well as wage/labor law and safety regulations of the U.S.  The Bahamas essentially has no mechanism to enforce international pollution laws when ships flying the flag of the Bahamas pollute the waters of the Bahamas. Carnival flags at least five of its ships in the Bahamas, including the Carnival Fascination, Carnival Imagination, Carnival Inspiration, Carnival Sensation and Carnival Triumph. (The majority of the Carnival owned ship such as the Carnival Elation and the Carnival Conquest mentioned above are registered in Panama, so that Carnival can avoid U.S. taxes, labor laws and safety regulations. Like the Bahamas, Panama has little interest in enforcing international pollution regulations such as MARPOL).

As Carnival continues to develop the cruise port in Grand Bahama, the Bahamas should realize that it is dealing with what the federal district judge in Miami presiding over the pollution case called a “recidivist criminal” which has engaged in world-wide pollution and repeatedly lied about it.

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

Read:

First Annual Report of the Court Appointed Monitor (2017-2018) – covering the first year of operations after Carnival was placed on probation.

Miami Herald Media Company’s Motion to Intervene and To Request Filing of Quarterly Reports for Period.

The Miami Herald reporters, Taylor Dolven and Caitlin Ostroff, who are covering this issue analyzed numerous incidents during Carnival’s first year of probation after its 2016 conviction for dumping oily waste in the ocean. You can read their summary here.

Photo credit: Food waste chute on Carnival Cruise Line ship – anonymous crew member.

The was a fire yesterday on the Emerald Princess shortly after it was floated out of drydock in Victoria, according to a crew member who wishes to remain anonymous.

The fire reportedly occurred on deck 3 aft, while the ship was loading lifeboats from drydock in Victoria. The situation was described as “very hectic because many crew members were on the lifeboat loading team and were not available to be on the fire team to fight the fire.”  The crew fought the fire from deck 4. The ship just floated out of drydock in Victoria, Canada. After one hour the alarm was called off.  The fire was caused from a de-humidifier inside the bulk head in the dry storage.  The crew member stated that “I passed by deck 4 and there was heavy smoke in the air and fire teams cleaning up.” There apparently was no-hi fog fire suppression system at this location and the crew fought the fire with water.

“I give credits to all involved because there was so much happening at the time with the the float out of drydock. The ship’s officers and crew kept everything in order.”

The Emerald Princess is scheduled to leave Vancouver today at 5:00 P.M. and, after a three-night Pacific Coast Cruise, will arrive in Los Angeles, California on the morning of Thursday, April 18th.

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

Update: The crew member commented on the fact that not all of the lifeboats had been loaded back on the Emerald Princess when the fire broke out:

“When a ship goes into dry dock the lifeboats are lowered and stored dockside for repairs. When  the ship is floated out there is no space in the Victoria dry dock to load the lifeboats before sailing out. The ship must leave the dock area and load the lifeboats in the bay area. In our case they just started the loading when the fire broke out. Imagine looking out to see the lifeboats floating around the ship as we were on fire. It’s a very organised job getting the lifeboats raised back up. Having a fire at the same time just made things very difficult.”

Another crew member who also requested to remain anonymous added:

” . . . the fire was very small, but due to the nature (electrical fire) produced lots of smoke, fire was extinguished quickly with CO2 extinguisher. Situation was never hectic and fire team worked very well, the few people missing for life boat operators were not needed at the moment as the technical fire team knew it better the location and how to access and they dealt with the situation smoothly and effectively . . . “
Photo credit: Bahnfrend – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons/wikimedia.

Calling Carnival Corporation a “criminal defendant,” United States Federal District Judge Patricia Seitz threatened to send the  “members of Carnival’s executive committee” to a “detention center for a couple of days” for violation of the terms of its probation for environmental crimes, according to the Miami Herald.  The newspaper also reported that the Court at a hearing yesterday threatened to temporarily block cruise ships operated by Carnival Corporation from calling on U.S. ports.

In December of 2016, Judge Seitz placed Carnival Corporation on probation and fined it a record $40,000,000 for widespread pollution and obstruction of justice. Carnival has a long history of getting caught committing environmental crimes dating back to 2002 when it pled guilty to numerous felonies for discharging oily waste into the sea. The U.S. Government leveled a $18,000,000 fine and placed Carnival on probation back at that time.  In both 2002 and 2016, Carnival pled guilty of routinely falsifying its oil record books in order to conceal its illegal discharge of oil into the seas.

As part of the felony plea agreement in 2016, cruise ships from eight Carnival cruise line companies (Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line N.V., Seabourn Cruise Line Ltd. and AIDA Cruises) were placed under a court supervised Environmental Compliance Program (ECP) for five years. An outside entity and a court appointed monitor independently audited the ECP.

The Miami Herald reported that “court filings showed that Carnival Corp. and its subsidiary cruise lines have sought to avoid unfavorable findings by preparing ships in advance of court-ordered audits, falsified records, dumped plastic garbage into the ocean and illegally discharged gray water into Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. The company also has tried to lobby the U.S. Coast Guard through a back channel to change the terms of the settlement, prosecutors allege. The company has acknowledged these incidents.”

On March 8, 2019, the Office of Probation filed a motion to revoke probation on the grounds that the cruise corporation implemented a “brazen and secret” scheme to send “SWAT teams” to the cruise ships to “scrub” them before the third party auditors performed their compliance inspections. These illegal pre-audit programs were carried out to avoid adverse audits findings and violations of probation, even after the Court ordered them to stop. Emails between HAL and Princess revealed that even though the Carnival subsidiaries knew that the Department of Justice prohibited them from conducting “Pre-TPA audit ship visits,” they continued doing so, in criminal contempt of Court. They even called them “Environmental Excellence Program Visits.”

The government also brought to the Court’s attention that the cruise corporation continued to fail to establish a senior corporate officer with authority and responsibility for environmental compliance as required by the environmental compliance plan.

A third grounds for revoking probation was that Carnival-owned ships falsified training records aboard the Diamond Princess and the Costa Luninosa. The government also informed the Court that the following ships violated environmental laws while Carnival Corporation was under court-supervised probation:

  • Princess’ Sun Princess – an engineer falsified maintenance records in June 2017;
  • HAL’s Nieuw Amsterdam had been continuously discharging gray water for several years in Alaska (as of June 2017) and knowingly failed to notify the state of Alaska;
  • Carnival Valor – engineering team falsified an oil record book regarding the oily water separator system in October 2017;
  • HAL’s Westerdam – a second engineer falsified maintenance records involving the oil content monitoring system in September 2018;
  • Holland America’s Westerdam – illegally dumped 26,000 gallons of gray water into Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska on September 11, 2018;
  • Carnival Conquest illegally dumped 66,000 gallons of ballast water in November 2018 (in Bahamian archipelagic waters where Carnival ships previously made other unlawful discharges); the ship’s engineer offered to falsify records to make it look like the dump happened at open sea; and
  • Princess’ Sea Princess (December 2017) and Ruby Princess (February 2018), Carnival Dream (August 2018), and Carnival Elation (December 2018) dumped plastic overboard.

The government informed Judge Seitz that, regarding the Carnival Elation, Carnival knowingly and deliberately discharged plastic which was a significant violation of probation.

Regarding the Sea Princess, the auditor witnessed that the “food waste chute had several unauthorized items in the food waste that is going down the chute and overboard, items such as plastic straws, corn on the cob holders, wooden stir sticks, plastic tea bag packages, and plastic knives. The unauthorized waste was not being segregated at the early stage of the collecting the food waste. This was noted during the galley inspection as it was found that there is plastic straws, paper, wood stir sticks and rubber bands in the pulpers.”

Regarding the Ruby Princess, a compliance auditor “witnessed 55-gallon containers (which) held several unauthorized items destined to go down the waste chute and overboard. These items were plastic straws, plastic corn on the cob holders, wooden stir sticks, toothpicks, wooden steak identifiers, paper, paper clips and aluminum foil wrappers.”

Regarding the Carnival Dream, the auditor noted that the following items were “ready to be discharged down the chute and then overboard while at sea.  These items are but not limited to: aluminum bottle caps, broken plastic cups, cotton swabs (Q-tips), emery cloth, plastic straws, napkins, paper and umbrellas for drinks.”

Last year, we reported that four Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ships and two Princess Cruises ships violated Alaska’s air quality standards throughout the cruise season’s summer months (June-August) in Alaska.  The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) cited HAL’s Eurodam, Westerdam, Amsterdam, and Nieuw Amsterdam and Princess’ Emerald Princess and Golden Princess.  The DEC also found that nine cruise ships operated by Carnival Corp. brands violated Alaska’s water quality standards. Five Princess cruise ships violated water quality standards, including the Emerald Princess, Island Princess, Golden Princess, Ruby Princess and Star Princess. The DEC also issued wastewater discharge violations to HAL’s Eurodam, Noordam, and Voledam, as well as Seabourn Cruise Line’s Sojourn.

We reported that Princess Cruises’ Star Princess discharged sludge from its exhaust system scrubbers last year in the port of Ketchikan, as originally reported by  KRBD Community Radio.  Princess denied the reports, claiming that “our experts believe what was viewed and photographed is most likely sea foam discolored by natural microorganisms such as algae in the seawater, which is commonly experienced in northern climates in the summer season.”

I wrote last fall that the air and water violations by HAL and Princess Cruises appeared to be in direct violation of the guilty plea agreement where Carnival Corp. promised not to commit further violations of international, federal, state, and local environmental laws. (There is no indication that these air or water violations in Alaska or the scrubber discharges were brought to the Court’s attention).

Judge Seitz stated at the hearing yesterday, according to the Miami Herald, that Carnival “right now it is a criminal defendant and this is not the first time nor is it the second time.” The Court characterized the last fine ($40,000,000) to be a “drop in the bucket.”

The Court ordered the parties to confer and file, by April 22, 2019, agreed dates to appear at a “Revocation Hearing” (to be held by June 24, 2019) at which time the Court will decide whether Carnival violated the terms of  its probation and how it should be further punished. The Court suggested that Carnival’s chairman, Micky Arison, and president, Donald Arnold, as well as Holland America executives Stein Kruse, Keith Taylor and retired Rear Admiral Joseph Servidio and Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy attend the June hearing.

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

Photo credit: Middle – Carnival Dream – Longbowe at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons/wikimedia; bottom – scrubber sludge – Star Princess – City of Ketchikan.

Yesterday, Senator Deb Fisher (R-Neb.) introduced legislation to amend the Death on the High Seas Act (“DOHSA”) to provide a basis for compensation for the pain, suffering and other emotional losses suffered by the surviving family members of loved ones killed at sea.

“Hammer’s Law” is a bill named for Larry and Christy Hammer of Omaha, Nebraska who tragically lost their lives in a fire in their cabin onboard a Peruvian river cruise on April 10, 2016.  As matters now stand, when an adult child loses a parent on the high seas (defined as outside of U.S. state territorial waters, including the rivers and waters of foreign countries), the law permits, at best, the recovery of only “pecuniary” (financial) losses, such as lost wages (assuming the person is employed). If the person is a retiree, or a child, the only damages permitted are the expenses of burying their loved one. Emotional damages such as grief, bereavement, pain, mental anguish, sadness and suffering are prohibited.

This means that currently when a cruise line’s negligence kills a retired passenger or a child, the cruise line can evade financial accountability without addressing the underlying safety issues.  Cruise lines have lobbied heavily over the years to keep the ancient maritime law, passed in 1920, on the books. DOSHA punishes families when they lose a parent, or child, on the high seas, notwithstanding the negligence of a cruise line.

Today, is the three year anniversary of the Hammer’s deaths, which were caused by gross negligence during a cruise sold by Alabama-based International Expeditions. Peruvian authorities found that the fire which killed the Hammers while they slept in their cabin on La Estrella Amazonica, a river cruise boat on the Peruvian Amazon. The fire was reportedly caused by a defective power cord provided by the ship, the absence of working fire alarms and the poor training of the crew who failed to respond for other 20 minutes to the fire. It’s a sad story, involving entirely preventable deaths, which we wrote about earlier – Deadly Amazon River Fire Update: International Expeditions’ La Estrella Amazonica (photos and video).

Senator Fischer said upon introduction of the propose legislation:

“The tragic passing of Larry and Christy Hammer is something no family should have to endure. My office has been working with their daughters, Jill and Kelly, coordinating with the State Department to get answers from the Peruvian government and hold culpable parties responsible. Hammers’ Law would change existing law to help ensure cruise lines are held accountable after such a devastating loss.” 

You can read Senator Fischer’s press release here.

The cruise industry, which has lobbied heavily against efforts to reform the antiquated maritime statute over the years, is expected to resist the proposed legislation.

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

Photo credit: Larry and Christy Hammer – Jill & Kelly Hammer via Remember the Hammers

Interested in this issue? Consider reading:

Cruise Operators Continue to Hide Behind the Death on the High Seas Act.

The Death on the High Seas Act – Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years.

Deadly Amazon River Fire Update: International Expeditions’ La Estrella Amazonica.

Death On The High Seas Act Protects BP and Cruise Lines at the Grieving Family’s Expense.

 

 

Today, the Miami News Times published an article titled: Sexual Assault Is the Most Publicly Reported Crime on Cruises, but Companies Say It’s Rare.

Written by Meg O’Connor, the article begins by reporting on a sexual assault committed against a nineteen-year-old passenger by a fitness instructor on the Celebrity Summit while docked in Bermuda. The crew member was employed by a Celebrity Cruises concessionaire, Canyon Ranch. The instructor was identified in the lawsuit papers as Carlos Roberto Castro Tadeo.

Approximately nine months earlier, the same instructor, working for Carnival at the time, sexually assaulted a 16-year-old passenger on the Carnival Breeze. He sexually assaulted the girl “under the pretense of taking her measurements for a complimentary consultation/fitness analysis.” A civil lawsuit was filed (Smith v. Carnival Corp., et al. Case No. 17-CV-23630-CMA, S.D. 2017) after the FBI/DOJ declined to prosecute. The case was settled for an undisclosed amount in a confidential settlement. The incident was featured in a special report titled Sex Assault Victims on Cruise Ships Are Often Under 18 by NBC News.

Carnival fired the crew member, but a year later, the fitness center operated by a company called Canyon Ranch (a/k/a Canyon Ranch At Sea) hired him. (Several years ago, Celebrity Cruises and Canyon Ranch announced their partnership in a comprehensive SpaClub at Sea offering, including beauty salons and fitness areas on Celebrity ships). Canyon Ranch assigned the fitness instructor to work aboard the Celebrity Summit where he assaulted the nineteen-year-old cruise guest, after “calling himself a masseuse and spa director and under the pretense of providing  . . .  a complimentary massage.” After he molested the young woman on the Celebrity Summit, Bermuda declined to prosecute.

Carnival spokesperson Vance Gulliksen said, when asked by the Miami New Times about the fitness instructor, “he was terminated following an investigation with the FBI and was repatriated to his native country of Mexico.”

Asked how the Canyon Ranch fitness instructor was employed aboard the Celebrity Summit after being fired by Carnival, a Canyon Ranch representative said that the company “does not comment on matters in litigation.”

And a spokesperson for Celebrity also declined to comment to the New Times on the lawsuit but added “Nothing is more important to us than the safety and security of our guests and crew, and we believe that even one accusation of sexual assault onboard our ships is one too many.”

The case demonstrates a fundamental danger to cruise passengers caused by weak cruise line employment screening practices, including refusing to share information when one of their employees sexually assaults a guest (which is the most common criminal offense on a cruise) or commits some other crime during a cruise.

Cruise lines do, in fact, share information when a passenger commits a crime during a cruise. For example, if a guest on a Royal Caribbean ship commits credit card fraud, or cheats the ship’s casino, or violates the cruise line’s guest conduct policy, Royal Caribbean will tell its competitors (like Carnival and NCL).  The cruise lines also share information regarding which guests have filed a claim against a cruise company.

It seems that cruise lines are quick to share information in order to protect their money and legal interests from their customers, particularly litigious ones, but they never share information if they have hired a sexual predator who has preyed on their customers.

Our firm has handled several cases where a crew member accused of assaulting a passenger was fired from one cruise line only to end up working on another line. One case involved a bartender, who Royal Caribbean fired after he sexually assaulted a guest, who subsequently ended up working on a Princess cruise ship sailing out of Miami. He was later fired from Princess only after I informed Princess’ in-house counsel of his history.

Another problem is that many cruise lines do not conduct their own pre-employment vetting, but rely on their hiring agents to perform the background checks. The problem is particularly acute when the hiring agency is an unsophisticated high volume labor supplier which routinely staff cruise ships with cabin attendants, bartenders and waiters.  Some hiring agents are eager to place applicants on ships and require only a certificate from a local constable that the local police station has no information that the prospective hire has been arrested. There is no semblance of a national, computerized criminal database in countries like India, Mexico or the Caribbean. That’s why a sexual predator with a proclivity for girls / young women found his way onto Carnival and Celebrity cruise ships.

Carnival and Celebrity routinely state that “the safety and security of our guests is our highest priority.” But if that were true, then a do-not-hire warning to cross-town rival lines would be a natural part of the screening  process.

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

Photo credit: Celebrity Summit – Yankeesman312 – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons/ wikimedia.

Silversea Cruises’ Silver Spirit cruise ship recently failed a sanitation inspection by United States Public Health (USPH) inspectors, in February. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published its official report for the inspection.

On February 15, 2019, USPH sanitation inspectors conducted an inspection of the the Silver Spirit cruise ship and gave the cruise ship, operated by Silversea Cruises, a failing score of 81.

You can locate the report here.

You can locate the corrected actions report of the cruise line here.

In the lengthy report, inspectors found numerous sanitation violations, including: potable water bunkering and calibration problems; inaccurate pipe disinfection logs; soiled backflow prevention devices, dishwasher nozzles, rinsing arms and manifolds and drain lines which were blocked with food debris; numerous fish products which were improperly stored with fruits, salami and cheese; improper time control plans in the officer/staff mess and passenger buffets; improper hand-washing temperatures/procedures/facilities (absence of soap); a small, broken and heavily soiled refrigerator was located in the engine room office area with a rotten apple and spoiled milk inside; and failure to follow protocols regarding acute gastrointestinal (AGE) involving a crew member who reported late to the crew medical facility, amongst other violations .

This is not the first time that a Silversea Cruises ship failed a USPH inspection.

In March of last year, the USPH inspected the Silver Wind and found numerous unsanitary violations. Repeated problems were noted in the ship’s potable water treatment. Inspectors located over two dozen flies in the galley, food preparation and dish washing areas. Inspectors located food items and food service equipment hidden in crew member lockers inside a changing room near an engine and air conditioning unit. The USPH issues a score of only 79. You can read the USPH report here.

Six years ago, in 2013, Silversea Cruises was caught ordering its crew members to hide perishable food in crew quarters aboard the Silver Shadow. CNN aired a special program about the “hide and seek” games which crew members were ordered to play on the Silver Shadow cruise ship, where the ship routinely hid trolleys of food items in crew members cabins to avoid detection by USPH sanitation inspectors.

Our blog was the first to cover the story in our article Silver Shadow Fails Sanitation Inspection After Caught Hiding Filthy Conditions from Health Inspectors.

Silversea engaged in an intentional, calculated scheme to hide food and galley equipment in the crew cabins. Crew members on the cruise ship alerted our firm that they (galley workers) were being ordered by their supervisors to take trolleys of perishable foods (eggs, fish & cheese) to the crew quarters and hide the food from inspectors during bi-annual CDC inspections. We advised the “whistle-blower” crew members to notify the CDC. As a result of a surprise inspection, the CDC discovered that the cruise line hid “over 15 full trolleys” of food and food equipment, pans, dishware and utensils in “over 10 individual cabins” in order to avoid scrutiny of vessel sanitation inspectors. It flunked the Silversea ship with a score of 82.

You can see photos of the cruise line’s practices on our Facebook page here.

You can watch the CNN video here.

But Silversea didn’t learn its lesson.  In 2015, two years after the disastrous Silver Shadow inspection, the Silver Shadow failed again, with a score of only 82.

Regarding the Silver Spirit, the last sanitation scores were 98 in 2018 and 99 in 2017. It earned perfect scores of 100 on three occasions, in 2013, 2012, and 2011.

The purpose of the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is to assist the cruise ship industry to “prevent and control the introduction, transmission, and spread of gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses on cruise ships.” The VSP operates under the authority of the U.S. Public Health Service Act, and applies only to cruise ships calling on U.S. ports. Few countries outside of the U.S. inspect cruise ships for sanitation problems.

USPH sanitation inspectors conduct inspections twice a year on cruise ships, when they are in a U.S. port. The inspections are supposedly a surprise, although many crew members have stated that federal inspectors sometimes give advance notice of the inspections to the cruise ships. A score of 85 or below constitutes a failed sanitation score, and often leads to the firing of the shipboard Food & Beverage department heads and/or managers and always result in increased work for the shipboard employees.

It should be embarrassing for a high-brow Silversea cruise ship like the Silver Wind to miserably fail an USPH inspection like this.

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

Update: We were contacted by a Silversea crew member who wishes to remain anonymous who stated that the Silver Spirit was re-inspected last April 2 in Fort Lauderdale and scored a 92.

Photo credit: Silver Spirit – Brian Burnell / George Hutchinson CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15252475

 

It seems that after an elevator malfunctioned on the Carnival Inspiration last weekend, with five guests inside, Carnival handled the situation poorly according to the comments posted on Facebook online.  A reader of Cruise Law News sent this link to me today:

Carnival Cruise Elevator Line snaps while crew members mock passengers and take video, meanwhile passenger faints…

Posted by Jacob Burrola on Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Carnival officers who eventually responded appeared to be disinterested in the situation and allegedly either blamed the young men and/or told them “not to touch anything”. . .

One of the guests caught in the broken elevator posted on Facebook: that when officers finally appeared “. . . they didn’t ask us what happened and they just started trying to pry the doors open with a “box wrench” which caused it to slip anymore…”

One of the passengers appeared to pass out before he was freed from the elevator, according to the comments.

Carnival eventually responded to the situation, according to the men, by banning them from future cruises with Carnival. Carnival delivered a letter from the master of the Inspiration, Crescenzo Palomba, to each of the men before they disembarked from the ship. It stated:

“This letter will confirm your discussion with Carnival Cruise Line (“Carnival Inspiration”) personnel where you were informed that you will be disembarked from the vessel and not permitted to sail onboard any Carnival Cruise Line vessel in the future.  This decision was based on your actions on the current cruise, which were a violation of the ship rules.  Interfered with the safety and/or enjoyment of other guests on the ship of caused harm to Carnival.  Your attempt to book a future cruise will result in cancellation and a possible loss of deposit monies.   You will be responsible for all travel expenses incurred and an invoice will be sent to your home address for payment.  Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.”

You can watch the videos taken by the Guests here.

Three years ago, an electrician employed by Carnival died after being crushed in an elevator shaft aboard the Carnival Ecstasy.

April 5, 2019 Update:  Newsweek covered this story this morning.

One of the guests Eric JT Kim who was trapped in the broken elevator denied any misbehavior on the cruise ship and denied that they did anything to cause the elevator to malfunction. He states on Facebook ” . . . we had no other incidences or actions that were out of line on the cruise. I’m assuming the “actions” they’re alluding to is their elevator malfunction . . . according to Carnival, we are to blame for the elevator being stuck. There were several of us in the elevator but there was no alarm signal for overweight capacity. We thought it was fine, until it wasn’t . . .  unfortunately there’s no more to the story . . . Our accounts were shutdown from being able to make any purchases on the cruise. On our way out towards customs we were held up and pressured to sign the release of liability. We denied and were here today . . . we’ve been cruising on Ccarnival for over 10 years, as an annual guys trip. It’s unfortunate and confusing that they’d hand us a banishment, but what can we do ya know?”

A Carnival spokesperson was quoted in an article by the Daily Mail, which identified six guests who were stuck in the broken elevator which the cruise line blamed, as saying that there are “always two sides to every story.  We had a group of guests stuck in one of our elevators last week for approximately 30-40 minutes. Our onboard team was summoned to provide assistance. Unfortunately, because of the extensive damage to the elevator doors and cabling caused by the guests, the work took longer than expected.”

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Video/photo credit: Jacob Burrola / Eric JT Kim

An accident involving the collapse of several large cranes reportedly occurred this afternoon at the Grand Bahamas shipyard in Freeport, Bahamas involving the Oasis of the Seas, resulting in the injury of several shipyard workers.

Video was taken after the accident of the Royal Caribbean cruise ship and surrounding dock.  The cruise ship was in dry dock for refurbishment at the shipyard in Freeport.

A newspaper in the Bahamas, the Tribune, reported on the accident, stating that the dockworker who took the video described the scene after the incident as follows:

“Working on the big Oasis, the ship collapsed, the dock collapsed, the crane collapsed. A couple of people might, don’t know, be missing. I was right there on the dock, working, and just missed it by the grace of God . . .  big accident, big accident. Something the Shipyard will never survive from this one. Dock two is gone, dock two is finished. All the cranes collapsed. Big, big, big disaster. Big, big, big disaster. Disaster, disaster, disaster. I’ve never seen anything like this in my lifetime.”

The Tribune reported that according to police, “there were several injuries – none of them thought to be life-threatening.” The Bahamas Press which aired the videos did not confirm whether there were injuries.

Royal Caribbean released a press statement conforming damage to the dock and crane, and stating that it was assessing whether there is damage to the ship and injuries to personnel at the scene.

Royal Caribbean’s Chief Meteorologist James Van Fleet happened to be on the Oasis of the Seas since its last cruise and took a video this morning of the drydock operations in Freeport.  I doubt that we will see any additional video of the drydock today . . .

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April 1, 2019 Update: In a subsequent statement, Royal Caribbean states that “shipyard management informs us of eight injuries, none of which are considered life threatening.”

April 2, 2019 Update: A number of photographs were posted online on social media and are available for viewing here.

April 3, 2019 Update:  Royal Caribbean stated via Twitter that it cancelled the sailing dates for April 7, 14, and 21. The cruise line told customers that anyone scheduled to go on the canceled trips will receive a full refund, along with a 100 percent future cruise certificate to apply toward a different sail date.

Travel Weekly reports that the Oasis of the Seas will leave the Grand Bahamas yard to be repaired at a shipyard in Cadiz, Spain.

Photo/video credit: Top – Unidentified dockworker via Bahamas Press; bottom – via Royal Caribbean International Fan Club – Unofficial; photographer unknown.

Sources report that Norwegian Cruise Line will implement keelhauling as a means to motivate crew members to work longer hours on NCL cruise ships.

The ancient maritime form of punishment, once meted out to sailors at sea, involves being tied to a line and pulled along the keel, either from one side of the ship to the other, or under the keel from bow to stern. It dates back to the ancient Rhodian Maritime Code (around 800 B.C.) and was used as late as the 19th century by the Royal Navy and the Dutch Navy until it was abolished as cruel punishment.

NCL CEO Frank Del Rio, who is credited for the new motivational tool, says that he came up with keelhauling after watching his guests participate in the walking “The Plank” for a fee on the Norwegian Getaway.

Cruise executive Del Rio, who mentioned the idea in a recent quarterly earning statement, was quoted as saying “NCL needed something to create motivation for our ship employees while creating excitement for our guests!” Del Rio said that NCL will charge passengers a fee of $19.99 to watch the crew members being keelhauled under the NCL ships.

NCL has imposed every imaginable extra charge on its passengers, including increased room services charges, automatic gratuities and restaurant cover charges, which are diverted away from the crew members to cover executive compensation. He said at the earnings conference “… we have looked across the fleet to identify areas where marginal changes can improve the bottom line… this is a bold move which differentiates us from our competitors and will put money into NCL’s pockets. To put into perspective how these small changes can add up quickly, every dollar increase in yield translates to approximately $15 million to the bottom line.”

NCL is expected to seek a trademark on NCLKeelhauling, as a play on its NCL Freestyling slogan.

In-house lawyers at NCL, who did not wish to be identified, expressed concern that keelhauling probably violates 18 U.S. Code § 114, which prohibits “maiming within maritime and territorial jurisdiction.”  Del Rio said that the U.S. federal statute applies only to state territorial waters, whereas the NCL fleet spends the majority of time in international waters.

Increasing productivity of cruise employees is a pet project of this cruise executive who routinely appears in the galleys of NCL ships to order the cooks to work faster. “Getting our crew members to work 110% remains our goal,” said Del Rio who collected 350 million dollars, himself, last year. “Tying the crew to the mast and publicly flogging them with a cat-o’-nine tails remain options, if we can’t get more work out of our crew.”

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Photo credit: Walk the plank – NCL;  CEO Del Rio – TravelWrite.co.za

Several guests aboard the Carnival Spirit report that a young man went overboard from the cruise ship as it headed toward Noumea, New Caledonia.

A guest sent the following information via email:

“Person reported overboard near coast of Noumea 1 AM cruise ship had to return to middle of the ocean to search at 4 AM.  no-one found. 25 year old middle eastern man. Surveillance of man falling.”

Several other guests stated on Twitter:

The man was reported overboard on the early morning on March 29, 2019. (There is a twelve hour time difference between Miami (EST) and New Caledonia).

The Carnival Spirit departed from Sydney, Australia on March 27th and was scheduled to arrive in Noumea, New Caledonia on March 30th at 8:00 AM local time. The ship was scheduled to call on ports in Vanuatu and New Caledonia before returning to Sydney on April 7th.

According to cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein, there have been 337 people who have gone overboard since 2000 from cruise ships and large ferries.

Safety at Sea recently wrote an article about Dr. Klein’s data titled Joining the Data Dots: Cruise Ship MOBs. It concludes that the revelation that such a significant number of people have gone overboard during this time period “has prompted a conversation on the industry’s safety practices.” Safety at Sea writes:

“From an average of 1.5 people that fall overboard from cruise ships each month, only 17% are rescued. . . . This incident data should lead to a shift in the way man overboards (MOBs) are regarded in the cruise ship industry and prompt action to better protect against them. While there are undoubtedly cases of passengers willfully (or drunkenly) ignoring safety warnings, one cannot ignore the wider pattern of risk shown by Klein’s data. Cruise lines should certainly veer away from blaming passengers and find better ways of safeguarding them.”

A start would be for cruise lines to install automatic man overboard systems, which have long been required by U.S. law for cruise ships calling on U.S. ports. Such systems utilize sophisticated motion detection, infrared and radar technology that can track the person at night in the water.

For the few cruise ships (Disney ships and one MSC ship) which have invested in such technology, the system can substantially increase a ship’s response to a guest or crew member going overboard. Most importantly, the system can significantly improve the likelihood of a ship conducting a successful search and rescue.

One such system, by MARSS MOBtronic, has been commercially available since 2010.  There are a number of other reliable MOB systems that have been proven to be reliable, reasonably affordable and readily available to the cruise lines.

For cruise lines like Carnival which have not invested in the technology, ship personnel are forced to conduct a slow, “old school” search of the ship and review hours of CCTV surveillance images to try and figure out if a person went overboard.

The Carnival Spirit began its service in April of 2001. It was refitted for cosmetic purposes before being transferred to sail in Australia in 2012 when it was home ported in Sydney, Australia. The ship sails to New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Zealand. In mid 2018, the Carnival ship was dry-docked for two weeks to undergo another renovation for entertainment and retail purposes.

Carnival is a good example of a cruise line which spends its tax free money collected from its customers on entertainment/retail improvements to its ships rather than investing in life-saving safety technology.

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Photo credit: AIS data – MarineTraffic; Carnival Spirit in Sydney- Hpeterswald – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.