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 boasted of the idea at the recent Seatrade Miami convention, 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 an earning conference last year "… 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 NCL Keelhauling, 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.
"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; Keelhauling – Sea of Thieves