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"Everything the cruise lines don't want you to know" is the motto of this award winning maritime law blog authored by Miami lawyer Jim Walker.

A crew member was killed in an accident which occurred during the dry dock refurbishment of the cruise ship Le Boréal in the port of Valparaiso, Chile on November 18th.

The popular Crew-Center reports that a young (25 year-old) crew member from Romania fell 75 feet after he slipped from a ladder placed on the ship’s deck.  Most cruise lines have “work aloft” policies and procedures which require that shipboard employees wear “personal protection equipment” (PPE), which includes safety harnesses, when they are required to work at a height of over six feet.

There should never be a situation where work is being performed at the extreme height mentioned in the Crew-Center article without the ship employees wearing PPE.  Such work has to be approved and supervised by senior officers who are required to enforce the work aloft procedures.

The Romanian newspaper Latercera first reported on the fatality. and identified the crew member as Andrei Madalin Circhea, from Constanta, Romania.

In other news involving Ponant, it’s Le Soléal cruise ship reportedly sustained damage to one of its propellers when the ship grounded on November 22nd while cruising through Kirke Passage in the Chilean fjords, according to the Valparaiso Daily News. The current cruise which began on November 7th has ended, and the roughly 220 passengers need to be repatriated. The cruise line cancelled the November 20th from Ushuaia, Argentina.

 

Photo credit: Top – Pjotr Mahhonin – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia; bottom – Latercera.

A number of cruise passengers on the Adventure of the Seas inform Cruise Law News that the captain announced to the cruise ship yesterday that a crew member disappeared from the ship.

The Adventure of the Seas was in Cozumel when the captain made an announcement that an unidentified crew member could not be accounted for and was missing from the cruise ship.  The crew member did not appear at his work station and the remainder of the crew was unable to locate him.

The fact that a crew member could “disappear” without a trace from the cruise ship indicates that Royal Caribbean has still not bothered to install an automatic man overboard system on this ship. Auto-MOB systems like this or this can detect a person going over the rails and send a signal to the bridge so that the ship can immediately search and try to rescue the person. Such systems consist of state-of-the-art motion detection sensors, thermal imaging and radar technology.

As matters now stand, when a crew member (or passenger) goes over the railing, unless an eye-witness observes the person going overboard and promptly reports it to the bridge, the ship will sail on, usually at night, without anyone knowing that a person is missing from the ship. It is not until some time after the crew member fails to show up to work that the ship will make any effort to search for the person.

Usually, the crew will search on the ship for the missing crew member and the staff captain or security chief will eventually look through any CCTV images to search for any clues whether the crew member jumped overboard.  (The vast majority of crew members who disappear at sea do so intentionally; whereas, most passengers go overboard due to gross over-intoxication).

This leads to extraordinary delays in the ship’s search and rescue efforts.  For example, in Royal Caribbean Unreasonably Delays Reporting Overboard Crew Member from Vision of the Seas, we explained that when a crew member jumped overboard early in the morning (around 5:15 a.m.), the absence of an auto-MOB caused a series of unreasonable delays in searching for the employee.

A couple of year ago, I wrote about the problem of crew members going missing from Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise ships without explanation. During a three year period between 2009 and 2012, at least thirteen crew members went over the rails of Royal Caribbean (and Celebrity) ships, including the Majesty of the Seas, Monarch of the Seas (twice), Radiance of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas. Oasis of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Summit, and Monarch of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas (two). Most of these cases were never investigated by the flag state, which, it seems, could not care less.

The flag state (usually the Bahamas) usually does not even investigate when Royal Caribbean reports that a crew member has gone overboard.

The passengers who informed us that a crew member is missing from the ship in this latest case mentioned that the captain announced that a “care team” would apparently be arriving on the ship, although it is less than clear whether this was for the crew’s welfare or the guests’ benefit.

Royal Caribbean’s failure to install the proven life-saving auto-MOB technology reflects an callous indifference toward hard working crew members.

We suggest reading:

Royal Caribbean Unreasonably Delays Reporting Overboard Crew Member from Vision of the Seas.

Misery Machines and Crew Member Suicides.

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November 24, 2018 a.m. update:

Crew members are identifying the crew members as a 26 year old male entertainment staff member from the United Kingdom.

A crew member who worked with him a few months ago on Allure of the Seas stated that his manager reported that he was exhibiting signs of depression to shipboard HR. He went to the ship doctor on one occasion, a teleconference was reportedly arranged for him with a counselor, and he was required to continue his contract.

One crew member who does wish to be identified stated “Royal Caribbean does not care one bit for the safety or welfare of the crew . . . about 24 hours of the crew member going missing, the company had already contacted another employee to replace him (someone who is a close friend of the missing person)! Apparently there is no CCTV footage of him going overboard but instead of focusing on investigating what happened and supporting his family, friends and team mates, their priority is to find a replacement.”

November 24, 2018 p.m. update: Below is a YouTube video by Don’s Family Vacations which discusses the need of automatic man overboard technology. He recommends to cruise passengers that they fill out comment cards recommending that cruise lines implement the technology, particularly given the billions of dollars that the industry is spending on new cruise ships and the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the refurbishment of ships.

 

November 24, 2018 p.m. update”Photo credit: Top – Brian Burnell – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia; Middle and bottom – Images from Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas via Bahamian Maritime Authority.

A sixty-nine year old U.S. citizen, originally from California, was identified yesterday as the victim of an abduction and murder in Roatan, Honduras, according to a Honduran newspaper El Heraldo.

The newspaper reports that the body of Philip Foster Brown was found in a ravine near a road leading from West End to West Bay in Roatan on Tuesday.  Mr. Brown, who had lived on the island of Roatan in a community on West Bay for several years, disappeared from his home several days ago, leaving a large pool of blood on the porch of his house.  His corpse was found yesterday wearing only shorts with a bag over his head.

Mr. Bown was one of three “foreigners” (i.e., not Honduran) in Roatan who died under mysterious circumstances according to the Honduran press.

Roatan is a popular port which is heavily marketed as a paradise getaway by Miami-based cruise lines like Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean.

We have written about cruise passengers and at least one crew member who have been victimized in violent armed robberies over the years in this idyllic yet dangerous destination, earning it a spot (#2) on my list of the ten most dangerous cruise port in the world several years ago.

As we wrote before, like many other Caribbean islands, the police in Roatan are either indifferent or corrupt. The legal system is somewhere between barbaric and non-existent.  Crimes against U.S. citizens are rarely solved or prosecuted.

Since 2010, Honduras has had one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world, ranging between 59 and 86 per 100,000 according to the U.S. Department of State.  Honduras is far more deadly than even the most violent U.S. cities.  Chicago, for example, has a per capita murder rate of 24 per 100,000. (The per capita homicide rate in the U.S. is a little over 4 per 100,000).

The U.S. State Department states that: “Roatan and the Bay Islands are geographically separated from and experience lower crime rates than on the mainland and other Caribbean islands; however, thefts, break-ins, assaults, rapes, and murders do occur.”

The State Department Crime and Safety Report also states that “Cruise ship passengers should take safety precautions, avoid unfamiliar areas, and book only with reputable tour companies during their stopover. Cruise lines and port agencies have approved tour companies offering packages. Port agencies have worked to improve taxi service to/from ports. The vast majority of cruise line passengers experience no problems, but incidents of armed robbery (like this one) and carjacking have been reported.”

November 23, 2018 Update: A resident of Roatan who does not feel comfortable revealing her name left this comment: ” I live on Roatan. Over the last ten days there has been three kidnappings/abductions (including Phil Brown) resulting in probable homicides. There are 4 additional murders, 2 shootings in Los Fuertes and 2 stabbing deaths. That’s 7 total. Unreported, downplayed and hushed up.  No increase in police or military as has happened in past crime waves. No actions from local or national govt. There has been lots of armed robberies often with victims threatened with guns of knives to throats. Please help get the word out to cruisers. Big companies should stop coming here now.”

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Photo credit: El Heraldo.

Cruise passengers are reportedly fearful of the current conditions of Nassau’s famed Straw Market, according to local vendors in the Bahamas and a popular U.S. cruise publication.

One of the vendors told the Tribune newspaper “. . . many of the tourists refused to come off the ship because they were told the market is too dark they are going to be robbed, raped and all these sorts of different things . . .”

The popular cruise blog Cruise Radio reported yesterday that the comment was made during a dispute between the Bahamian government and the local citizens who work in the market. The government-operated Straw Market Authority apparently threw away goods from the stalls of market vendors who were delinquent in paying the modest rent for their stalls. Cruise Radio commented that “but those selling their wares at the straw market have been unhappy with the state of affairs for some time, claiming that parts of the space have been without lights for months.” One vendor responded to the perceived mistreatment, complaining that the market is an embarrassing place to bring tourists and noting it was “‘filthy’ and needed to be painted and cleaned.”

The Bahamas has struggled with cruise tourism in the last many years, as many cruise passengers refuse to step off the cruise ships when they arrive in Nassau or Freeport. Many cruise guests cite crime, dirty conditions, aggressive merchants and an absence of things to do compared with other ports as reasons why they stay on the ships when they reach the Bahamas.

As Cruise Radio has observed in a prior article: “The fact that many passengers now opt to stay on board the ships which brought them isn’t news to anyone who has spent time on message boards. There, people often complain about everything from the lack of interesting things to do in Nassau to the virtual army of cab drivers and vendors one must fight past in order to get anywhere.”

But Bahamian tourism official have publicly stated that they needed to be “more aggressive” in looking to find ways to extract money from cruisers. Yet, the Bahamas is planning to end the millions of dollars annually spent on incentives paid to the “very, very profitable” cruise lines so that they would bring passengers to the Bahamas.

We have written many articles about the high rate of crime, including sexual assault, in Nassau. We named Nassau as the most dangerous cruise port in the world in 2014.

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Photo credit: Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board

 

This evening (past midnight local time), the Costa Luminosa cruise ship responded to a ship on fire off the Coast of Greece.  The Costa ship reportedly aided in the rescue of crew members from the merchant vessel.

The ship fire was tweeted by Angel David / @angeltem.

The tweet reads: “cruiser rescuing another ship. Fire aboard a merchant vessel in the middle of the night.”

Translated, the tweet reads: “think the boat on fire in Kithira, Greece is the 1 built in 1986 and with 79 meters.”

The Costa Luminosa apparently was involved, along with other vessel which responded to the fire, in rescuing the crew members from the burning vessel.

A passenger on the cruise ship commented on the rescue operations and posted a video on her Facebook page.

November 21, 2018 Update: According to A R X Maritime, a “Turkish Cargo Ship, Kilic 1, caught on fire in the evening of November 20, approximately 8 nautical miles southeast of Cape Matapan, near the southern coast of Greece. The vessel was en route from Tunisia to Turkey when a fire broke out in the engine room. Kilic’s crew of 11, all Turkish nationals, did not manage to put the fire under control, and thus were forced to abandon ship. Italian cruise ship, Costa Luminosa, arrived at the scene after responding to Kilic’s distress call. The crew all boarded the cruise ship and are all considered to be safe and in good health. Greek maritime authorities arrived upon the scene in force, with over six Coast Guard vessels, a navy helicopter and multiple tugs that attempted to put out the fire.”

If you have information about the fire and rescue of the crew of the burning ship, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo credits: Angel David / @angeltem.

The United States Coast Guard medevaced a woman from a Norwegian Cruise Line (“NCL”) cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 230 nautical miles from Southwest Pass, Louisiana on Saturday, November 17th.

The Eighth Coast Guard District in New Orleans received a request from NCL’s Norwegian Breakaway at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday for a medevac of a 64-year-old female suffering from abdominal pain.

The Coast Guard launched a HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft  from its aviation training center in Mobile and a  MH-65 Dolphin Helicopter from its air station in New Orleans to medevac the woman. The helicopter crew hoisted the woman from the NCL cruise ship and flew her to West Jefferson Medical Center in fair condition.

Video and photo credit: Petty Officer 3rd Class Alexandria Preston from U.S. Coast Guard District 8 via Defense Visual Information Distribution Center (DVIDS).

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) announced during the evening of Sunday November 18th that is was cancelling the current cruise of the Norwegian Jade due to an unspecified “mechanical issue.”

The Jade is currently is San Juan, Puerto Rico during the third day of a “10-Night Southern Caribbean,” having left Miami during the afternoon of November 16th.  The NCL cruise ship was scheduled to leave San Juan last night and arrive in St. Thomas later this morning. The ship was originally scheduled to call on St. Kitts, Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Maarten, returning to Miami on November 26th.

The Master of the ship, Captain Frank Juliussen, confirmed via a letter to the guests that the mechanical issue will keep the ship in San Juan until Tuesday, November 20th at which time “all guests will be required to disembark as the ship will undergo several days of repairs.”

NCL stated that it is trying to arrange charter flights for its guests back to Miami; however, it will pay $650 a person in change fees in the event that passengers are able to make their own flight arrangements.

NCl also stated that it is refunding the cruise fares and will extend a future cruise credit based on the cruise fare paid.

AIS data show the ship has been moved from a pier in Old San Juan to a nearby dock so that the passengers can disembark.

This is not the first time that a NCL has been cancelled during a cruise in the Caribbean due to mechanical issues. One year ago, NCL had to suspend a cruise on the Norwegian Gem due to mechanical issues related to the ship’s azipod system. The cruise was suspended in Barbados and flew the passengers back to New York. NCL later offered a 25% discount on a future cruise.

The Norwegian Star underwent a series of azipod problems in December of 2016 and in January/February of 2017 during Asian and Australian itineraries, which resulted in cancellation of the cruises and refunds and cruise credits to the guests.

NCL states that its terms and conditions for the cruise permit it to “cancel, advance, postpone or substitute any scheduled sailing or itinerary without prior notice” due to “mechanical difficulties or any other reason whatsoever.”

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A copy of a more legible letter can be viewed here.

Several passengers aboard the Royal Princess cruise ship have informed Cruise Law News that a passenger fell from an upper deck and struck a lifeboat last night.

One passenger, who wishes to remain anonymous, stated:

“A women on royal princess princess cruise line was pushed or fell from the lido 15th or 16th deck onto the top of  life boat #2 at 4 am in the morning. She died instantly. Once the ship arrived into Aruba, authorities boarded the ship. Outcome of investigation is unknown. Passengers said the scene was gruesome.”

Passenger were first alerted to the incident when they heard an announcement around 4:30 a.m. for the security team to respond to deck 7 underneath lifeboat number 2. When the cruise ship arrived at port in Aruba, the captain made an announcement that the crime scene investigators were coming on board and no one would be allowed to get off until they cleared the ship.

Mas Noticia refers to the incident as a “possible murder.”

Last July (of 2017), the FBI arrested the husband of a  a 39-year-old woman who was murdered aboard the Emerald Princess operated by Princess Cruises in Alaska. Earlier this year, the boyfriend of a 50 year-old woman was arrested for murder aboard the Carnival Elation after he threw her off their balcony to a lifeboat below. Last month a passenger was arrested after he tried to throw his partner off of the Radiance of the Seas in Australia.

Is a cruise ship a perfect place to commit a crime?

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Update: Diario.aw reports that a “muscular” man was struggling/fighting with the woman, and suddenly began choking her. After that, he reportedly pushed her over the railing. She fell on lifeboat #2, destroying the windows on the lifeboat as well. The authorities in Aruba will perform an autopsy, to determine whether the man killed her first (by choking her) or she died because of the fall.

November 15, 2018 Update: Local 10 News (Miami): “FBI investigating after woman dies aboard cruise ship en route to Aruba.” Finally, the U.S. press cover this disturbing, apparent rime.

November 16, 2018 Update: Numerous newspapers are now reporting on the apparent murder, including the U.K.’s Mail Online (photo above right).

Photo credit: Barry Skeates – via Flickr, CC BY 2.0, commons / wikimedia.

A cruise passenger on board Holland America Line’s Maasdam was killed on November 7th when she slipped and fell between a tender and the HAL cruise ship. At the time of the incident, the ship was in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.

The source of the information is a passenger, wishing to remain anonymous, who stated that: . . . the seas were very rough and it was debatable whether we should have been tendering at all. She was traveling by herself. It would appear that this incident is being covered up. The safety on this ship is rather haphazard.”

The passenger later stated that “the tender service was definitely operated by HAL. The staff members were offered counseling by phone.  I am particularly surprised how unsafe it is on their tenders . . . This particular day was the roughest I have ever seen at sea.  It was definitely not safe and that poor lady paid the ultimate price.”

The Maasdam is currently sailing on a 28 night “Polynesian & South Seas Sampler” cruise.

Cruise lines have a legal duty to exercise a minimum of reasonable care while transferring passengers to and from their cruise ships. A passenger was killed three and one-half years ago when she fell between the tender and the Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth. Eight years ago, a passenger was seriously injured when she fell trying to exit from a tender ferrying passengers to Grand Cayman from a Carnival cruise ship. Seven and one-half years ago, a woman died when she was dropped during a transfer from the Ocean Countess operated by  Cruise and Maritime Voyages.

The case is likely to be governed by the Death on the High Seas Act (“DOHSA”), which limits the recovery only to “pecuniary” (i.e., financial) damages.  Any surviving family members, such as a spouse or children, are not entitled under the terms of DOHSA to recover emotional damages such as grief, bereavement and emotional distress. If the woman is retired and not a wage earner, her family will be limited to just burial expenses.

DOHSA is one of the most antiquated, cruelest and completely callous laws imaginable.

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November 12, 2018 update: A passenger on the cruise left the following comment on our Facebook page: “We were on that cruise and witnessed how unsafe the tendering operation were conducted.The tragedy of this event is that the captain did cover the fatal accident from the passengers and did not properly informed us about what had happened. This gives people reason to gossip and speculate about the real cause of the accident. On that day in Rarotonga the sea was very rough and there were no extra activities from the crew to make sure that tendering operations went safer. The state of tenders on HAL was below criticism.”

November 13, 2018 a.m. update: Newsweek is reporting on the fatality.

November 13, 2018 p.m. update: The Maasdam returned to Rarotonga today, but the master announced that due to rough conditions the ship is unable to tender ashore. A passenger stated “funny, it’s a lot calmer than the other day” (when the passenger died). A photo of the weather conditions today:

The local newspaper (Cook Islands News) reported on the incident.

November 14, 2018 Update: HAL touts itself today in a press release for winning the best cruise line for  shore excursions in a reader’s choice award from Porthole magazine, just a week after a guest was killed during a shore excursion.

Photo credit: Top -M/S/ Maasdam via Holland America Line

Middle and bottom – Maasdam tender – anonymous.

An Italian cruise ferry Excellent reportedly struck a gantry crane in Barcelona, Spain today, causing containers to fall to the pier and catch fire, according to the FleetMon tracking/maritime news website.

Written by maritime online journalist Mikhail Voytenko, the article states that the ferry accident may have been caused, presumably, by a combination of bad weather/ stormy wind and poor handling of the vessel.

The website explains that the vessel was a auto/truck “ro-ro” (i.e., roll-on / roll-off) and passenger ferry which operated between Genoa, Barcelona and Tangier. The ferry is operated by Genoa-based GNV.

The video (credit to Bulgarian Seaman Petar Petrov via Maritime.bg) shows dock workers scurrying from under the large crane as it tilts over and drops several containers onto the pier, apparently containing flammable cargo, which burst into flames.

The FleetMon account states that the fire was extinguished by city fire engines. The ferry, which was taken under control and berthed, reportedly suffered damage to its bow.

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Photo and video credit: Petar Petrov via Maritime.bg,  zidyboby Facebook page and FleetMon.