The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced last week that Salem Christopher Diop, age 22, of Kingston, Pennsylvania, was indicted by a federal grand jury on a sexual assault charge.

The indictment and press release state that on July 8, 2023, Diop was on a cruise when he engaged in sexual assault with a victim “incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct.” The court filing and press release do not refer to the name of the cruise line or cruise ship where the sexual assault took place.

Sexually assaulting a victim who is “incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct” typically occurs when the victim is impaired by a drug, intoxicant, or other similar substance.

The court file does not contain any details of the circumstances leading to the alleged sexual assault. The allegations constitute a felony.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenny P. Roberts is prosecuting the case.

The maximum penalty under federal law for this offense is life imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine.

Cruise lines are required by law, the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act of 2010 (CVSSA), to report certain crimes to the Department of Transportation (DOT) which is suppose to post the crimes on a public database on a internet portal maintained by the federal agency. The crime data must be posted on a quarterly basis.

Unfortunately, the DOT has not posted any cruise ship crime data for this year. The last crimes reported were in 2022.

The DOT data for 2022 indicates that there were a total of 87 sexual assaults on cruise ships for that year. Of this number, there were 33 sexual assaults reported on cruise ships operated by Carnival Cruise Line, 22 on Royal Caribbean ships, and 7 on NCL ships.

It is currently unknown whether sexual crimes during cruises are staying the same or are increasing given the DOT’s failure to post the crime data.

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The Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act (CVSSA) of 2010 requires cruise ships calling on U.S. port to report certain shipboard crimes to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The CVSSA was the result of the efforts of the International Cruise Victim (ICV) which is a grass-roots organization created in 2006. The IVC was successful in convincing Congress, for the first time in the history of the cruise industry, to require the mandatory reporting by the cruise lines of certain crimes which occur on ships, including homicides, suspicious deaths, physical assaults resulting in serious bodily injuries and sexual crimes outlined in 18 U.S.C. 2241, 2241, 2243 and 2244.

The cruise industry opposed the legislation and was able to water down certain parts of the legislation. For example, cruise line lobbyists opposed the reporting of shipboard thefts and was successful in having language inserted in the CVSSA requiring reporting only where the amount of the stolen items exceed $10,000. Of course, most people do not travel with precious jewelry or carry that much cash. Crew members are aware that they face no criminal accountability if they steal a passenger’s iPhone, camera or other items no totaling $10,000.

The cruise line lobbyists were also successful in deleting proposed language which would require the industry to disclose whether the sexual assault victim was a minor.

The CVSSA Requires The Mandatory Reporting of Certain Crimes on Cruise Ships to the DOT

After initially requiring the FBI to report the crimes to the United States Coast Guard, the CVSSA now requires cruise lines to report the crimes to the Department of Transportation (DOT). The DOT was tasked with posting the crime data on a quarterly basis on a spreadsheet located on an internet portal which you can see here.

The purpose of the public disclosure of mandatory reporting of sexual assaults, assaults with serious bodily injuries, missing U.S. nationals and deaths on cruise ships is to educate and warn the traveling public of dangers on cruise ships.

The DOT Currently Refuses to Disclose Cruise Ship Crimes

But the goal of transparency in reporting shipboard rapes on cruise ships has become completely illusory given the fact that the DOT has failed to report any crimes since 2022. The last quarter of cruise crimes reported by the DOT was the last quarter of 2022 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31, 2022) which was eventually posted on March 22, 2023.

No cruise ship crimes for any of 2023 have been disclosed.

Before the CVSSA came into effect, cruise lines were not legally required to report crimes against U.S. citizens which occured on cruise ships. The cruise industry developed a well deserved reputation of not only refusing to report shipboard crimes, particularly rapes, but taking steps to destroy the scene of the crime and fly crew members accused of the crime out of the jurisdiction of the U.S. and back to their home countries. Read: Carnival? Try Criminal – an article by the Miami New Times about Carnival Cruise Line’s questionable conduct following a crime aboard the Carnival Fascination where a Carnival steward pushed a guest down on her cabin bed and raped her.

Since January 1, 2010, the cruise crime database has been available for review by the public who have had the benefit of learning the extent of the danger of crime on cruise ships. The media has been able to report on the allegations and highlight trends which have developed over the years.

Cruise lines reported 82 alleged sexual assaults from 2018 to the DOT, more than any other crime, according to Business Insider. Reports of sexual assault on cruises in late summer of 2019 spiked 67 percent from the previous year, according to the Washington Post.

We reported in December 2019 that, for the preceding 12 months, there were over 100 sexual assaults on cruise ships, according to the DOT crime data which showed:

  • Carnival Cruise Line: 43 sexual assault victims (37 passengers, 6 crew victims).
  • Royal Caribbean: 31 sexual victims (20 passengers, 11 crew victims.)

Carnival Cruise Line Has a Higher Per Capita Rape Rate Higher Than Many States

In 2019, Carnival currently had the same number of cruise ships as Royal Caribbean (26 ships each). But Royal Caribbean had far more passengers than Carnival at any given time. Royal Caribbean had a maximum of around 125,000 passengers, and Carnival Cruise Line had a maximum of around 75,000 passengers. This resulted in a higher per capita rape rate on Carnival cruise ship than its competitor Royal Caribbean.

The sexual assault rate on a per capita basis for Carnival Cruise Line as of 2019 was nearly 40 (39.6) per 100,000.  This number is calculated by taking the number of sexual assaults on Carnival ships reported to the FBI in the last 12 months (43), and dividing it by the total number of people on Carnival’s fleet of ships (around 75,000 passengers and approximately 33,500 crew members for a total of 108,500.

At several Congressional hearings on cruise ship crime, CLIA argued that per capita cruise ship crime rates should be based on the total number of people cruising in any year (around 30,000,000 people cruised in 2019) rather than the average number of people populating cruise ships on any given day.  By analogy, the per capita crime statistics for U.S. cities are calculated based only on the number of residents in a city, not the total amount of tourists who may visit the city for a short time.

CLIA’s misleading method of calculating crime substantially understated the rape rate on cruise ships.

Congress rejected CLIA’s argument and concluded that per capita cruise crime statistics should be calculated based on the average number of passengers sailing at a particular time, not on the annual number of passengers over the course of a year.

The per capita rate of sexual assaults on Carnival ships of 40 per 100,000 is significant. It is a higher per capita rate than twenty states, including California, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina and Georgia (and over a dozen other states).

The per capita sexual assault rate of 40 per 100,000 on Carnival ships may actually be higher than this. These calculations assume that Carnival cruise ships are sailing at maximum capacity. Additionally, the definition of sexual assault under the C5VSSA is very restrictive and includes only a relatively small portion of the acts which would be deemed to constitute a sexual assault ashore. There has also been widespread criticism that the cruise lines often under-report the crimes which occur on their ships.

And of course, Carnival’s high sexual assault rate on its ships is not occurring in a state with high crime areas where there are gangs and “bad areas of town” but is occurring during what should be a relaxing, vacation get-away.

Too Much Booze on the “Fun Ships” and No Independent Law Enforcement

During an with Sun Online several years ago, I stated that “we see a direct correlation between excessive alcohol served on cruises and violence, in general, and sexual violence against women, in particular.”  Bartenders and waiters on cruise ships often receive tips and gratuities and are motivated to sell excessive amounts of alcohol in order to earn a living. There is no independent police force on these increasingly huge cruise ships. Girls and young women are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse in what is often described as a “lawless environment.”

Few Prosecutions in Federal Court

A small percentage of sexual crimes against women at sea are prosecuted by the U.S. federal government. I attended a hearing in 2007 before Congress regarding cruise ship crime where a senior FBI official testified that only 7% of sexual assaults on cruise ships are prosecuted in federal court.

One-Third of the Rape Victims Are Minors

NBC News reported: “And perhaps most troubling, many of the sexual assaults on-board cruise ships involved minors. A congressional report (in 2013) found that minors were victims in a third of the assaults.” Cruise lines do not have to disclose when the victim is a child.

The CVSSA Is Concerned Only With Victims From the U.S.

The U.S. federal court has jurisdiction only when the assailant and/or victim is a U.S. national. There are few U.S. citizens working on cruise ships. Unless the victim is a U.S. national, the FBI will not investigate the crime. The FBI will not investigate when a foreign (i.e., non-U.S. citizens) crew member rapes another non-U.S. crew member. The DOJ will not prosecute crimes involving victims who are not from the U.S.

Cruise lines, FBI, and DOT Have Made a Mockery of the Goal of Transparency

Thirteen years ago, the U.S. Congress enacted the CVSSA with the laudable goals of educating the traveling public and making them aware of the substantial risks of sexual violence on certain cruise ships.

The FBI has demonstrated little true interest in investigating crimes on cruise ships. The Department of Justice prosecutes only a small minority of the crimes alleged on cruise ships. The DOT has no real interest in the issue of crime and is, at best, a federal agency tasked only with the administrative duty (and thankless task) of posting the crime data provided by an industry which does not want the truth disclosed in the first place. It’s a recipe for a continued lack of transparency.

The result is the public is now being kept in the dark again.

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September 13, 2023 Update:

It seems impossible to communicate with the DOT regarding this issue. Emails sent to an email address, listed on the DOT’s crime incident report website, are returned as “undeliverable.” When you speak to a representative, they claim there is no email address.

October 6, 2023 Update: Business Insider addressed this issue today in an article titled The US government is required to publish reports of criminal activity on cruise ships every quarter. They haven’t all year.

October 23, 2023 Update:

A passenger was reported missing from a Carnival cruise ship yesterday following a three-day cruise from Miami.

Several local and national news outlets reported that twenty-six year old Kevin McGrath, who was apparently traveling with his family, did not disembark from the Carnival Conquest when it arrived back at the Port of Miami early yesterday morning.

Some local news stations reported that Mr. McGrath was last seen on the cruise ship around 2:00 a.m. when the ship was returning to port in Miami. The Miami Herald reported that “police say McGrath’s brother saw him in cabin No. 1326 around 2 a.m. Monday, six hours before the Conquest’s three-day cruise was scheduled to end at PortMiami.” A Miami-Dade police detective told the Miami Herald that “he was supposed to meet the family for breakfast prior to disembarking from the ship but he never arrived as scheduled/planned.”

But several other outlets reported that Mr. McGrath was last seen by his brother at 7:00 a.m. on the morning of his disappearance. “A spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Line told Fox News Digital that the passenger’s cabin mate last saw the man at 7:00 a.m., which is around the time that debarkation was beginning.”

The ship’s CCTV did not indicate anyone falling overboard during the cruise nor did the shipboard cameras provide an explanation where Mr. McGrath may have gone. Carnival claims that it conducted a complete search of the ship. Like all other Carnival cruise ships, the Carnival Conquest is not equipped with an automatic man overboard (MOB) system which would have instantly reported someone going over the railing, recorded the event, and then tracked the overboard passenger in the water..

The Miami-Dade Police Department made a public request for information about Mr. McGrath’s disappearance. It listed the location of the missing passenger as the Port of Miami.

Yesterday, the U.S. Coast Guard conducted a search by helicopter in the waters around the Port of Miami according to multiple sources.

In this age of affordable and readily available high technology (including state of the art MOB systems), it’s embarrassing that this cruise line is asking for the local police department to issue missing person flyers to try and locate a missing cruise passenger.

This is the 393rd person to go overboard or otherwise disappear from a cruise ship since 1995, according to cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein.

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Carnival ConquestNorman Einstein CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia; Kevin McGrath – Miami-Dade County POlice Department.

A “man overboard” situation took place yesterday evening on the Wonder of the Seas as it was sailing to Mexico.

A man apparently went overboard at some time shortly after 8:00 p.m. when the Wonder of the Seas was sailing south of Cuba. I received a message at 8:47 p.m. last night from a woman on the cruise, stating that she heard an “Oscar, Oscar, Oscar” announcement over the ship’s PA system 31 minutes earlier.

Cruise Radio’s Doug Parker was one of the first bloggers to report on the situation. He reported that a passenger who goes my the name “Cabana Girl” posted on the Cruise Critic message board:

  • “Heard an Oscar Oscar Oscar Port on Wonder of the Seas during dinner this evening. A crewmember told us it was a child. Don’t know if this is true but there are spotlights and a boat down searching. Very sad if this true.”

Another passengers posted on the Cruise critic message board that the captain made an announcement of the man overboard around 8:00 p.m. yesterday evening. Others commented that a rescue boat had been deployed to search for the man in the water. Due to Hurricane Idalia, the Royal Caribbean ship had already modified its original Western Caribbean itinerary. An unrelated medical emergency cut short the search (after only around two and one-half hours) for the overboard man as the Wonder of the Seas decided to sail the ill or injured passenger to the Cayman Islands.

  • “I am on board the Wonder of the Seas now. The Captain announced that there was a man overboard about 8pm CT tonight Tues 8-29. I started video taping the small boat that was searching for the person and I searched with my camera from my balcony for about an hour with no luck. Our ship already had to change course because we were headed right into the hurricane so we are missing Honduras as a result of Hurricane Idelia and so we had to come around the bottom of Cuba. We were stopped for about two and a half hours looking for the overboard person when another emergency happened on board and now we are headed as fast as possible to Grand Cayman which was not one of our stops.”

A family member (a sister who was not on the cruise) of a nineteen year-old passenger posted pleas on social media for the search to continue for her brother, who she identified as Sigmund Ropich of Paris, Texas.

Unfortunately, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) has indicated that it is not involved in the search. No explanation why the USCG declined to become involved was provided. According to Orlando Local News-6:

“When News 6 reached out to the U.S. Coast Guard, officials said they are not involved in the incident and that the Cuban Border Guard is the lead on the case.”

Royal Caribbean also told News-6 that it allegedly “is working closely with local authorities.” It is less than clear what Royal Caribbean means by this standard statement. I have never heard of Royal Caribbean or any other cruise line working with Cuba to locate a cruise guest missing from a U.S. based cruise ship. It is highly unlikely, in my opinion, that Cuba will devote any of its limited Coast Guard resources to search for a U.S. cruise passenger. It’s unknown whether the Cuban Coast Guard, known as “Tropas Guardafronteras,” has access to any C-130 type of aircraft to conduct search at sea.

Shown is the AIS chart of the Wonder of the Seas showing the slight change of course when it conducted a brief search for less than three hours. (Image credit: CruiseMapper)
Close up of AIS chart.

It seems outrageous if it is true that the crew of the Wonder of the Seas searched for less than three hours and then left their guest in the water at night, knowing that the USCG would not be dispatching cutters and helicopters to continue search and rescue operations.

In November of last year, a passenger was rescued after he fell from the Carnival Valor and treaded water for over twenty (20) hours.

In June of 2018, a crew member on the Norwegian Getaway fell overboard in the sea north of Cuba  and was rescued by a passing Carnival ship (Carnival Glory) 22 hours later (Read: How often do people fall overboard on cruise ships? by Rosie Spinks in Quartz).

In August 2018, a heavily intoxicated 46 year-old guest fell from the Norwegian Star and was eventually rescued, around 35 hours later, by the Croatian Coast Guard after the NCL cruise ship abandoned the passenger and returned to its home port.

In these two overboard cases from NCL cruise ships, the crew member and guest were eventually successfully rescued notwithstanding the fact that NCL abandoned them both.

Even though Royal Caribbean touted the Wonder of the Seas as the largest cruise ship in the world, the cruise line decided not to install an automatic man overboard (MOB) system, which are required by the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA). State of the art MOB systems utilize motion detection, radar and infrared technologies to instantly send an image to the bridge officers that a person has gone over the rails and can then detect and track the person in the water even at night. The chances of a successful search and rescue are greatly increased.

Royal Caribbean is one of many cruise companies which has decided not to install this life-saving system, citing a range of excuses which we have discussed in prior articles.

Hannah Towney of Business Insider recently wrote an interesting article regarding the CVSSA and why the USCG doesn’t check cruise ships for man-overboard technology that has been legally required for over 10 years: 4 people have gone overboard on cruise ships this summer. Here’s why most cruise lines don’t use technology that could’ve helped save them. My response is here.

There have been 392 persons overboard from cruise ships and ferries since 1995, according to cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein. The vast majority of cruise passengers lost at sea occured after Congress enacted the CVSSA.

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Image credit: Wonder of the Seas – By Daniel Capilla, CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia; AIS images of itinerary – CruiseMapper; Sigmund Ropich – Savannah Ropich Facebook.

 A U.S. Border Protection agent arrested a cruise passenger who sailed on the Scarlet Lady for possession of child pornography on Wednesday at Virgin Voyages’ terminal at the Port of Miami.

Michael Fanning, age 47, of Atlanta was arrested when authorities reportedly discovered multiple videos depicting child pornography on his phone, according to multiple news sources.

Federal agents searched Fanning’s phone and found three videos showing child pornography, according to local NBC-6 in Miami. A further search reportedly revealed two additional porn videos

“Fanning spoke with investigators and said he had numerous videos saved on his phone in a folder named ‘Y’ and said the ‘folder was used to categorize the pornography as young,’ the report said.”

WIOD-610 Radio in Miami reported that “the content of the discovered videos included scenes involving the rape of boys as young as 8 years old.”

We report routinely when cruise passengers or crew members are caught with pornography, and when guests are sexually assaulted during cruises.

One-third of the sexual assaults which occur on cruise ships involve minors. This firm continue to report on such cases which are consistent with the testimony of a senior FBI official before Congress and investigations by major national news outlets. See: Sex Assault Victims on Cruise Ships Are Often Under 18.

In March, we reported on the disturbing criminal cases of an assistant cruise director and guest activities officer employed by Princess Cruises who were involved in creating and distributing graphically violent child pronography iamges while on a Princess cruise ship.

To date, Princess Cruises have avoided any mention of these crimes involving a minor who sailed with her parents on a Princess cruise ship.

In June, we reported that a cruise ship employee, who describes himself as a music director of Royal Caribbean, was jailed in Australia for obtaining and accessing child abuse photographs and videos.

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Image credit: Scarlett Lady – Virgin Voyages; Michael Fanning – Miami-Dade Police Department via NBC-6.

Last Friday morning, a cruise ship carrying over 3,000 passengers reported to the local police department in Hilo, Hawaii that it was missing a guest as it sailed toward that port. The police department in Hilo received the call at 8:40 a.m. on Friday, stating that 59 year old Kenneth Schwalbe had not been seen on the ship since 8:30 p.m. the previous evening. The cruise ship had spent time searching for passenger Schwalbe on the ship after he had not been seen since the previous evening. A detective from the Hilo police department met the cruise ship at the port on Friday morning and reviewed closed circuit surveillance video from a camera on deck 9 which showed, at 4:18 a.m. on Friday, Mr. Schwalbe falling from the ship.

There is no information regarding the circumstances surrounding his situation before he went overboard.

The local news reports failed to mention the name of the cruise ship, which we later determined to be the Emerald Princess, as AIS systems indicate that it was the only cruise ship calling on Hilo on August 11th.

The United States Coast Guard was eventually notified despite the fact that there was a delay of over 4 hours from when the cruise guest fell from the cruise ship. Because the cruise ship was a Carnival-owned vessel operated by Princess Cruises, it lacked an automated man-overboard system (“MOB”) which would have immediately alerted the bridge that a person went over the rails (via a motion detection apparatus) and then track the person in the water using infrared and radar technologies.

MOB systems would have promptly alerted the navigational officer that an emergency situation was developing and would have permitted a fast search for the overboard person in the water. Without such a system which is required by the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) of 2010, the cruise ship would have first conducted a laborious search for the missing guest on the cruise ship and then a frame-by-frame review of available CCTV images. All the while, the cruise ship would continue on its path to the next port as the chances for a successful rescue diminished by the minute.

When we first reported on this sad case, we received the usual comments by some readers that “you can’t fall from a cruise ship.” These types of comments usually reflect an effort to cast blame on the missing passenger and suggest that the person went overboard intentionally. Cruise lines often comment when their after-the-fact review of CCTV shows someone jumping into the sea. So the fact that the initial report of the overboard is that the CCTV shows him falling (i.s., not jumping) is not insignificant.

Yes, there are some people who decide to end their lives at sea, mostly crew members who become depressed after working long eight month contracts away from their families. But the vast majority of passengers who go overboard are grossly intoxicated. (There is insufficient information regarding this particular case). When the cruise ship eventually reviews CCTV images, the film often shows the person leaning over the railing to vomit before he or she falls overboard. There is usually a delay of several hours before traveling companions observe the person is no longer in their cabin. There is further delay while the ship wastes time searching on the ship while the overboard passenger treads water. Often, like this case, the cruise ship has already arrived at the next port before the ship finally confirms that the person went into the ocean.

One of the first things that the cruise ship security officers do after a passenger goes overboard is to print out and review the passenger’s onboard purchases, which show when the guest purchases alcohol in the ship’s bars and restaurants.The print-out shows exactly when and where the drink was purchased. There is a direct correlation between alcohol sales and guests going overboard. The most booze consumed by a guest who later went overboard was when Royal Caribbean sold 22 drinks to a 21 year old passenger who fell from the Oasis of the Seas in January 2015. Like Carnival Corporation-owned cruise ships, Royal Caribbean has not installed any auto MOB systems in its fleet of ships.

When the young man stumbled out of a ship bar on the Oasis of the Seas after drinking nearly two-dozen drinks in just four hours, he somehow ended up climbing onto a lifeboat where he passed out, only to fall off the lifeboat early in the morning as the Oasis approached Cozumel. Several hours later, the Disney Dream, which was sailing the same route to the Mexican port, observed the young man in the water and miraculously rescued him. (Kudos to the Disney watch keepers on the Disney Dream!)

Coincidentally, only Disney Cruises (and one MSC cruise ship, the MSC Meraviglia) have installed auto-MOB systems in compliance with the CVSSA

There have been 391 people who have gone overboard from cruise ships and ferries in the last 25 years, per cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein. 238 people have gone overboard since the CVSSA went into effect,

Carnival Corporation-owned ships like the Princess Emerald violate U.S. law every time they depart from a U.S. port without the required life-saving MOB system installed. Many cruise fans don’t seem to care, mindlessly arguing that “it’s impossible to fall off a cruise ship.”

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Image credit: By kees torn – flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0 commons / wikimedia.

It has been a month since the public learned that the fire-resistant panels used during the construction of the new Explora I cruise ship, owned by MSC Cruises and operated by Europa Journeys, failed safety certification. The Financial Times (“FT”), which broke the story, reported that a total of around forty-five cruise ships had incorporated the defective panels in their construction.

Since then, I have been trying to determine which cruise ships have the Paroc panels which failed safety certification last month. The cruise industry has remained mum, refusing to inform journalists (or the pubic) of this basic safety information. Last week, we reported on the marine underwriters’ pleas for information from the industry: Insurers of Dozens of Cruise Ships With Potentially Dangerous Fire Panels Seek Transparency: “We Demand Names of All Ships Equipped With Paroc Panels.”

Due to this lack of transparency by the cruise industry (including the manufacturers/suppliers, shipowners, cruise operators, trade organization, certification societies and governmental agencies), no one knows exactly what products failed and why.

Images Credit: Paroc

Yesterday, I located a list of cruise ship titled “Examples of latest Paroc Marine References” which lists the vessel where Paroc marine products were installed through 2017. The FT article refers to Paroc fire-resistant “panels” which failed safety certification. The Paroc literature references various fire-resistant “wall panels, ceiling panels and floor panels.” Paroc primarily advertises that its products include a wide range of “marine wired mats” and marine fire slabs” which can be covered with aluminum foil or different types of glass fiber facing. We do not know exactly which of these specific fire-resistant products failed safety certification. (Paroc also make fire insulation for air ducts and pipes).

The list mentions one-hundred and eighty-three (183) vessels with Paroc fire-resistant products installed, including cruise ships, passenger and car ferries, oil and LNG carriers, container and cargo ships, roll on / roll off (“ro ro”) carriers, tug boats and at least one “missile boat.” There are fifty-nine (59) cruise ships listed, excluding ferries and cruise ferries, which I highlighted here.

The list mentions twenty-six (26) cruise ships owned by Carnival Corporation, including nine cruise ships operated by Carnival Cruise Line: Carnival Vista, Carnival Miracle, Carnival Valor, Carnival Victory, Carnival Spirit, Carnival Pride, Carnival Legend, Carnival Conquest and Carnival Glory; four cruise ships operated by Princess Cruises: Crown Princess, Star Princess, Crown Princess, and Royal Princess; four cruise ships operated by Holland American Line: Zaandam, Koningsdam, Amsterdam, and Westerdam; five cruise ships operated by Costa Cruises: Costa Atlantica, Costa Mediterranea, Costa Diadema and two unnamed ships; two cruise ships operated by AIDA Cruises: AIDAvita and AIDAaura; one ship operated by Peninsular Oriental (P&O) Cruises: Britannia; and one cruise ship operated by Seabourn Cruise Line: Seabourn Encore.

The list includes sixteen (16) cruise ships owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.: ten (10) cruise ships operated by Royal Caribbean: Adventure of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, and Liberty of the Seas; and four ships operated by Mein Schiff, a joint venture between Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. and German shipping and travel giant TUI AG: Mein Schiff 3, Mein Schiff 4, Mein Schiff 5 and Mein Schiff 6; and two cruise ships operated by Silver Seas Cruises: Silver Shadow and Silver Mirage.

There are five cruise ships on the list owned by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings: three operated by Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Sky, Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Escape and two cruise ships operated by Seven Seas Cruises: Seven Seas Explorer and Seven Seas Voyager.

The list contains three cruise ships owned and operated by Viking Cruises: Viking Star, Viking Sea and Viking Sky.

The list also includes the following nine cruise ships with Paroc products installed:

  • MSC Meraviglia (MSC Cruises)
  • Midnattsol (Hurtigruten)
  • Birka Paradise (Rederi AB Gotland)
  • Genting Dream (Resorts World Cruises)
  • The World (Residences at Sea)
  • Trollfjord (Trollfjord Cruises)
  • Le Lyrial (Ponant Cruises)
  • Olympic Spirit (Mada Cruises)
  • Viking Grace (Viking Line)

A couple of comments about this list prepared by Paroc: It is not current (i.e., through 2023). It shows the vessels where Paroc fire installation products were installed from the years 2000 through 2017. The list fails to mention the names of several cruise ships discussed by FT in its articles Luxury Cruise Liner’s Launch Delayed As Dozens of Ships Face Potential Safety Hazard published on July 8th (which mentioned that 45 cruise ships were equipped with the faulty fire panels) and Cruise Liner Supplier Halts Sales of Deficient Fire-Resistant Panels published on July 21st. The Explora I, for example, was mentioned in one or more of these articles. Two ships in the MSC Cruises fleet were also mentioned. One is the MSC Euribia (photo above), which was previously delivered by shipyard Chantiers de L’Atlantique and is currently at sea with guests. The other cruise ship remains unidentified in FT’s original reporting. It may be the MSC Meraviglia which is on this list.

Also missing from the list are two Royal Caribbean cruise ships, Explorer of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas. which are listed by Paroc on its website.

Images Credit: Paroc

As previously stated, another issue to keep in mind is that the initial FT article did not mention the precise Paroc fire-resistant products which failed safety certification or the exact nature of the failures. The list of 59 cruise ships with Paroc products does not necessarily mean that the products, whether they include panels, slabs or wired mats, failed certification. Due to the lack of transparency, the cruise industry is content to let this uncertainty continue to exist while as many as fifty-nine cruise ships are sailing with tens of thousands of passengers who have no reason to be confident of their safety if a fire breaks out on the high seas.

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Image Credit: Paroc marine product MSC Euribia By ND44 – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

The marine insurers for cruise ships which may have the faulty fire-resistant Paroc panels are demanding transparency that cruise lines / ship owners disclose which vessels contain the faulty panels, according to Lloyd’s List. The London-based news website for the shipping industry recently published two articles, focusing on the potentially dangerous Paroc fire-resistant panels. The articles address the uncertainty created by the relevant cruise lines’ failure to disclose the specific reasons why the fire-resistant panels failed certification and the names of the dozens of cruise ships which are operating at sea with this potential fire hazard. The articles are:

We have written several articles about this significant issue, after the Financial Times (“FT”) first reported that the launch of MSC’s newest cruise ship, Explora I, was delayed because the luxury ship had been constructed with faulty fire-resistant panels. The first article published by the FT, titled Luxury Cruise Liner’s Launch Delayed as Dozens of Ships Face Potential Safety Hazard, reported that many dozens of cruise ships and other vessels had been fitted with fire-resistant materials manufactured by the Finnish company Paroc, which is a division of U.S. corporate giant Owens Corning.

The Cruise Industry Downplayed the Danger While Withholding the Identity of the Ships at Issue

Since our initial article, we have seen MSC Cruises and its new brand which is operating the Explora I, Explora Journeys, downplay the dangers of the failed certification of panels. The manufacturer / supplier (Paroc) and the shipyard (Fincantieri) have stayed mum, refusing to respond to inquiries regarding the names of the ships with the defective materials. Meanwhile, the cruise trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA). touted the cruise industry as having the health and safety of its guests and crew as its highest priority, despite the fact that the public has been denied basic information regarding which cruise ships (currently sailing with many thousands of passengers and crew members) have the potentially dangerous materials installed.

Following the delivery of the Explora I (in less than just two weeks after the problems were first made public), FT, in a follow up article on July 21, 2023, reported that the shipbuilder stated that it allegedly replaced Paroc’s products with other insulation material “where possible” and “doubled the insulation where necessary.” Meanwhile, the ship owner / operator and shipyard have generated a media frenzied surrounding the new ship which is now sailing on its initial itineraries. Travel writers gush about such things as the elegance of the decor while avoiding any mention of whether the faulty Paroc panels were all replaced as would be prudent.

Underwriters Are Demanding Transparency From the Cruise Industry

Lloyd’s List reports that marine insurers are continuing to seek the names of all ships fitted with the Paroc panels and are “demanding transparency as they assess how much the fallout will cost.” Although it’s possible that the replacement costs may be limited, the underwriters are obviously concerned with the possibility that “dozens of ships will need to be recalled to have existing panels stripped out and replaced, at considerable expense.”

The marine underwriters appear to be understandably nervous about being kept in the dark regarding the identity of the vessels involved. The insurers are seeking the “names of dozens of vessels that may have to be recalled to have equipment stripped out.” Lloyd’s List added that “insurers are known to be keen to know the names, but have so far not been given the identities of the ships at risk.”

The Lloyd’s List articles confirm that Finland’s transport agency (Traficom) was made aware of the withdrawal of the safety certification of the Paroc fire-resistant panels and that all European countries and flag states, shipowners, and shipyards have been notified. However, a representative of Traficom refused to provide Lloyd’s List with the identity any of the 45 or so other vessels with the Paroc materials, stating that “it is up to each ships flag state to give relevant information to the public, if they are willing to do so.”

It appears that underwriters are uncertain not only of the scope of the danger (and the scope of the risk which they have underwritten) but the nature of the failed certification itself. “What exactly went wrong has yet to be established, with only limited details made available to the public.”

Lloyd’s List made it clear that the affected vessels are “mainly cruiseships, ro-ro passengers ferries and yachts” but also include “at least one product tanker and one transhipment barge.”

Paroc’s parent company, Owens Corning, acknowledged the failed certification, stating that: “We have suspended the distribution and sales of these products and have alerted the relevant regulatory authorities. In parallel, we recalled the products and notified our customers.”

Underwriters Want to Avoid a Panic?

The underwriters expressed to Lloyd’s List the desire for “full disclosure” but recognized the shipping industry’s desire to deal with the issue discretely rather than in public. The insurers also seemed to recognize the cruise lines'”obvious desire to minimize the kind of publicity that could deter cruiseship bookings.”

One insurer with what was described as having a “substantial exposure to cruiseships” informed Lloyd’s List “we don’t know which the other ships are, but we will be inquiring. Gently, because we don’t want to create a panic.”

Business As Usual for Cruise Lines and Travel Agents

Meanwhile, travel agents are continuing to sell cruises on the heavily marketed new ship without a clear disclosure whether the fire hazard has been abated.

More importantly, the public and crew members are sailing on many dozens of other cruise ships which may contain the potentially dangerous panels without any disclosure by the cruise lines. As we discussed in Which Cruise Ships are Equipped With Faulty Paroc Fire-Resistant Panels? (The Cruise Lines, Product Supplier, Shipyards and CLIA Won’t Say!), major cruise lines like Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises may be operating cruise ships with the faulty panels installed.

Paroc advertises that its product were installed in numerous cruise ships owned by Royal Caribbean, including the Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas. “250 full truck loads of Paroc products” were used in building the Oasis of the Sea alone, according to Paroc.

It is unknown whether any of the companies operating the 45 ships at sea have any intention of inspecting and testing the panels used in their construction to determine whether they meet fire safety standards. The traveling public has an absolute right to understand this basic safety issue. Unfortunately, the cruise lines are committed to keeping this information secret.

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Images: Paroc Fire Insulation Materials – Paroc Group; Explora I Explora Journeys; Oasis of the SeasParoc Group

According to The Straights Times, sometime in the very early hours of Monday, July 31st, Royal Caribbean cruise passenger Jakesh Sahani, age 70, woke up to find his 64 year-old wife, Reeta Sahani, missing from their cabin on the Spectrum of the Seas as it sailed back to Singapore. The Royal Caribbean ship was returning from a four day cruise to ports in Malaysia.

Wife Allegedly Sitting Atop A Railing?

The article originally states that the “retiree tried to locate his 64-year-old wife on the sprawling cruise ship but did not succeed, so he informed the ship’s crew, who later told him that his wife was (allegedly) seen sitting atop a railing at about 4 am, according to closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage.” (emphasis added). The next sentence originally stated: “The ship’s overboard detection systems meanwhile had been alerted that something had fallen from the vessel into the Singapore Strait.”

The newspaper was subsequently “updated,” without explanation, to omit any reference to the allegation that the wife had allegedly been “seen sitting atop a railing at about 4 am . . . ”

No Mention of “Sitting Atop A Railing” But A MOB “Detection System” Alerting A Fall?

The revised sentence now reads: “The retiree tried to locate his 64-year-old wife on the sprawling cruise ship but did not succeed, so he informed the ship’s crew, who later told him the ship’s overboard detection systems had been alerted that something had fallen from the vessel into the Singapore Strait.”

Putting aside, for the moment, that The Straights Times subsequently abandoned the claim that Ms. Sahani was allegedly “sitting atop a railing,” the article fails to state when her husband first noticed her to be absent from her cabin, or how long her husband looked for her, or when he finally reported her missing from the ship. Assuming that crew members told Mr. Sahani that his wife was seen on CCTV sitting on a railing (as the newspaper first claimed), there’s no indication when or who allegedly saw her on CCTV or when the cruise line first reported her missing from the ship.

The other curious issue raised by this questionable reporting is the reference to the alleged “overboard detection systems”(“MOB system”) on the ship. To my knowledge, Royal Caribbean is one of many cruise companies which has steadfastly refused to install state-of-the-art automatic MOB systems for the past thirteen years. If there were such a system on the ship which was allegedly triggered because “something had fallen from the vessel in the Singapore Strait” why didn’t Royal Caribbean immediately initiate search and rescue efforts shortly after the woman was allegedly seen on CCTV at 4:00 a.m. on the rails? Why did it wait for nearly an hour (until 7:50 a.m.) after it arrived at port in Singapore (at around 7:00 a.m.) and many hours after she went overboard to notify maritime authorities identified as the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) Singapore?

And who at Royal Caribbean, if anyone, reportedly told the newspaper that this cruise ship allegedly has a overboard detection system?

News reports are that the Spectrum of the Seas left Singapore for its next cruise (to Vietnam, China, Taiwan and Japan) at some time after 9:00 p.m. As matters now stand, reports are that a (belated) search is underway for the missing passenger. Meanwhile, her family naturally has expressed confusion about these events. Her son, who lives in India, is “still in the dark about his mother’s status.” He added “We’ve asked to see the CCTV footage, but so far we’ve not received anything yet for us to confirm that it was her.”

The Strait Times asked Royal Caribbean for a comment and the cruise line was quick to tell the newspaper that it allegedly reported the overboard passenger to local authorities “immediately.”

That claim seems far fetched if the MRCC wasn’t notified until the ship had been in port for nearly an hour after the ship had returned to Singapore and several hours more after she went overboard. The automatic information system (AIS) tracking data shows no movement of the ship consistent with searching for an overboard passenger.

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Image Credit: Spectrum of the Seas – Singapore Cruise Society via TodayOnLine

August 1, 2023 Update: Channel News Asia (CNA) reports in an article titled “I had no idea”: Spectrum of the Seas Passengers in the Dark After Person Falls Overboard Cruise Ship that “Several passengers told CNA that there were a few announcements paging for a woman to report to guest services sometime between 5.30am and 6.30am on Monday (Jul 31) morning.”

This is consistent with the passenger going overboard earlier in the morning (around 4:00 a.m.) and the cruise ship searching on the ship for several hours after her husband reported her missing until Royal Caribbean finally notified the MRCC around 7:50 a.m. – a delay of around 3-4 hours.

Also, it appears clear that notwithstanding some reports to the contrary, Royal Caribbean did not conduct a search for Ms. Sahani in the water. Her son stated in an Instagram post that cruise staff “didn’t carry out any full rescue operation and off boarded my dad to carry on with their next cruise.”

The Straights Times, citing an Instagram post, reports that the son of Ms. Sahani states that the family “has seen closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage from the Spectrum of the Seas” which confirms that she went overboard.

A thirty-year old man reportedly went overboard from the Carnival Elation which was returning to the port in Jacksonville Sunday afternoon from a five day cruise. News reports say that the man’s traveling companion reported him missing from the ship sometime in the “late afternoon” of July 23, 2023. Carnival conducted a search on the ship and then eventually reviewed surveillance videos which, Carnival claims, show him jumping overboard.

Carnival then contacted the United States Coast Guard which is conducting a search. The Carnival cruise ship did not conduct a search for the missing man in the water and returned to port in Jacksonville.

The man went overboard while the ship was about 95 miles east of Melbourne, Florida.

Carnival, which has not made the video public, claims that CCTV video shows the man allegedly jumping. Carnival did not disclose the deck where the passenger fell from or the circumstances surrounding the incident.

It is unknown when the passenger went overboard. Most people who go overboard from Carnival ships are heavily intoxicated and go into the water late at night or very early in the morning.

Despite the fact that the U.S. Congress in 2010 passed the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act which requires cruise ships to install automatic man overboard systems, there are no cruise ships operated by Carnival Cruise Lines or owned by Carnival Corporation which have such life-saving MOB systems. Current auto MOB technology utilizes motion detection systems to detect when someone goes over the rails of a ship and then, using infrared and radar systems, tracks the person in the water even at nighttime.

Only Disney Cruise Line has installed the systems on all of its cruise ships. MSC Cruises installed an auto MOB system on one cruise ship, the MSC Meraviglia, which it installed in 2017.

According to cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein, at least 386 people have gone overboard from cruise ships and ferries since 1995.

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Image credit: Carnival Elation – Jersyko commons / wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0, Man Overboard (1981) Richard Bosman Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) (“With expressionist cuts to the woodblock in this ambitious eight-color print, the artist depicted a moment in an unknown narrative somewhere between beginning and end.”)

July 24, 2023 P.M. Update: The Coast Guard is continuing to search for the missing man as of 3:00 p.m. today (July 24). The USCG dispatched the 87-foot cutter Tarpon from St. Petersburg, a Hercules aircraft based out of Clearwater, and a Miami-based Ocean Sentry aircraft. Meanwhile, the Carnival ship is preparing to leave on a 3:30 p.m. departure back to the Bahamas.

The missing passenger was identified as Jaylen Hill.

The USCG ended it search this evening.