Princess Cruises’ Star Princess cruise ship recently discharged sludge from its exhaust system scrubbers in the port of Ketchikan, according to the city of Ketchikan, as originally reported by  KRBD Community Radio. KRBD also reports that the city received complaints by the public of an earlier similar discharge from the Golden Princess while in Ketchikan.

As shown by photographs (above and on our Facebook page, courtesy of the city of Ketchikan), the sludge polluted the waters of Ketchikan and fouled the port facilities where the Princess cruise ship were berthed.  According to communications between administrators in the city of Ketchikan, a local Alaskan resident reportedly voiced her serious concerns over cruise ship discharges in port were in port and the resulting fouling of beaches.

The city of Ketchikan concluded that the recent incidents of discharges appeared to be from cruise ship exhaust gas scrubbers and not from wastewater. The city identified several photographs of discharges observed by local port personnel coming from the Star Princess on July 23, 2018 while the cruise ship was at berth no. 4 in Ketchikan.  The city notified the ship which turned off its exhaust gas scrubber system.

The city of Ketchikan notified the U.S. Coast Guard and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) which reportedly are both investigating the incidents.

Scrubber systems are increasingly being used on cruise ships in order to reduce sulfur particles and engine exhaust particulates.  Petroleum-based. non-combustible particulate matter accumulates as sludge, during the water-scrubbing process, and must eventually be removed from the ships. Many cruise ships simply discharge the sludge into the water, while they are underway or even at port, rather than properly disposing the sludge in facilities ashore.

According to the Ports and Harbors personnel in Ketchikan and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC), such untreated discharges are not permitted by state water quality standards within Alaska’s local waters, although they apparently are permitted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Cruise lines claim that they exceed all applicable local, state, national and international environmental regulations. But this does not appear to be true. A representative of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) recently argued that the cruise industry would never dump the sludge overboard, irrespective of  whether regulations permit such discharges, where the particulate matter and sulfur sludge obviously would pollute the water and foul the local beaches.

According to data prepared by the ADEC, as many as 23 large cruise ships (with anywhere from one to four scrubbers systems each) are calling on ports in Alaska in 2018. There is concern of widespread discharges of sludge into the Alaskan ports. Other ports in locations outside of Alaska, where low-sulfur fuel is required, will also likely see cruise ships discharging scrubber sludge at sea and in local waters.

The Star Princess and Caribbean Princess were two of several Princess cruise ships implicated in Princess’ widespread and long term discharge of oily substances over a period of nearly a decade. The Caribbean Princess secretly used an illegal “magic pipe” to bypass pollution control devices and discharge oily substances directly into the water, rather than properly offload the waste in port.

The Star Princess used illegal practices such as opening a salt water valve when bilge waste was being processed by the oily water separator and oil content monitor. The purpose was to prevent the oil content monitor from otherwise alarming and stopping the overboard discharge.  The second practice involved discharges of oily bilge water originating from the overflow of graywater tanks into the machinery space bilges. This waste was pumped back into the graywater system rather than being processed as oily bilge waste. Neither of these practices were truthfully recorded in the ship’s oil record book as required by law. All of this was designed to save the cruise line money.

As we explained in our article at the time titled Deliberate Dumping, Cover-Up and Lies: DOJ Fines Princess Cruises $40,000,000  the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) levied the largest fine in cruise line history against Princess and its parent company, Carnival Corporation, for polluting and lying about it to the Coast Guard. The DOJ indicated that a perceived motive for the environmental crimes was financial – “the chief engineer that ordered the dumping off the coast of England told subordinate engineers that it cost too much to properly offload the waste in port and that the shore-side superintendent who he reported to would not want to pay the expense.”

The DOJ stated that “Princess engineers on the Caribbean Princess indicated that the chief engineer responsible for the discharge on August 26, 2013, was known as “braccino corto” (a person with short arms), an Italian expression for a cheap person whose arms are too short to reach his wallet. Some expressed the same opinion of the shore-side superintendent.”

As part of guilty plea agreement, Princess and Carnival promised not to commit further violation of either the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) or any state or local environmental laws. They further promised to comply with a Court approved Environmental Compliance Plan which required these cruise lines to strictly comply with all international, state and local environmental laws and regulations regarding water pollution.

Princess Cruises’ discharge of the toxic sludge of scrubber operations into the waters of Alaska seems to violate existing Alaskan water  regulations, according to the City of Ketchikan. In my opinion, Princess violated the terms and the spirit of the 2016 pollution plea agreement in the process. Princess will continue to violate the agreement and the compliance plan every time it discharges the sludge at sea or in port.

Photographs of the nasty sludge dumped at the port while the Star Princess was at berth in Ketchikan makes a mockery of Princess’ promise to be a good steward of the marine environment.

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Photo credit: Scrubber sludge – Star Princess – City of Ketchikan.

Last week, a senior vice president of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) spoke to the residents of Rockland, Maine, in an effort to try and convince them that cruise lines will be respectful of Rockland’s environment.

We wrote about the meeting in our article titled CLIA visits Rockland.

Several residents brought to my attention a claim made by Brian Salerno, CLIA’s Senior Vice President of Maritime Affairs, that the sludge from cruise ship smokestack scrubbers (designed to reduce emissions, primarily sulfur),  is stored onboard and offloaded, allegedly, only at facilitates ashore. He promised that the cruise industry would not dump the sludge overboard,  where the particulate matter and sulfur sludge obviously would pollute the water and foul the local beaches and port facilities.

The CLIA representative said that the cruise ship scrubber processing equipment “ultimately collects sludge” which “has to be disposed of properly ashore.”

You can hear Mr. Salermo make these precise statements to the Rockland residents here.

As I suspected, the CLIA representative’s comments appear to be patently false.

As cruise expert Professor Ross Klein points out on his CruiseJunkie site, a cruise ship recently (just last week) discharged scrubber sludge into the state waters of Alaska.  Professor Klein cites the recent article by KRBD Community Radio in Ketchikan, Alaska which reported that on July 23rd, port personnel from the City of Ketchikan observed discharge coming from the exhaust system scrubbers on the Star Princess cruise ship when it was at a berth in the port in Ketchikan.  This sludge discharge followed complaints by the public of an earlier discharge from the Golden Princess cruise ship. The city directed the ships to cease discharging scrubber processing waste while in port.

You can see a photograph of the sludge discharged in port here.

These actions directly contradict the statements by CLIA that it never discharges sludge from smokestack scrubbers into the water and, further, that CLIA cruise ships discharge nothing while a ship is in or near port.  Mr. Salerno made a point of claiming that cruise lines promise not only to comply with federal and international pollution regulations but they claim to always exceed these standards. He claimed that this is a mandatory CLIA requirement and a condition of membership in the cruise trade organization.

It should be noted that not only did cruise ships recently discharge scrubber sludge in the local waters of Alaskaa but the discharge occurred from cruise ships operated by Princess Cruises which was involved in prior incidents of widespread illegal discharges.  Princess of course, is the cruise line which illegally discharged oily waste from its fleet of cruise ships for nearly a decade and was fined $40,000,000 by the DOJ. (Princess Cruises, owned by parent company Carnival Corporation, of course, remains a member of CLIA).  The Star Princess and the Golden Princess (among other cruise ships operated by Princess) were both implicated in Princess’ notorious use of “magic pipes” to circumvent the oily water separator and oil content monitors in the required pollution prevention equipment.

The Port and Harbors director in Ketchikan informed KRBD that the discharge from scrubbers may technically be permitted by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, although the discharge may have violated the state water quality regulations of Alaska.

CLIA made a big deal during its meeting with the residents of Rockland of stating that CLIA promised not only to comply with U.S. and international pollution standards but to never discharge anything within the state territorial waters where it sails its cruise ships.

This is reminiscent of an incident in 2003 when a cruise ship operated by Crystal Cruises dumped around 35,000 gallons of grey water, sewage, and bilge water in a marine sanctuary in Monterey Bay. Crystal had promised earlier not to foul the marine sanctuary’s waters.

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

“We didn’t break any law,” Weisband said. “We did break a promise.”

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

The residents of Rockland would be wise to learn a lesson from Monterey 15 years ago and from Ketchikan just last week.

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Photo credit: Crystal Harmony – rpieket – CC BY 2.0, commons / wikimedia.

The Cruise Line Industry Association (CLIA) attended a town hall type of meeting in Rockland, Maine last Friday, July 27th. Brian Salerno, CLIA’s Senior Vice President of Maritime Affairs, was tasked by CLIA to try and convince the local Rockland residents that cruise lines were respectful of Rockland’s environment.

I was not at the meeting but several people who were present at the City Hall Chambers asked me what I think about CLIA’s claim that it is committed to protecting the air and water in the locations where its member cruise ships sail and unload thousands of their guests.

My response is that cruise lines, the likes of Carnival, NCL or Royal Caribbean, can’t be trusted. After all, they are all, literally, corporate felons with histories of lying about environmental pollution to the Coast Guard and the ports where they do business.

History Has a Tendency to Repeat Itself

In 2002, Carnival pled guilty to numerous felonies for discharging oily waste into the sea. Carnival reportedly routinely falsified its oil record books in order to conceal its illegal practices. The U.S. Government leveled a $18,000,000 fine and placed Carnival on probation.

In 2002, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) also pled guilty to the felony of routinely circumventing its oily water separator, dumping oily bilge directly into the ocean on a regular basis, and falsifying its record keeping. NCL admitted that it engaged in a practice of “systematically lying to the United States Coast Guard over a period of years.” The DOJ issued a fine of only $1,500,000, primarily because NCL admitted its wrongdoing, rather than continuing to lie and scheme like Carnival.

Starting in the late 1990’s, the U.S. Coast Guard caught Royal Caribbean engaged in widespread dumping of oil and chemicals. The DOJ fined the cruise line $1,000,000. After Royal Caribbean was caught repeatedly illegally dumping oily discharges and chemicals and lying about it, the DOJ fined it $8,000,000 and then fined it an additional $18,000,000 for a total of $27,000,000.

Carnival’s subsidiary brands have not fared any better than the parent company. In 1998, Holland America Line was fined $2,000,000 after it was caught discharging oily water without the use of an oil-water separator. And of course more recently (in December of 2016), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) fined Carnival subsidiary Princess Cruises a record $40,000,000 for pollution and trying to cover it up.

You can also consider trusting an industry where cruise ships often use the oceans as a place to discard plastic rubbish bags, as shown in this video a concerned crew member sent me from a MSC cruise ship.

You Can’t Get Kicked Out of this Club

It is with this background, I am responding to  several residents who asked me about Mr. Salerno’s claim, reported in the Penoscob Bay Pilot, that CLIA has the authority to expel members from the organization who do not abide by relevant environmental regulations.

But that’s hardly true. Consider the recent wide-spread pollution where Princess plead guilty to multiple felony charges of illegally dumping oil-contaminated waste from the Caribbean Princess, Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess cruise ships which sailed to numerous U.S. states (Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia) and two territories (U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico). According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Caribbean Princess had been illegally discharging oil since 2005 using bypass equipment, sometimes called a “magic pipe,” to circumvent pollution-prevention equipment that separates oil and monitors oil levels in the ship’s water.

You can read the disturbing facts and the cruise line’s decade-long deception in the article titles Deliberate Dumping, Cover-Up and Lies: DOJ Fines Princess Cruises $40,000,000.

If there ever were a compelling reason to oust a cruise line from CLIA, it was Princess’ outlandish pollution and even more outrageous lies and cover up. CLIA chose to do nothing.

How Do Cruise Lines Handle Sludge?

Mr. Salerno also claimed at the meeting in Rockland that all sludge from cruise ship smokestack scrubbers (designed to reduce emissions, primarily sulfur) is held onboard and offloaded ashore only at designated facilitates ashore.  I know that the cruise industry previously discharged the sludge at sea, a nasty practice which substantially increases the presence of carbon dioxide.  And I have a hard time believing that the cruise lines would have changed their practice without there being a law requiring it.

I would like to hear from crew members with knowledge regarding this issue. Perhaps an environmental officer can communicate with me. We promise to keep all such communications with concerned employees confidential.

How do the cruise ships really handle sludge?

It seems that the good people of Rockland deserve a straight-forward response.

Interested in this issue? We suggest reading: Royal Caribbean Treats Rockland Like a $1 Store.

Listen to an audio of the meeting here.

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Photo credit: Reproduced from an original postcard published by the Hugh C. Leighton Company, Portland, Maine, Public Domain, commons / wikimedia.

 

 

MSC Cruises announced that it installed a state-of-the-art man overboard system on the MSC Meraviglia and is planning to deploy similar systems across its fleet of cruise ships. 

According to Seatrade Cruise News, MSC Cruises developed an "intelligent video capturing and analysis system" in collaboration with security technology experts, Bosch and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The Swiss-based cruise line announced that it has tested the new man overboard system on the company’s newest ship which debuted in June. MSC reported that "through over 25,000 hours of video analysis, extensive software testing and continuous algorithmic updates, the system has now reached a confirmed accuracy level of 97%."

Seatrade also explained that the data and images are analysed by two separate and independent image processing systems which significantly lower false alerts. Once the alarm is activated in case of an overboard, an acoustic signal and light will notify the ship’s security officer, in a central security room, who can immediately retrieve and review the images and data and immediately notify the bridge to begin rescue efforts.

We have criticized MSC in the past because crew members and passengers have disappeared from ships without this type of technology.  Brazilian crew member Simone Scheuer Sousa disappeared from the MSC Musica earlier this summer. MSC’s untimely response to an overboard passenger from the MSC Divina, the first person reported overboard this year, illustrated the need for an automatic Security Today MOB man overboard system.   

Seatrade Cruise News has recently focused on man overboard systems. In September, it interviewed Captain Reidulf Maalen of Global Maritime Services about a system called the "Multi-Sensor Offshore Safety System (SOS)." The SOS is advertised as "an automatic alert system that employs advanced integrated sensor technology to instantaneously detect anyone falling overboard in real time and immediately alert the bridge."

Earlier this month, Security Today featured an article titled Man Overboard! which explained the need for an automatic man overboard system, stating that "man overboard events continue to be a common occurrence within the cruise industry." The article discussed a system designed by PureTech Systems which uses thermal video technology which captures images of people going overboard. 

The PureTech website explains that "man overboard events continue to be a common occurrence within the cruise industry." Since 2005, 268 people have gone overboard from cruise ships; on average, 22 people fall off a cruise ship every year; and 86% of those victims do not survive or are never found.

These systems are in addition to several other systems which we have written about over the years, including the MOBtronic system designed by MARSS. 

An article by Captain Abdelkhalik Kamal Eldin Soliman Selmy in the Maritime Executive titled Boost to Man Overboard Detecting Regulations Needed explains that the number of man overboard situations "is increasing as cruise passenger numbers increase," yet cruise ships monitor their decks and sides only with surveillance cameras. Most cruise lines do not actively monitor their CCTV surveillance cameras and there is considerable delay between a report of a missing friend or loved one and the ship finally taking action to initiate a search.  But equipping cruise ships with advanced detection and alert systems (such as those discussed above) will dramatically decrease the potential for crew or passengers to be lost at sea.

Unfortunately, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) does not mandate the use of such technology. Trade organizations, like the Cruise Line International Organizations (CLIA), unreasonably resist the move toward this life-saving technology, citing a myriad of excuses (alleging the cost and unreliability of the technology) which are belied by the success of the systems which are available on the market today.  

In response to Captain Selmy’s article, CLIA wrote an editorial which the Maritime Executive published titled Man Overboard Incidents Are Uncommon On Cruise Ships containing the usual self-serving opinions by the cruise industry trade organization that "cruise ships remain one of the safest ways to travel." 

The fact of the matter is that over 22 people disappear each year from cruise ships (and only 13.8% are saved). Unfortunately, CLIA has chosen to minimize cruise passengers and crew members disappearances at sea in misleading PR releases rather than devote resources toward improving safety. Most cruise line do not see the need to invest in MOB systems which do not return a direct financial profit to the penny pinching cruise industry. Companies like MSC Cruises, unfortunately, seem to be the exception rather than the rule in implementing the life-saving technology. 

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Image credit: Security Today

Video credit: PureTech Systems

 

https://youtube.com/watch?v=rFIaicbMsII%3Frel%3D0

The cruise industry is touting a report titled Evaluation of Cruise Industry, Global Environmental Practices and Performance.

It’s a non-critical summary paid for by the industry’s trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"). The report is largely a PR stunt which omits the relevant, recent history of the practice committed over the course of at least a decade of routinely dumping oil from cruise ships owned by the largest cruise line in the world.

It has been less than four months since the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) fined Princess Cruises and its parent company, Carnival Corporation, $40,000,000 for polluting the seas and trying to cover it Cruise Pollutionup. Carnival and Princess pleaded guilty to seven felony charges of illegally dumping oil-contaminated waste from the Caribbean Princess cruise ship which sailed to numerous U.S. states (Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia) and two territories (U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico).

The DOJ says that "in addition to the use of a magic pipe to circumvent the oily water separator and oil content monitor required pollution prevention equipment, the U.S. investigation uncovered two other illegal practices which were found to have taken place on the Caribbean Princess as well as four other Princess ships – Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess. One practice was to open a salt water valve when bilge waste was being processed by the oily water separator and oil content monitor. The purpose was to prevent the oil content monitor from otherwise alarming and stopping the overboard discharge. The second practice involved discharges of oily bilge water originating from the overflow of graywater tanks into the machinery space bilges. This waste was pumped back into the graywater system rather than being processed as oily bilge waste. Neither of these practices were truthfully recorded in the oil record book as required.

But you won’t read any reference to magic pipes and falsified log books in the PR release by the cruise industry’s trade organization, Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"). 

Cruise line cheerleaders, like Travel Pulse, published over-the-top self-laudatory articles like The Cruise Industry Is Winning at Environmental Performance

Conspicuously absent from CLIA PR efforts is any mention of environmental problems caused by the cruise lines. Consider the following articles within the last year:

The world’s largest cruise ship and its supersized pollution problem (Guardian).

Cruise Industry Gets “F” for Transparency, Cutting Emissions (World Maritime News).

Carnival Corp ship caught in pollution scheme. Now they’re paying $40 million for it (Miami Herald).

Cruise industry ‘failing’ environment and public health, report claims (Telegraph).

Princess Cruises Pollution Cover-Up: Are the Greedy Cruise Executives Untouchable? (Cruise Law News).

This CLIA-paid-for-report is part of the cruise industry’s reputation rehabilitation. Last January, Princess Cruises issued a press statement via PR Newswire that it had been voted the "Best Ocean Cruise Line" in the USA TODAY and 10Best Readers Choice cruise travel awards, despite the DOJ’s record environmental fine just a month earlier. 

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Photo crdit: NABU via Telegraph

Yesterday was the "Day of the Seafarer," which is sponsored by the International Maritime Organization ("IMO") on June 25th every year. It was interesting to watch the cruise industry’s trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), promote the day on it’s social media pages like Twitter and Facebook.     

Crew members on cruise ships find themselves in a precarious position in 2016. Cruise lines overwork and underpay crew members from countries like the Philippines, India and Indonesia with impunity. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival pay no U.S. taxes by incorporating themselves in foreign countries like Liberia and Panama and registering their ships in third world countries like the Bahamas (the New York Times just published Tax Dodging on the High Seas). Although cruise ships are collecting record billion-dollar profits each year, they provide no job security, no meaningful union representation, or Day  of the Seafarerbasic benefits like retirement programs of any significance. Moreover, cruise lines have taken an adversarial attitude against their ship employees where they have systematically stripped crew members of the legal rights historically reserved for seamen. 

Here are at least seven ways that cruise lines are abusing crew members today:

Cruise Lines Unreasonably Overwork Crew Members – Cabin attendants, galley employees and waiters and other crew members work a minimum of ten to twelve hours a day, sometimes far more, seven days a week, for eight to ten months a year. They have no time off.  It’s all legal because cruise lines don’t have to comply with U.S. labor laws due to their foreign incorporation and flags of convenience.  Cruise lines are supposed to have been obligated to work their crew members a maximum number of hours with mandatory rest periods pursuant to MLC2006. But many companies flaunt the maritime labor code. Crew members are still often prohibited from logging in to work when they appear on duty to prepare their work stations or attend meetings. Department heads and supervisors often force crew members to sign out of the Kronos time system and keep working "off the clock." Compliance with the strict USPH standards leads to the managers overworking the crew. I chronicled the abuse aboard the Oceania Riviera earlier this year where crew members were forced to work 18 to 20 hours a day.

The excessive manual labor is hazardous to the crew members physical and mental health. "Cumulative trauma disorder" is a term I learned while representing crew members working for Royal Caribbean.  Sometimes the pressure causes crew members to snap, as this recent altercation between a cook and a chef demonstrates, and it may be one reason perhaps why there are so many suicides at sea.

Univision Noticias and the Columbia Journalism School just published an exhaustive research project and multi-media presentation "Vacation in No Man’s Sea" with a section on the abuse of cruise ship employees – Sweatshop On The High Seas (by Damia S. Bonmati). 

Cruise Lines Under-Pay Crew Members:  Crew members working these insane hours are often paid exclusively by passenger tips. It’s quite a scam where the non-tax paying cruise line require their tax-paying U.S. guests to pay the cabin attendants and waiters for the long hours they work. Cruise lines are all increasing their automatic gratuities with the implication that the extra nickel-and-dimming is for the crew members. But the reality is that the cruise lines are either diverting the tips to pay the non-tip-earning employees’ salaries or they just steal the money outright. Meanwhile, many passengers refuse to pay the auto-gratuities and then refuse to pay any tips to the crew

Cruise Lines Prohibit Crew Members from Organizing or Protesting –  A number of readers suggest that crew members should organize and protest their mistreatment.  But the last time that crew members protested low wages, Carnival fired all of the waiters on one of its cruise ships and black-balled the crew members from the cruise industry.

Cruise Lines Fire Crew Members at Will – Crew members know that if they complain about the working hours, or the pay, or the stolen tips, they will find themselves on a one-way flight back to Mumbai. Cruise lines, notwithstanding the language in the employment contracts about the right to appeal, etc., can terminate the employment of a crew member for any reason, good reason, bad reason or no reason. Cruise lines often terminate the jobs of crew members who complain of work-related injuries and can do so with little legal recourse.  We receive literally dozens of emails a month from crew members back in India or in east Europe who have completed their medical treatment and are at MMI ready to return to work and have waited for months without word from the hiring partner trying to get back to work. They are being played by the cruise lines and are waiting in vain. 

Cruise Lines Provide Few If Any Benefits to Crew Members – A couple of years ago, Carnival terminated the retirement program for Filipino crew members, some of who had worked over a decade for the company. Royal Caribbean still has a nominal retirement benefit, around $5,000 if a crew member works for 10 years. If Royal Caribbean follows the Carnival model, it won’t be around when RCCL crew members retire in the next few years.

Cruise Lines Force Crew Member to "Arbitrate" Their Disputes – Following NCL’s decision to send the cases of Filipino families of  crew members killed in the boiler explosion on the SS Norway in 2002 to Manila for arbitration under the POEA, all U.S. based cruise lines (except Disney Cruises) inserted mandatory arbitration clauses in crew member employment contracts. By doing so, cruise lines stripped the rights of seafarers to file suit in the United States before a judge and jury. Cruise lines also inserted foreign law from countries like Panama, or Bermuda or the Bahamas into employment agreements which have few laws protecting seafarers.   

Cruise Line are Working to Strip Crew Member from the Protection of All U.S Law which Protect Seafarers at Sea – Lobbyists for CLIA have convinced certain lawmakers to insert anti-crew member legislation as add-ons to bills before Congress designed to strip the protections of seafarers from U.S. laws such as the Jones Act,  which has provided the right of seafarers to sue maritime employers who act negligently, in U.S. courts.  This has been the centerpiece of crew member maritime law for 96 years. CLIA has been at the forefront of these efforts. It panders to the sentiment of some US. lawmakers that U.S. courts should be be closed to "foreign" seamen notwithstanding the fact that the cruise industry is essentially comprised of nothing but foreign corporations (except NCL America), based here in Miami, which benefit from their free use of over 25 federal agencies like the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, USPH, and the CDC not to mention the tremendous protection of the cruise lines’ vast revenues by loopholes in our U.S. tax code.

Many cruise fans selfishly feel that paying a fair wage to crew members will result in higher fares to them. Their arguments that crew members "make more than at home" or "they can quit if they don’t like it," seem like flippant "let them eat cake" afterthoughts.  Meanwhile fat-cat executives like NCL’S Frank Del Rio make obscene salaries and perks (CEO Del Rio alone raked in almost $32,000,000 last year). 

Don’t let CLIA’s recent hollow praise to seafarers fool you. This is a cruise industry which is busy screwing crew members at every turn – at sea, in the courtroom, and in Congress. 

The accounts of the gastrointestinal outbreak on the P&O Pacific Eden portrayed in today’s Daily Mail are disgusting: overflowing toilets on a dirty ship with barfing, sick kids.  Ill passengers, who paid handsomely for a family cruise vacation over Christmas, complain that not only did their complaints fall on the deaf ears of surly cruise staff members but the cruise captain blamed them for the outbreak in the first place.

Long ago, the cruise industry elected a “blame the passenger” public relations strategy whenever a ship become infected with norovirus. When an outbreak takes place due to contaminated food, the cruise lines accuse the passengers of not washing their hands and ignoring the “washy, washy” p&o Pacific Edeninstructions of the cruise hostesses stationed at the entrance to the dining room who spray sanitizers (which are worthless against norovirus) on the passenger’s hands.

Admittedly, the cruise lines face a PR headache when norovirus breaks out on the high seas. Invariably, the cruise industry faces sensational news accounts from online newspapers that blast cruise-from-hell headlines which include references to “floating petri dishes.” The cruise lines seemingly feel compelled to respond to the media with the same old, worn-out blame-the-passenger game.

Travel agents and travel publications perpetuate the cruise industry’s talking points. Just today Travel Agent Central covered the recent outbreak of an gastrointestinal illness on the Holland America Line Veendam by writing this whopper: “most cases of norovirus are brought onboard by guests.” There is absolutely no empirical evidence of this. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration concluded that norovirus is primarily caused by contaminated food or water.

But the last thing that the cruise industry ever wants to admit is that there is a problem with food poisoning on their fleet of ships, or that a cook or food handler, like a waiter who works primarily on tips, worked after exhibiting signs of a gastrointestinal illness and infected the paying guests.

Determining the causative source of an outbreak is the business of an epidemiologist, but have you ever heard of the CDC ever coming to a scientific determination that the cause of a cruise ship outbreak was traced back to a salad which contained contaminated bean Cruise Ship Norovirussprouts eaten by 100 passengers?  Of course not. The CDC does not have the time or inclination to perform such an analysis during the short turn-around in port when the ships quickly re-rack with thousands of other passengers and head out to sea without a firm understanding of the scientific nature of the disease that just sickened its passengers. The lost revenue of a “sick ship,” shut down for a comprehensive epidemiological analysis, far exceeds any legal claims contemplated by sick passengers.

Can you imagine Chipotle, with its recent norovirus and e-coli outbreaks, blaming its customers like the cruise industry does? Instead, Chipotle has already recognized and admitted that it is facing a “food safety” issue. It immediately began to work on an enhanced food safety program. It retained an independent laboratory to reassess its food safety practices that included a “farm-to-fork assessment of each ingredient we use with an eye toward establishing the highest standards for safety.” It also is considering whether the outbreaks are caused by “food poisoning” or “bad employee hand washing.”

The cruise industry, on the other hand, has chosen to focus on short term PR efforts. The only enhancements it engages in are “enhanced cleanings” of its infected ships where everything is sprayed down by crew members, some not even wearing protective suits, in a couple of hours. It’s an impossible task to enlist already overworked crew members to eradicate the billions and billions of noro microbes which are puked in every nook and cranny of the bathroom and into the fabrics of the carpets, couches and blankets in hundreds of cabins in just a few hours. The cruise industry has never dedicated itself to getting to the root of the noro problem which may well point to it’s ships which are always on the go or its sick crew members as the primary source of the problem.

After all, this is the same industry where the exclusive Silversea Cruises brand duped USPH inspectors and hid food in crew member cabins. Butt the real surprise came when I asked crew members on Facebook: Do cruise lines hide pots & pans, galley equipment and food from USPH inspectors? Of the first 100 crew members who answered the poll (admittedly unscientific), around 90% said yes, cruise lines routinely hide galley items from inspectors. One crew member said: “There will be more equipment in the crew cabin during the inspection then in the galley that’s for sure!!!”

That’s not to say that sick passengers are never the cause of an outbreak. Sometimes passengers don’t admit that they are ill and lie on the pre-cruise medical questionnaires. This becomes a real problem when the cruise lines refuse to permit passengers to re-book their cruises when they become ill. And some passengers refuse to report ill to the ship infirmary to avoid the exorbitant shipboard medical bills that follow their arrival. There is no doubt that that shipwide contamination can become worse and the virus can spread via passengers when they refuse to be confined to their cabins.

So yes, passengers are not immune from blame. But every single time there is an breakout, the cruise lines blame the passengers! The blame is automatic and often leveled against the passengers even before it is possible for the CDC to even test the nature of the disease and notwithstanding the fact that the ship may have experienced outbreaks during prior cruises.

One of the books written by cruise expert Professor Ross Klein, “Cruise Ship Squeeze,” addresses this issue. Professor Klein has been recognized as an expert regarding cruise line issues by both the House of Representatives and the Senate before whom he has testified several times. In chapter 8 of Dr. Klein’s book, at pages 179 – 183, he discusses Princess Cruises always blaming the passengers. A dozen years ago during a 2003 cruise, passengers were stricken with a gastrointestinal illness. Princess accused their guests sick with norovirus of “bringing it with them.” But the truth is that during the prior cruise, the cruise ship had experienced passengers sickened with the same sickness. No scientists arrived at this conclusion. And there was nothing remotely scientific about what Princess represented to the public.

Ever since then, Princess says the same thing over and over every time norovirus sickens its guests.

Who needs epidemiologists when the cruise line PR teams and their friends in travel publications have already figured out what to say?

 

Photo Credit:  “Pacific Eden, Fremantle, 2015” by Bahnfrend licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons / Wikipedia.

Don’t forget to read:

Another cruise ship hit by norovirus, blames passengers.

“Worse than a one-star motel”: P&O Pacific Eden cruise sees 60 hit with gastro.

Disney Cruises Sexual Asssault

I have found that whenever I write about a crew member sexually assaulting a passenger, a certain number of the co-employees instinctively defend the crew member, even when the victim involves a child. 

On Christmas Eve, a local Miami news station reported that a 31 year old Disney crew member was arrested for allegedly sexually molesting an 11 year old girl on the Disney Magic cruise ship which sailed from Miami.

We posted the article on our Facebook page. Cruise passengers who regularly follow our page did not express surprise (this is not the first time this has occurred on a Disney cruise). Many readers expressed their disgust with the news; however, a number of people (mostly crew members) accused the little girl and her family of perpetuating a fraud on the Disney crew member.

The fact that the Disney crew member reportedly confessed to molesting the little girl (according to the news station) did not dissuade the crew member supporters from disparaging the child and her family.

" Working with him i kno (sic) he would never do something like that. Thats a f**king lie. Poor innocent guy getting locked up for sh*t," commented a current crew member on our Facebook page." 

Other comments by people identifying themselves as current or past crew members were equally accusatory of the child and blindly supportive of the Disney employee:

"Was my room mate I don’t believe this for one second . . . I’ve worked with him too . . . I can’t believe this  . . . No chance that he would do this, he’s been put in an awkward situation by a guest and now paying for it! . . . Man he was my helper sometimes, he wouldn’t do this, disgusting guests! . . .   This is a Hugh (sic)  lie . . . . most of the People coming and finding the way to get money From This company and if you as a Cruise member say Hello to one kid the parents already say you are abusing their Child but they do Not Know the company wash their hands and do Not give nathing and they fix a inocent person..!!! . . . I worked with this guy, this just cannot be true. Plus after being on ships for more then 4 years, I have seen everything when it comes to guests trying to get things for free and to get money from the company. Its sick, and some people will stoop to really low levels . . ."

"I don’t think the guy did it i know this guy nobody here can tell me anything I’ve been working with him and I still work for the company .. .  is about americans that wants money for free just saying nonsenses . . . "

One crew member who said he previously worked with the alleged assailant on the Disney Fantasy made this outlandish, misogynous attack:   ‘I think you need to educate your kids, cause you can not blame a man when your daughter is wearing a short showing what she’s not suppose to show at her age." 

Unfortunately, every time we write an article about a crew member molesting a child, I hear these same type of groundless accusations by crew members expressing doubt of the crime and attacking the victim. These defensive and mean-spirited comments are troubling. They also reveal a fundamental lack of proper training and a lack of empathy on the Disney fleet of cruise ships. The problem is wider than just Disney Cruises. 

Costa Sexual AssaultLast October, a Honduran Costa crew member allegedly sexually molested a 15 yer old girl aboard the Costa Diadema.  When we mentioned the alleged crime on our blog, crew members made these comments: "I dont’t think it’s true story written here. The guy is 50 , and the girl is 15. Honduras guy is not a stupit (sic) to do something drectly. Maybe she called him to came to cabin to ask something and he misunderstand what she says . . .  That’s why, never go to guest cabin, where a minor is staying, they will make up all kind of stories, just to get something out of it."

On the same Costa cruise ship, a bartender, Mark Guinucud from Manila, Philippines, allegedly followed an 18 year-old French woman into her cabin and raped her brutally. But his co-employee friends quickly came to his defense: 

"I do not believe this! I know that guy and I’ve been his colleague from a hotel before and he is not that kind of man to rape a woman specially a foreigner? Mark is kind and gentleman and he is a good friend of ours. He will never do anything like this. Why would he even rape a girl when he came over there just to work for him and for his family? I suspect that the French woman is making up stories. . . ." 

After Royal Caribbean Karan Seechurn from Mauritius (a mini-bar attendant) was arrested on the Quantum of the Seas after he used his master key to enter a woman’s cabin at night while he was Royal Caribbean Sexual Assaultwas off-duty and molested the woman while she was sleeping, a crew member friend commented "I worked RCCL and I think . . . this is a vindictive allegation for money."  Seechurn later pleaded guilty and was sent to jail. 

Some crew members reacted cynically even when there is no denying that the attack was particularly brutal. A Holland America Line (HAL) crew member Ketut Pujayasa, age 28, from Indonesia, sexually assaulted, brutally beat and then tried to throw a woman overboard from her balcony on the Nieuw Amsterdam. Even though the crew member was later sentenced to 30 years in jail, the passenger who was savagely victimized was faced with baseless criticism from some of the crew members. One commented on our article:

"Some passenger sometime will do anything to avoid paying, including false aligation for rape, American are full of drama, they complain about everything they could from the first time they step on the cruise. Finding a way to cut cost. Some single lady’s already are so lonely , and sluty they are desperate for sex on the cruise, they invite a crew member, if they are not satisfied they do something like this . . . "

In fact, the crew member beat and choked the woman so savagely (warning graphic photos) that she is lucky to be alive. Certainly no rational person would suggest that a victim faked such horrendous injuries in order to file a false claim against a crew member. 

But the cynicism against such claims brought by passengers is pervasive on the ships. This attitude flows from the management of cruise lines through the supervisors down to the crew. The "us versus them" mentality when a crew member is accused of a crime is alive and well in the cruise ships’ security departments.  Yahoo Travel just published Ships Have HAL Sexual AssaultPadded Cells for Problem Passengers and Other Confessions of a Cruise Security Officer in which a security officer for Holland America Line makes the claim that some passengers specifically come on the cruise ship to "scam the ship" and allege that the "ship did something wrong to them" in order to claim money or a free cruise.  

Such a discussion makes a mockery of the reality of cruise ship crime and illustrates the built-in bias of the cruise lines when dealing with crime victims. Yet, the cruise industry seems to love the Yahoo article; the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) twitter feed re-tweeted the Yahoo article as a sign of approval. 

A victim of sexual molestation, particularly a young girl, needs unqualified love and support from the community around her, not cynical accusations of conspiracy, particularly from the crew members of the magical cruise community which promised her a dream cruise right before Christmas. 

I have always wondered how the public relations people at the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) manage to show up at work. 

Their sole purpose is to spin the news and try to make the cruise lines look good.

It seems, to me, that’s a hard thing to do.

In just the last ten days, a lifeboat on a Costa cruise ship broke free and was left dangling from the side of the Costa Mediterranea. Three people went overboard within four days from the Cunard QM2, the MSC Magnifica, and the Carnival Glory, all cruise ships without automatic man overboard systems. A Costa Cruise Lifeboatstateroom attendant molested a teen on the Carnival Valor. A well respected maritime accident investigation board roundly criticized Princess Cruises, after the needless death of a young Chinese woman, for taking no precautions other than posting a cavalier swim-at-your-own-risk sign by a lifeguard-less swimming pool on the Sapphire Princess. Princess didn’t learn a thing from that death and a 8 year-old child nearly drown on the same ship last week. The girl sustained serious brain damage and is on a ventilator. 

Five deadly or life-threatening events in just ten days! Where is the industry’s trade organization, CLIA, trying to put a happy face on the deaths and injuries?

CLIA is reeling from the quick exit of its new CEO, former admiral Thomas Ostebo, who used the words "frightening" and "shocking" to describe his one month experience at CLIA. No one at CLIA bothers to even try and spin these recent events. CLIA doesn’t even try to convince anyone anymore that the "safety & security of its passengers" is truly its highest priority.

The priority of the greedy cruise executives seems to be lining their pockets with money while cutting crew benefits, stealing increased gratuities advertised for the crew, and nickeling and diming the passengers to death. 

So what’s next for the cruise industry?  Dead whales. 

There is a widespread and well organized movement to boycott the Faroe Islands for its barbaric and heart-wrenching slaughter of pilot whales. Trouble is that most cruise lines tout the Faroes as a key port of call for their cruise ships. But an international coalition of mammal lovers, environmentalists and decent-hearted, concerned citizens, organized by non-profits and the powerful and media savvy Sea Shepherd organization, is making a change. Disney abandoned its plans to go there and three other lines, all European companies, announced that they will no longer support the Faroes in response to social media campaigns geared toward educating the public about the despicable whale slaughter.

But U.S. based cruise lines are still sailing there regularly. Royal Caribbean, Azamara, NCL, Oceania, Grindstopand Carnival owned HAL and Princess all still plan on calling on the Faroe Islands. I have written about the deadly and disgusting practice here. The Faroe locals slit the throats of the little whales and rip the babies from their mothers. It’s up close and personal terror. Don’t read the article if you are squeamish. 

Disney was smart enough to get out of the way of the oncoming media blitz. It will maintain its reputation because of its awareness, just like it wisely assigned life guards to its pools and installed automatic man overboard systems on its ships. But the Carnivals and Royal Caribbeans and NCLs are too CEO-egocentric and arrogant to figure out a way to avoid the train of public opinion coming their way.

CLIA, meanwhile, is clueless. It doesn’t know what to say when a lifeboat breaks a cable or a passenger drowns in a pool with no lifeguard. It is a heartless and passionless group of former federal employee hacks trying to keep their jobs. 

I don’t blame the CLIA 9 to 5’ers for staying home, hiding with the covers over their heads.

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

 

Photo creit: Top – kolektiv; bottom – Sea Shepherd.

The new president of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), Thomas Ostebo, unexpectedly left his new job amidst claims by CLIA that he departed for unexplained "personal reasons."

Mr. Ostebo retired from the U.S. Coast Guard as a rear admiral before joining CLIA. He joined CLIA with great fanfare.

CLIA Chairman and president of Royal Caribbean, Adam Goldstein, said that Ostebo supposedly Thomas Ostebo wanted to spend more time with his family. 

Hannah Sampson of the Miami Herald interviewed Mr. Ostebo shortly after he started at CLIA. He told the Herald that his job at CLIA was “interesting, frightening, shocking and exciting all at the same time in just the first couple days.”

"I told my wife last night: ‘After day two, I feel like I’ve been here two years already.’”

Anyone know what really happened to cause Admiral Ostebo to bolt from CLIA?

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