Norwegian Breakaway Rescue Boat AccidentA number of newspapers in Bermuda are reporting that four people were injured when a lifeboat fell from the Norwegian Breakaway while the cruise ship was docked at port today.

The Royal Gazette says that one of the crew members is in critical condition at the hospital. This newspaper reports that a lifeboat had fallen from the cruise ship and “was left hanging from one wire resulting in four people falling into the water.”

Bernews reports that NCL released a statement, saying that “on July 20 while Norwegian Breakaway was alongside in Bermuda, an incident occurred involving the ship’s rescue boat during a routine drill, affecting four crew members.”

Bernews clarifies that a “rescue boat,” as opposed to a lifeboat, was involved in the mishap.  A video shows what this newspaper says is a rescue boat flipped upside down in the water with its hull partially showing.

I first became aware of the accident when PTZtv, which operates the webcam for this port, tweeted observing an unusually large EMS & police response to an incident at the port.

A year ago, two NCL crew members were injured when a rescue boat from the Pride of American fell after cables broke while the cruise ship was in Hilo.

Lifeboats accidents are not uncommon. In January of this year, a cruise ship tender boat on the Balmoral operated by Fred Olsen Lines malfunctioned, during a scheduled boat training drill while the cruise ship was docked in Funchal, Madeira. Fortunately, no one was injured. In August 2015, an excursion boat from the Costa Mediterranea apparently broke a cable while it was being lowered in Montenegro. Photographs sent to me shows what appears to be a lifeboat dangling on the side of the Costa cruise ship.  In October 2014, a rescue boat on the Coral Princess was being raised on davits with two crew members aboard when a cable snapped and a crew member was killed. In February 2013, 8 crew members were in a lifeboat during a drill on the Thomson Majesty cruise ship when the lifeboat plunged 60 feet into the water when it was being lifted in violation of a new CLIA safety protocol. The lifeboat landed upside down. 5 of the crew were killed. 3 were injured. It was caused by a broken cable (photograph here).

Update:  One crew member injured in the accident has reportedly died, according to NCL.

Video and photo credit: Bernews

 

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. 

Later this morning, Seatrade’s State of the Global Cruise Industry Conference, moderated by CBS Travel Editor Peter Greenberg, will feature four cruise executives: Frank Del Rio, President & CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd, Arnold Donald, President & CEO, Carnival Corporation, Richard Fain, Chairman & CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman, MSC Cruises. 

Three additional cruise line leaders will conclude the presentation: Charles A. Robertson, Chairman & CEO, American Cruise Lines, Edie Rodriguez, President & CEO, Crystal Cruises, and Tara Russell, President, Carnival Corporation’s Fathom (‘impact travel"). 

Shortly, if this Seatrade is like any other, we will hear about the growth of the industry and the increasingly larger cruise ships built to accommodate the 24,000,000 people who will decide to Crew Membervacation on the high seas this year. There is no doubt that the cruise industry, a rich and powerful industry, continues to grow at a record pace.  

But there will be little mention of the hard work by the tens of thousands of crew members from around the world who are the backbone of the industry. Seatrade Global (and its predecessor Cruise Shipping Miami) measures itself in terms of the number of the passengers and giant ships and the money which these cruise customers and cruise ships generate for the ports and the industry as a whole. The cruise executives will tell us about a Florida port, Port Everglades, just setting a new record for the most cruise ship passengers in a single day, 54,700 passengers last Sunday. 

But the cruise executives will not mention an incident this weekend in Port Everglades, the day before the port set a new record for passengers, when a Royal Caribbean crew member threatened to jump off the Oasis of the Seas. Are cruise lines pushing their crew members too hard for too little?

Crew members are working harder and longer than anytime in the history of the cruise industry. MLC2006 was suppose to result in the protection of the crew members, by ensuring that men and women who work on ships at sea are guaranteed a reasonable number of time resting. But, in reality, crew members hired as waiters state that they can’t log their time in when they arrive in the dining hall at 6:30 A.M to prepare their stations for the rush of passengers who enter the dining rooms for a 7:00 A.M breakfast. And they are often required to sign out and continue to work "off the clock" when they exceed the maximum hours theoretically limited by MLC2006.  

Crew members also complain that they attend meetings only during their "breaks." Many crew member who accurately log their long hours into the electronic time systems have their real hours worked changed by managers to comply with the MLC2006 auditors hired by the Carnivals and Royal Caribbeans. Take a minute and read the comments left by crew members on our Facebook page commenting on the sad state of MLC2006 non-compliance by the major cruise lines today. 

I recently posted a question on Facebook which I asked several years ago whether Royal Caribbean was working its crew members to death? Crew members left insightful information and quickly added that its not just Royal Caribbean working its crew members too hard but it is an industry wide problem. When a galley worker newly hired on a Princess cruise ship, the Island Princess, ended his life last week, another round of criticism followed. Are cruises bosses uninterested in crew welfare as they seek record profits on their gigantic ships?

Crew members like waiters, cabin attendants, galley workers and cleaners work regular 12+ hour days, seven days a week, for months at a time. They work even harder and longer when their cruise ships call on U.S. ports and their department heads are concerned of a surprise USPH inspection as well as when norovirus breaks out and "enhanced cleaning" is required.

The industry’s trade organization, CLIA, meanwhile touts in a recent tweet that "Our work never ends. Crewmembers continually clean & sanitize cruise ships to ensure passenger & crew #health." True indeed as far as "continually cleaning" goes. Yes, this may be one of the few CLIA statements that is factually true given the seemingly endless hours worked by the crew.  But there is no overtime or extra pay when the crew members work around the clock as a recent gastrointestinal outbreak during an Oceania cruise demonstrated. Crew members reported working 18 to 20 hours a day.

The cruise executives know that such long hours result in low morale and burn-out, but they look the other way. Ironically, cruise executive Micky Arison just re-tweeted a post by @ProjectTimeOff designed to encourage potential Carnival cruise customers to take time off from work and cruise – "The truth is out: time off work reduces burnout, improves morale, and boosts creativity." @MickyArison tweeted "Absolutely the case on a #cruise." Maybe so if you’re a guest.

Absolutely not if you are a crew member.

If you have a comment, please leave one on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Fred Olsen Balmoral Cruise Hive reports that a cruise ship tender boat on the Balmoral operated by Fred Olsen Lines malfunctioned a week ago, on Sunday, January 10, 2016, during a scheduled boat training drill.

At the time of the accident the cruise ship was docked in Funchal, Madeira.

The cruise line told Cruise Hive that “this incident occurred as a result of the ship’s winches lowering the tender boat at different speeds.”

Fred Olsen also said that the winches allegedly were independently surveyed in December 2015 for Flag compliance and no issues were found at the time.

Fred Olsen flags the 28 year old ship in Nassau Bahamas.

The mishap reportedly did not cause any personal injuries to the crew members.

Lifeboat or tender/rescue boat safety drills are highly dangerous. In August 2015, while an excursion boat from the Costa Mediterranea was being lowered, a cable broke.  In July 2016, during a drill involving a rescue boat on the NCL’s Pride of America, two crew members were seriously injured when the boat fell from deck 6. In October 2014, a rescue boat on the Coral Princess was being raised on davits with two crew members aboard when a cable snapped and a crew member was killed.  In February 2013, 8 crew members were in a lifeboat during a drill on the Thomson Majesty cruise ship when the lifeboat plunged 60 feet into the water when it was being lifted in violation of a new CLIA safety protocol. The lifeboat landed upside down. 5 of the crew were killed. 3 were injured.

 

The cruise industry is attempting to prevent its crew members from using U.S. law when they are injured or when they have been denied appropriate medical treatment.  

The cruise lines’ lawyers and lobbyists have inserted language in the Coast Guard Re-Authorization Act to strip "foreign" crew members of their rights under U.S. law after they have suffered an accident or when they are a victim of bad medical care.    

The prohibition strikes at the heart of cruise lines employeess. The vast majority of crew members are "foreign" (i.e., non-U.S. citizens). 

Historically, non-U.S. crew members have been covered by U.S. law when they become injured and Crew Memberwhen they have been denied appropriate medical care on U.S. based cruise ships. The "maintenance and cure" doctrine, which has applied to seaman on U.S. based cruise lines regardless of the crew member’s nationality, is one of the oldest legal doctrines in the United States. It requires the cruise lines to be responsible when their ship employees become ill or injured.  Without this doctrine, the cruise lines can simply terminate and abandon their crew members at the next port of call when they become ill.     

The irony of the proposed legislation is that none of the major cruse Ines are U.S. corporations. Carnival, for example, is a Panamanian corporation and Royal Caribbean is a Liberian (Africa) corporation. Cruise lines are incorporated in foreign countries and register their cruise ships there in order to avoid U.S. taxes and wage and labor laws. By stripping its ship employees of their legal rights, the cruise industry will create a situation where they can avoid paying their employees’ medical bills. Foreign incorporated cruise lines will not take take adequate care of their ship employees workers. U.S. hospitals and clinics (and U.S. taxpayers) risk bearing the cost of providing medical care for non-U.S. workers. 

The efforts of the cruise industry to kick crew members out or the U.S. are unnecessary. Cruise lines have already been successful in forcing crew members to resort to international arbitration where many arbitrators apply non-U.S. law to crew member cases. In addition, many maritime cases are already thrown out of U.S. courts. Procedures already exist for the dismissal of cases that do not belong in U.S. courts. For example, when a foreign seaman is injured by the owner of a foreign-flagged vessel, owned and operated outside of the U.S., and the injury occurs outside the U.S., the doctrine of f"orum non conveniens" will result in the dismissal of the case. 

In Florida, we are calling the office of Florida Senator Nelson (202) 224-5274 and asking him to oppose the cruise industry’s efforts.  If you care about the welfare of crew members, please contact your Senator and do the same.

MSC MagnificaA Brazilian labor court ordered the payment of fines, wages, overtime and "moral damages" to eleven (11) crew of the MSC Magnifica after finding that they had been subjected to working conditions similar to "slaves." You can read the order here.

According to Defonsoria Publica Da Uniao, in 2014 eleven crew members were "rescued" from the MSC cruise ship and alleged to have been forced to work up to 16 hours a day and were subjected to abuse and sexual harassment. We wrote about these allegations in April of 2014.

The testimony of a number of crew members was taken and indicated that other Brazilian crew members reaffirmed what was described as "appalling" working conditions on the MSC cruise ship.

In a blockbuster order, the labor court determined that crew members during contracts between eight to 12 months duration, the MSC crew members were required to work excessive hours and were mistreated. In addition to suffering intense bullying, the stewards and waiters had to work excessive daily hours (13-16 hours a day) without the right to adequate rest.

One Brazilian newspaper explained the plight of a MSC room steward from São Paulo who was bullied. Even working up to 18 hours straight, the crew member was called "lazy and a slut."

The labor court awarded R$ 330,000 to the eleven crew members.

Photo credit: Globo / Henrique Mendes / G1

Article credit: OVC – Organização de Vítimas de Cruzeiros

MSC Cruises denies that it engaged in any wrongful conduct and says that it intends to appeal  the labor court’s decision.  Read MSC’s full statement at the end of this article.

Le Télégramme reports that a British chef was found hanging in his cabin aboard the Crystal Serenity cruise ship.

The ship left Bordeaux yesterday for Brest. The crew member was found in his cabin Saturday morning.

The investigation and the autopsy reportedly will be held in Bordeaux. 

Crystal SerenityThis is the third alleged suicide by hanging of a crew member on a cruise ship in the six weeks.

On June 2nd we reported on the apparent suicide of a safety officer on the Disney Dream.

On June 3rd we mentioned the apparent suicide of a young woman employed in the Carnival entertainment department on the Carnival Sensation.

On July 3 we mentioned a Brazilian crew member who disappeared from the Norwegian Sun in Alaskka. NCL suggests that it’s a suicide.

Four crew member suicides in just 6 weeks?

Under U.S. maritime law, cruise lines are legally required to provide medical treatment to all crew members who suffer from any type of physical or emotional injury or sickness while working on the ship. The ships are required to provide psychiatric and.or psychological treatment, including ashore, if a crew member is suffering from depression or anxiety. The treatment must last, by law, until the crew member reaches his or her maximum medical improvement.

In our experience, the medical treatment for physical injuries is spotty at best. Ibuprofen is often the only "treatment." Medical care for emotional issues is virtually non-existent. 

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

Hat tip to Professor Ross Klein who first mentioned this incident on his CruiseJunkie site

 

Photo Credit: D.strutting via Wiped Creative Commons 3.0

Cruise Ship - "Ship Life"Over the years, crew members have sent me lots of stories about what it’s really like to work on a cruise ship. Lots of time they send photos and videos of the working conditions they face. 

It’s not the pretty images shown to the guests who occasionally go on behind-the-scene tours. 

"Ship life" is how the crew members describe it.

I have shared some of these photos and videos on this blog from time to time.  

Like when MSC crew members were ordered to throw black plastic garbage bags into the sea at night. Or photos of trolleys of food, hidden from USPH inspectors, in the Silversea crew quarters.

Starting this month, I will begin to regularly post photos and videos sent by crew members to us showing the actual working and living conditions of the crew. The photos and video will be a glimpse into actual "ship life," like the incredible amount of cleaning that needs to be accomplished in the galley after the second seating is over.

The identities of the crew will, of course, remain confidential.  

See the photos here on our Facebook page.

If you are a crew member, feel free to send us your photos and videos.  Please don’t get caught.  The cruise lines will quickly terminate your employment.

Cruise lines owe their crew members the absolute legal duty of providing medical treatment when the crew become sick or injured on the company’s cruise ships.

Pursuant to the “maintenance and cure” doctrine, the cruise line is required to provide “maintenance” (room and board) and “care” (medical care and treatment) to the point that the crew member reaches his or her “maximum medical improvement.”

This ancient legal doctrine of protecting seafarers can be traced back to the Medieval Sea Codes. It was introduced into United States Maritime Law by the Supreme Court in 1823. Under the doctrine, Hotel Food Greasy Salty Disgustingthe cruise lines has an affirmative obligation of taking care of their injured employees in a manner which is no different than the natural responsibility of a mother or father to a child, the courts have analogized.

But putting pleasant-sounding legal theories aside, in reality the practice of the cruise lines today is quite different. When a crew member hires a lawyer, the cruise lines put the sick crew member in dirty, low-rent hotels where they feed them disgusting food. Unfortunately, the Miami-based cruise lines act like resentful uncaring parents who neglect their responsibilities.

Royal Caribbean: When I first began representing crew members in the 1990’s, Royal Caribbean used to house their injured crew members in a hotel close to South Miami Hospital. It was a nice, safe hotel with good food where crew members could go to and from the hospital with little inconvenience. But as soon as the crew member hired a lawyer, the cruise line would retaliate against their sick employee. Royal Caribbean would immediately kick the crew member out of the hotel and send them to a dump-of-a-hotel near I-95 and 163rd Street.  The area was known as a hang-out for drug dealers and prostitutes. The hookers would use the dirty hotel rooms on an hourly basis. It was a dangerous and demoralizing location for ill crew members to try and recuperate.

More recently, Royal Caribbean uses a hotel in Miami hear 8th Street. Here are some of the descriptions on Trip Advisor:

“This hotel is absolutely horrible! Do not stay here. Management is awful. Toilet overflows constantly and cleaning crew does not help. . . Stay away from this hotel. Don’t even spend a $1 on this hotel.”

“Nothing good about this place . . . the room has no air conditioner or working fan. The bathroom was disgusting and had a terrible odor coming from the sink. Next thing, it was 11 pm and there were people just screaming for ages in the hallways . . .  Don’t stay here!!!

Crew members at this hotel complain regularly about roaches, no hot water, inedible greasy salty food (photo above by crew member), extra charges for bottled water, malfunctioning televisions, and unsanitary bathrooms.

Carnival:  We receive the same type of complaints from crew members on sick leave in the hotels which Carnival selects especially for its injured crew members who are represented by lawyers. It’s a disgraceful practice. One crew member undergoing back surgery sent us a video below of a rat that lives under the buffet in the crew member dining room.

We complained to Carnival, but it could care less.

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

 

Princess Cruise Bus AccidentNews sources in Alaska are reporting that a Princess Cruises employee was killed when a Princess Tours excursion bus overturned on a rain slicked highway in Alaska.

The accident occurred at mile 173 on Parks Highway, approximately 200 miles south of Fairbanks.

The Frontiersman reports that this is the second serious incident involving a Princess-owned bus on a remote stretch of road in the past month. Here’s a story about the prior accident involving a Princess bus.

The photograph of the crushed bus (left) was published by the Frontiersman via Tim Whitney.

The Cruise Fever websites says that "the bus was heading northbound along the Denali National Park from Mt. McKinley Wilderness Lodge to the Princess Wilderness Lodge" when the accident happened. 

KTUU states that three people, all Princess employees, were on board the bus when it crashed and the front end was crushed. 

The woman who died was from Malaysia and working in Alaska. A second Princess employee was seriously injured. The bus driver was not injured.  

State Troopers say that excessive speed was a factor in the accident.  

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