A cruise ship captain is on trial in France on charges of violating pollution laws designed to address health concerns over air pollution caused by ferries and huge cruise ships.  According to the Telegraph newspaper, France has charged U.S. captain Evans Hoyt, age  58, for breaking Europe’s air emission laws by authorizing the burning of bunker fuel containing sulphur above the European limit of 1.5%.

Mr. Hoyt was employed as the master of P&O Cruises’ Azura cruise ship, when he oversaw the loading of 900 tons of cheap heavy-sulphur fuel onto the cruise ship when it was in Barcelona, Spain. The next port in Marseilles, France  charged him and cruise giant, Carnival Corporation, and its P&O Cruises brand, of using the low-cost high-sulphur fuel. The “heavy” fuel  produces non-combustible soot particles and oxides that contribute to acid rain and the pollution of the oceans.

The heavy fuel used by one cruise ship causes as much air pollution as one million cars in the same period of time, environmentalists say. High-sulphur fuel is responsible for 60,000 deaths a year and 50 billions euros in health care in Europe alone, according to the France Nature Environnement (FNE) group.

Carnival faces a fine of 100,000 to 200,000 euros (depending on differing news accounts). Relatively speaking, the fine is a pittance considering Carnival’s immense financial resources. However, given the fact that Carnival saved around $200,000 for a week long cruise by purchasing the cheaper fuel and that it owns over 100 cruise ships which each operate virtually 52 weeks a year, the verdict may have significant financial implications for the cruise company.

But Carnival is fighting the fine. It argues that the EU’s 1.5 percent sulfur limit applies only to “passenger ships providing regular services to destinations or from ports of the European Union.” Carnival says that the Azura is a cruise liner, not a ferry with “regular services to (European) destinations,” and is therefore exempt from the 1.5% sulphur limit in the EU law, an argument that it has lost before.  Carnival argues that its ships have to comply only with a higher (3.5%) limit which applies to cargo ships.

The fight against Carnival Corporation has been personalized with charges brought directly against Master Hoyt, who is a popular cruise ship captain who used to work for Norwegian Cruise Line for ten years before he began his employment with P&O Cruises/Carnival. I watched him testify before the House of Representatives on the issue of cruise ship safety following the Costa Concordia disaster. At the hearing, he stressed the important of enforcing cruise industry standards and procedures.

A maritime expert whose opinions I value described him as a “man of integrity and morals.”

Suing a cruise ship captain is an unprecedented step by a port state to deal with the air pollution problem caused by increasingly massive cruise ships.  As readers pointed out on our Facebook page, ship fuel is tested by the environmental officer (or chief engineer) before it is allowed to be pumped into the cruise ship, so it appears that the ship’s master knew that the heavy fuel violated Europe’s sulphur limit. A French newspaper concluded that the captain, who has not appeared in court, “knew perfectly well that the fuel he had filled up with in Barcelona was illegal.” At the same time, a maritime expert commented to me “if the cruise lines doesn’t bunker the ship with emissions compliant fuel, what options does that leave the Master and Chief Engineer?” The ISM Code would also seem to implicate Carnival as the responsible party by it’s failure to adequately supply the ship with “critical components” (i.e., compliant fuel).

Air pollution caused by cruise ships is a particular concern for crowded Mediterranean ports.

Long ago, a German environmental association, Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU), found that passengers could be inhaling “60 times higher concentrations of harmful air pollutants” while on cruise ships, than on land, according to a major U.S. news network.

Recently, Santorini has shown to have very high level of air pollution caused by the cruise and shipping industries, which can legally use heavy fuel oil without exhaust gas cleaning systems in the Mediterranean, as a Telegraph newspaper article explained.

The construction of a huge new cruise ship terminal planned for the river Thames in the U.K. met opposition due to concerns of  dangerous levels of air pollution in the heart of the capital with the attendant potential health consequences for hundreds of thousands of people.

And in the U.S., major cruise line like Princess, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean have all been found to be in violation of Alaska’s air emission laws, as well as Alaska’s water discharge standards.

Princess Cruises, of course, is just a year and one-half into its five year probation for its wide spread practice of pollution. I was skeptical that a fine of only $40,000,000 would have any effect on its parent company, giant Carnival Corporation. Carnival-owned cruise ships continue to violate local, state and international pollution laws since the DOJ issued the fine a year and one-half ago. It is no coincidence that a Carnival-owned cruise ship like the Azura is at the center of this latest controversy.

Perhaps there is a symbolic issue at play with a French court hosting the prosecution of an American captain accused of violating European pollution laws. After all, President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Accord a year ago.

In any event, the enforcement of the EU’s sulphur limit could not occur at a more critical time given the United Nations’ recent report which concludes that people must take “rapid, unprecedented changes” in how they use energy to travel and live in order to halt global warning. The Le Monde newspaper comments that there is widespread skepticism that port states will consistently take any meaningful actions to enforce pollution regulations against renegade cruise lines. Perhaps a threat of jail time against a popular U.S. captain of a cruise ship owned by the largest and most popular cruise corporation in the world will teach others that its finally time to treat the air around them with a modicum of respect.

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Photo credit: M/S Azurs – Pjotr Mahhonin – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia; middle – Evan Hoyt – C-SPAN; bottom – Norwegian Pearl in Juneau / Photo credit Tim Olson / KTOO Public Radio.

Pirates - Cruise ShipRecently, there have been a number of articles published about preparing cruise ships for attacks by pirates as the ships pass through the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb into and out of the Gulf of Aden.

Cruise blogger Danielle Fear published, via Cruise Critic, an article yesterday titled Blackout on Black Watch: Pirates, Razor Wire and Water Cannons on a Fred. Olsen Cruise. Ms. Fear is currently sailing on the 108-night “Wonders of the World” cruise onboard Fred. Olsen’s Black Watch around the “horn of Africa through the Red Sea to the Suez Canal, where piracy is still rampant and razor wire is added to the handrails ….” It is interesting to read her first hand account of security teams boarding the ship to prepare the passengers for pirates attacks as the ships begins to pass Somalia and Yemen. Although she states that “it is rare for them to approach cruise ships,” Mr. Fear included a photo of razor wire on the rails along the entire length of the Promenade Deck installed to act as a deterrent to pirates boarding the ship.

The passengers reportedly are required to attend mandatory “safe haven” drills to learn “where to go and what to do” in the event of a pirate attack.

A tabloid newspaper published an article earlier in the week describing how “a “crack team” boarded the Queen Mary 2 as it sailed through the “treacherous” Gulf of Aden. It appears that the Queen Mary 2 wasn’t lined with barb wire, like the Black Watch, but the article mentioned that it was equipped with water cannons and sonic devices to keep the pirates at bay.

These articles remind me of a photograph in an article in the Telegraph eight years ago about the Discovery cruise ship, operated by Discover the World cruise line, which reportedly confronted a Cruise Ship - Pirate - Terrorism Somali speedboat as the ship sailed from Mombasa towards the Seychelles Islands. The ship was equipped with “rolls of razor wire all over the stern rail (and) bundles of logs to be released to fall on any craft attaching itself to our hull.”

Look at the photo closely and you will notice barb wire and logs tied below the rails as well as a bundle of logs hoisted near the starboard/stern, positioned to be dropped on any skiffs which approach the cruise ship.

You can see “vessel hardening tactics” by a security firm here.

Barb wire, water cannons and sonic devices may work against pirates, but I would be more concerned with Houthi rebel missiles while attempting to pass Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb . . .

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Photo credits: Pirates Attacking the Seabourn Spirit off the coast of Somalia – AP via Telegraph; Discovery cruise ship -Richard Snailham via Telegraph

FTI Berlin Lifeboat Non Conformity This weekend I was notified by a passenger, on a German cruise ship named the Berlin, that the ship has been stuck in Dublin, Ireland for the past several days.

I was not familiar with the cruise ship or the German cruise line, FTI, which operates it. I have learned that the Berlin is considered to be a small cruise ship, carrying a little over 400 passengers. It was built in 1980 and is flagged in Malta.

The Berlin arrived at its scheduled port of call early in the morning of June 14, 2018 in Dublin, where it has remained for the past three days. The delay has already caused the passengers to miss the remaining port of call. It appears that the passengers will be disembarked today in Dublin and flown back to Bremerhaven. Embarkation for new passengers will reportedly occur tomorrow in Dublin.

“We arrived on 14 June suppose to sail same date 17.00.  Suppose to sail yesterday then said today finally this morning captain said to guest waiting for information from the home office and port authorities.  Guests were given 250 euro on their cards and refunded their excursion fares.”

The cause of the delay seems to be a problem with one of its 6 lifeboats which, reportedly, is “out of order.”  The exact problem with lifeboat no. 6 has not been disclosed to the guests or crew but it was discovered by port authorities during an inspection on June 14th.

Maritime regulations including Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulations mandated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) require a minimum number of operational lifecrafts (a combination of lifeboats and liferafts).

Photo credit: Anonymous

Interested in this issue? Read Floating Drydocks at Sea – A Growing Problem? It seems that passengers on cruise lines operated by German companies are subject to  the same problems on U.S. based cruise lines.

FTI Berlin Lifeboat Non Conformity

Today, the Miami Herald covered the delayed story of the Carnival Triumph flunking a November 2017 USPH inspection when it received a score of only 78.

The reason why I called the story "delayed" is because Carnival crew members on the Carnival Triumph  talked about the failed USPH score about six weeks before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published its official report. The news first broke about the Triumph flunking the inspection when the crew members tipped off the popular Crew Center web site which first reported USPH Cruise Inspectionsthe story in mid-November of 2017. 

We have also received tips of failed USPH inspections, such as when the Carnival Breeze failed a USPH inspection (receiving a 77) and when the crew members aboard the Silver Shadow his food and galley equipment in crew quarters. 

The Herald characterizes the failed USPH score as "rare," but that seems entirely debatable. The article quotes cruise fanatic Stewart Chiron saying that “as far as a large ship, I couldn’t tell you the last time this happened. That’s how rare this is.”

But the cruise fans forgot about over ten USPH failed inspections in the last few years, starting with the Carnival Breeze just last month (which Carnival has not even acknowledged to date). Then there was also the Carnival Paradise scored just a 83 in June 2017, which the article briefly mentioned.

In addition, the following cruise ships failed USPH inspections in the last four-five years: RCCL’s Empress of the Seas– 80 (2016), P&O Oceana – 80 (2016), Carnival Fascination – 84 (2016), Balearia Bahamas Express Bahama Mama cruise ferry – 69 (2015), Silver Shadow – 82 (2015). Norwegian Star – 82 (2014) as well as Celebrity Century – 77 (2013), Celebrity Summit – 81 (2013), and the Silver Shadow – 84 (2013)(yes, it failed twice in two years), Carnival Fascination – 84 (2013, yes it failed twice in three years) and the Golden Princess – 81 (2013), Sea Dream Yacht Club’s Sea Dream II – 81 (2013), and the Caribbean Fantasy – 81 (2013). In addition, as the Miami Herald reported, Ponant’s Le Boreal – 84, Peace Boat’s Ocean Dream – 82, Victory Cruise Line’s Victory I – 78, and the Caribbean ferry, Kydon, – 58 all received failing scores in 2017.

20 cruise ships flunked surprise USPH sanitation inspections in five years. That does not seem particularly "rare" to me.

Also, remember that that Carnival crew members stated that the Triumph failed the USPH inspection about six weeks before the agency finally produced the official report. The same thing happened with the Carnival Breeze where crew members have talked about the failed inspection last month to the crew-center website but the CDC has not even published its report yet. 

It seems disconcerting, to me at least, that if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is really concerned about controlling and preventing disease on cruise ships, that it would sit on reports of potential public health hazards on several cruise ships for over a month.

January 5, 2018 Update: A reader left a comment below that the Regent’s Seven Seas Navigator received a failing score of 79 (2013) raising the total number of cruise lines which flunked USPH inspection to 21 in the last five years.

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Photo credit: Jim Walker via Ship Life – The Pot Wash Blues

The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a passenger from a Carnival cruise ship off the North Carolina coast yesterday. 

The Coast Guard reports that yesterday, around noon, the Carnival Pride cruise ship contacted the Coast Guard command center in Wilmington reporting that a 71-year-old man was suffering a heart attack while the ship was approximately 40 miles east of Morehead City, North Carolina.

The Coast Guard’s station in Elizabeth City dispatched a MH-80 helicopter which flew to the cruise ship and hoisted the passenger and a nurse and transported them to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. There is no reported information regarding the man’s condition. 

Image credit: United States Coast Guard District 5; Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (copyright information).

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Ths week NBC News published an article titled Sex Assault Victims on Cruise Ships Are Often Under 18. Over three months, NBC News spoke with ten victims of sexual assaults and/or members of their families. The news organization found that a significant number of victims of rape and molestation on cruise ships are under 18 years of age.

NBC reported:

"Of the 92 alleged on-board crimes reported by cruise lines in 2016, 62 were sexual assaults. When sexual assaults occur at sea, it may be hard for victims to get justice on land. Some assaults were barely investigated, according to the victims and families who spoke to NBC. Most were never prosecuted.

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."

NBC interviewed me during its investigation.  We have represented 100 women and children, including families of  boys, who were sexually assaulted on cruise ships; around 35 vcitims were teenages and children with many victims under the age of ten with some as young as three years old. 

You can read more about sexual assault of children on cruise ships here

Interested in this issue? Read the recent article Sexual assault victims on cruise ships are often minors.

NBC will be airing its special on TV this weekend on the NBC Nightly News. Below is a portion of the special. 

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

 

MIndy Jordon Disappearance - NCLEarlier today, I mentioned the recent disappearance of a young Chinese woman from the MSC Magnifica.

It appears that she may have been a murder victim, according to the police in Italy who are investigating the case.

If this is true, this is hardly the first time that a cruise passenger has been killed at sea.

Cruise passenger Karen Roston was thrown overboard by her husband during an Admiral Cruises vacation. He was later convicted of the crime.

Mindy Jordon went overboard from a NCL cruise ship when she went on a vacation with a husband reportedly with an abusive and violent background.

The case of George Smith, of course, is perhaps the clearest example of a crime at sea, after he was reportedly thrown overboard by a man, who was also sailing on the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas as a passenger, who reportedly gave Mr. Smith a “paragliding lesson without a parachute.”

Micki Kanesaki DisappearanceA Chinese cruise passenger murdered his wife by pitching her overboard during a cruise aboard the Macau Success. He falsely claimed that his wife committed suicide.

A drunken passenger killed his wife during a cruise on the Carnival Elation to Mexico.

A lawyer was arrested for allegedly strangling & throwing his wife, Micki Kanesaki off an Italian cruise ship several years ago.

A woman from Vancouver, Canada, Fariba Amani, who was cruising aboard the Bahamas Celebration cruise ship operated by the Celebration Cruise Lines, disappeared under mysterious circumstances during a cruise with her boyfriend.

Farabi Amani DisappearanceThere are many others who met with foul play on cruise ships.

A Brazilian crew member, Camilla Peixoto Bandeira, working aboard the MSC Musica was strangled to death by her boyfriend.

23 year old  Amy Lynn Bradley disappeared from Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas under highly suspicious circumstances where it appears that she was abducted.

Carnival passenger Annette Mizener appeared to have been thrown overboard from a Carnival ship cruising to Mexico.

A Holland America Line (HAL) crew member sexually assaulted, violently beat, and tried to throw a woman from her balcony on HAL’s Nieuw Amsterdam. The crew member was arrested and sentenced Jennifer Ellis-Seitz Balconyto jail, although in most such cases there are no arrests or prosecutions.

Other young, healthy and seemingly happy individuals have disappeared from cruise ships, with the cruise line wildly speculating that they probably committed suicide, like Denisa Markoska, and Angelo Faliva.

A murder investigation was opened after after a 53 year old woman went overboard from the Costa Fortuna.

A young woman, Jennifer Ellis-Seitz, disappeared over the rails of her cabin’s balcony resulting in the FBI investigating the conduct of her husband when other passengers commented on what they considered his highly strange behavior. The FBI eventually declined the case after finding no evidence of foul play. There was, of course, no automatic man overboard system in place.

It was the mysterious disappearance of Merrian Carver from the Celebrity Mercury back in 2004, and the resulting cover-up by the cruise line, which motivated her father, Ken Carver to create the International Cruise Victims organization.

Several lawmakers have asked whether a cruise ship is the perfect place to commit a crime, largely Camilla Peixoto Bandeira - MSC Disappearancebecause of jurisdictional nightmares like this.

The cruise industry is quick to label disappearances at sea as “suicides” even when the facts suggest otherwise. Read: “Suicide” – One of the Cruise Lines’ Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea.

Mike Driscoll, editor of Cruiseweek, a cruise publication, was recently quoted as saying “Most over-boards to date have been suicides.”  He offered no statistical evidence to support this inaccurate claim. In fact, the majority of disappearances involve highly intoxicated individuals who go over the rails. Whether you view this phenomenon as the result of reckless conduct by the drunken passenger or the irresponsibility of the cruise line in over-serving their guests to make profits from the vast amount of alcohol sold during a cruise, there is no question that alcohol is involved in most disappearances from cruise ships.  You can track the last 288 case of overboards maintained by cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein and easily Annetter Mizener Disappearancesee that alcohol plays a significant role in most overboard cases.

Unfortunately, it also appears that a cruise is a perfect location for a murder, particularly when there are few automatic man overboard cameras installed on ships which would document and, possibly, deter criminal activity.

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

March 3, 2017 Update: Cops believe missing Dublin-based mum was murdered on cruise ship and thrown overboard in suitcase.

November 16, 2018 Update: There have been at least four additional murders, or murder attempts, on cruise ships since we first published this article. In  July of 2017, the FBI arrested the husband of a  a 39-year-old woman who was murdered aboard the Emerald Princess operated by Princess Cruises in Alaska. In January of 2018, the boyfriend of a 50 year-old woman was arrested for murder aboard the Carnival Elation after he threw her off their balcony to a lifeboat below. In October of 2018, a passenger was arrested after he tried to throw his partner off of the Radiance of the Seas in Australia. Earlier this week,  a man killed a 52 year-old woman on the Royal Princess operated by Princess Cruises after allegedly choking her and throwing her over the railing following which she fell and struck a lifeboat.

Photo credits:

Mindy Jordon – International Cruise Victims

Denisa Markosa DisappearanceMicki Kanesaki – Orange County Register

Fariba Amani – Global News Canada

Jennifer Ellis-Seitz balcony – TODAY

Camilla Peixoto Bandeira – A Tribuna newspaper

Annette Mizener – ABC News

Denisa Markosa – Fokus newspaper (Macedonia)

Royal Princess Murder – Mail Online

News 7 in Australia reports today that a cruise passenger on a Royal Caribbean ship arriving in Sydney, Australia alleges that she was a victim of sexual assault by another passenger during the cruise.    

The news account states that the Explorer of the Seas arrived in Sydney after a nine day cruise to Vanuatu and was met by police. Detectives reportedly spent several hours talking to witnesses, taking statements and collecting forensic evidence from what the news account described as a crime scene. 

The news station indicates that no arrests were made.  The cruise line reportedly provided support to the alleged victim.

SuperStar GeminiThe Straits Times reports that a passenger from Singapore fell overboard from a cruise ship on Sunday night. 

The newspaper identified the 60 year old passenger as Wuan Poh Fatt, who was on vacation with five other passengers on the SuperStar Gemini sailing from Singapore, where the cruise ship is home ported, to Penang.

The passenger reportedly fell overboard in waters off Tanjung Kling, Malacca, Malaysia around 11:05 P.M. on Sunday. 

The Straits Times reported that the passenger had gone missing was determined to be missing from the ship after he failed to respond to announcements shortly before the ship docked in Georgetown on Monday.

A review of CCTV film revealed a person going overboard Sunday night. 

There have been 280 persons who have gone overboard from cruise ships since 2000 according to cruise expert Professor Ross Klein

A passenger went overboard from the SuperStar Gemini in the Strait of Malacca last year in October. The company contended that the passenger jumped overboard. 

There have been two other overboard cases from Star Cruises ships in the last six years.  A 50 year old Indonesian man fell from the SuperStar Libra in May 2015 and his body was later found by fishermen in Malaysia waters.  In September 2010, a 51 year old Chinese passenger aboard the SuperStar Aquarius lost HK$5 million ($650,000) playing baccarat. He then jumped overboard from the top floor of the 13-deck cruise ship.

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

Photo Credit: Rupildevlamsar – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / .wikimedia.

This weekend will mark 10 years since George Smith disappeared from Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas in the early morning hours of July 5, 2005. 

Mr. Smith was on a honeymoon cruise with his newlywed bride, Jennifer Hagel, who we later represented on behalf of Mr. Smith’s estate against the cruise line over his disappearance.

I have written about this terrible tragedy many times, including writing a series of articles about some of George SmithCruise Mystery the details about the case. 

I have always thought that the case involved foul play, and that George Smith was tossed over-the-rails.

The case was mentioned routinely on television and cable news back in 2005-2006. We were interviewed on a regular basis. Royal Caribbean sent a slew of people to appear in the media like the former captain (whose opinions were ludicrous) as well as PR representatives, crisis communication experts and even the CEO of the cruise line. They tended to cast aspersions against Mr. Smith, or his bride, or both, or played dumb. They never ever produced videos in the cruise line’s possession. 

What Royal Caribbean didn’t disclose to the media back then was that it had a video recording of some of the other passengers who were last with Mr. Smith in his cabin early on the morning in question. After Mr. Smith’s disappearance, the men were recorded mocking Mr. Smith. One of them then said: "we gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute." This video was in the possession of the cruise line by the end of the cruise and, later, in the possession of the FBI which did not disclose it to any of the family members. It eventually became known to the Smith family only around 7 years after the incident.

The greatest mystery about this cruise line crime case is not what happened to George Smith; it’s why the FBI shut its investigation down and why the Department of Justice didn’t arrest those responsible long ago.

What do you think of the Captain’s excuse that George Smith may have been smoking a cigar on the balcony and just lost his balance?

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CBS is airing an episode on 48 Hours tomorrow night about the case. A preview is below: