When the Cruise Shipping Miami’s "State of the Industry" presentation started yesterday at 9:30 AM, I wondered whether anyone would mention Costa Concordia.  

Keynote speaker, David Scowsill,World Travel and Tourism Council President, briefly mentioned the Concordia disaster in passing, saying "despite the tragic cruise ship incident last year" cruising is still "safest" form of transportation.

Holland America Line CEO Stein Kruse was the first to say the words "Costa Concordia" over 1 hour into the CEO’s presentation which I quickly noted in a tweet at 10:33 AM.  It was one of the few State of the Cruise Industryreferences to reality the entire morning.

All of the CEO’s covered the CLIA talking points that cruising was "safe" and the cruise industry is also supposedly "highly regulated."  The hyperbole was extraordinary.

Christine Duffy was the first to say that the Triumph fire was "rare." Carnival’s President Gerry Cahill then topped her saying: “Something like this is very rare."

NCL’s Kevin Sheehan said that cruising was the "safest, safest, safest" vacation option.   

RCCL President Adam Goldstein said that the cruise industry was "highly regulated" by the IMO "regulatory scheme." He said words to the effect that he was sure "that no one in the room would dispute that."

Carnival’s Cahill added that his cruise line intends to conduct safety audit all of its ships. CLIA would also be performing audits as well.

All of these statements sounded great. But there was little of substance discussed. There were all types of precise statistics presented about the number of new ships, the number of passengers and the revenue generated by the cruise lines. But when it comes to statistics regarding fires and other accidents, the cruise executives offered nothing but their personal opinions.

It was interesting what the cruise execs didn’t say rather than the talking points they repeated over and over.     

Last year I attended a Congressional hearing where a cruise expert detailed some 79 cruise ship fires between 1990 and the hearing in 2011. I have discussed in this blog that over 10 cruise ship fires occurred since the Splendor. That’s 90 fires in 23 years.

That’s hardly "rare." The "safest, safest, safest" form of transportation does not catch on fire every 4 months.

Keeping statistics away from the public is how the cruise industry works.  Assuring the public that the unregulated cruise industry is allegedly "heavily regulated" is also how the cruise lines work.

Senator Rockefeller presided over the post Concordia safety hearing last year and told the cruise representatives "You Are A World Unto Yourselves."    There is simply no real oversight by the U.S. over foreign flagged cruise ships.

Carnival’s Cahill promised that his cruise line would police itself with its own safety audits. But what he didn’t say was whether the audits will ever be released to the public.  

Trust me, they will never see the light of day.

Cruise Shipping MiamiCahill also said that Carnival "learned its lesson" after the Splendor fire in 2010. But he didn’t say what lesson Carnival learned. He also didn’t mention that the country of Panama, where Carnival registered the Splendor to avoid income tax, has still not even released a report about the investigation into the fire which occurred over two years ago.  What lesson can be learned if the official report into the fire has still not been released at this late date?

Does anyone really think that the audits by Carnival and CLIA about the Triumph last month will ever be shared with the public when there is no public report about the Splendor which caught on fire 28 months ago?

Until the cruise industry truly falls under the scrutiny of U.S. federal regulators and there is transparency in releasing statistical information and accident investigation reports, all we will hear at the state-of-the-industry presentations are more and more self-serving opinions of an industry which is a world unto itself.       

Cruise Shipping MiamiIt’s 11:25 AM Tuesday morning. I’m sitting here in the 4th row at the Miami Beach Convention Center listening to the final moments of the Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM 2013) State-of-the-Industry speeches by the cruise line executives.

Before me the kings of the cruise industry are speaking: Royal Caribbean President Adam Goldstein; NCL CEO Kevin Sheehan; Celebrity Cruises President Michael Bayley; Carnival President Gerry Cahill; HAL CEO Stein Kruse; MSC CEO Pierfrancesco Vago; and Silversea Cruises Chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio. Plus a keynote speech from World Travel and Tourism Council President David Scowsill.

My first thought as I scanned the panel of cruise executives on the stage in front of me this morning: Do you have to be a white male to speak about the state of the cruise industry at CSM?

This is essentially the same all men-in-dark-suits line up from prior years. Where are all of the women cruise executives?

Cruise Shipping MiamiLooking around me, I see some plenty of women in the audience. Why are there no women on stage talking about the future of the cruise industry?   Seven suits and ties on stage and not a single cruise line executive in a dress or high heels.

Is the cruise industry the least diversified business in the U.S.?

I work in a law firm where the smartest lawyer is a woman; where the hardest workers are women; and where the decision makers are mostly women. 99% of our crew clients from around the world do not resemble any of the men here lecturing the audience at the auditorium.

Its going to be a weird week here at CSM.

 

Photo Credit: CMS 2013 – Jim Walker

As part of Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM 2013), I have raised 6 problems which I believe the cruise lines need to address.

Problem No. 5: Disappearance of Passengers and Crew Members from Cruise Ships:.

The problem is not just that approximately 200 people have vanished from cruise ships since year 2000, but the attitude of the cruise lines when families try and find out what happened to their loved ones is just plain nasty.

When Seattle businessman Son Michael Pham’s parents disappeared during a Carnival cruise, he voiced his frustration that he received greater responsiveness upon losing a piece of luggage.

Insurance company president Ken Carver’s daughter disappeared from a Celebrity Cruises ship and the cruise line responded by discarding her personal items without so much as a call to the FBI. Rebecca Coriam - Disney Wonder Cruise Ship 

Today, a reader of this blog sent me a link to an article which discussed how Disney youth counselors on the Disney Wonder lost track of a three year old child whose parents dropped the little boy off in the cruise ship’s Oceaneer Club (for children aged 3 to 12).  The cruise line’s response was not only incompetent but heartless.  

The youth counselors had no clue where the little boy entrusted to their care was on the ship. They appeared indifferent to the parent’s understandable fears. No announcements were made over the course of 45 minutes while the ship sailed along as the parents searched frantically for their child.

This cavalier attitude is business as usual for the floating Magical Kingdom ships. Almost two years ago exactly, a 24 year old youth counselor from the U.K., Rebecca Coriam, disappeared from the Disney Wonder. The ship continued on sailing. The cruise line’s attitude and response, in my opinion, seemed motivated to protect its own marketing image and cover-the-truth-up, rather than to find out exactly what happened to young Rebecca.

Today is Rebecca’s 26th birthday which her parents and sister are celebrating in sorrow.  Neither Disney nor the country of the Bahamas, where Disney incorporates its cruise ships to avoid U.S. George Smith Royal Caribbean Cruise Shiptaxes, will cooperate with the Coriam family.  No one will provide the Coriams with a copy of the Bahamas report on the disappearance of their daughter. The callousness demonstrated by Disney and the Bahamas is the product of a foreign flagged scheme which is designed to keep cruise lines like Disney away from real oversight except by Caribbean islands whose loyalties lie exclusively to the cruise industry.  

I touched upon this problem briefly in an opinion piece for CNN entitled "What Cruise Lines Don’t Want You to Know."

There are many other examples of a cruise industry which would rather spend it efforts trying to create an image to vacationers that cruising is safe rather taking reasonable steps to make certain cruising is actually safe.

George Smith disappeared in July 2005 during his honeymoon. Going on eight years later, there remain no answers and no arrests, It was only last year that the public learned that Royal Caribbean had possession of a video of a certain passenger on the cruise ship who was taped telling his friends "we gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute."  We represented Mr. Smith’s wife and were never told that the video existed; instead, we watched as the cruise line stonewalled our investigation and tried to convince the public that Mr. Smith just got drunk and fell overboard.

HAL Disappearance Jason Rappe EurodamLast November, HAL passenger Jason Rappe’ disappeared from the Eurodam while cruising with his wife.  We asked the cruise line for information like videotapes, passenger addresses, statements and other basic information.

HAL refused to provide anything to us.

Instead HAL insisted that it was Mr. Rappe’s wife who first had to agree to provide all of her missing husband’s medical records, life insurance policies, work information and any psychiatric records before they would even think about cooperating.        

No airline would act like this if a passenger or crew member disappeared in flight. But then again the aviation industry is overseen by the strict and serious Federal Aviation Agency (FAA). There is no equivalent to the FAA on the high seas – only ships flying flags of convenience in countries like the Bahamas which care only their relationships with the cruise industry.   

Its too easy to commit a crime on a cruise line and get away with it. Even in cases where there is no foul play, the cruise industry’s knee-jerk reaction is to deny and delay and obfuscate rather than treat families respectfully and transparently. Until this attitude changes, cruise lines will always appear that they have something to hide.   

  

You can read our prior articles about 6 problems the cruise industry needs to fix below:

Problem No. 6: Cruise Pollution of Air & Water

Check in this week as we explore problem number 1 – 4 during CSM.

Tomorrow we will hear the state of the cruise industry from many of the CEO’s of the cruise lines. After a deadly and disastrous year, questions arise whether the cruise industry is heading in the right direction.

In many ways, the cruise industry is going backwards. I targeted what I consider six of the major problems which the industry needs fixing. Today we’ll look at:  

Problem # 6 – Pollution of Air & Water: The cruise industry is heading the wrong way on environmental issues.  It just fought a very public battle with the state of Alaska which, in 2006, enacted the most responsible waste water restrictions in the world to address cruise ship pollution.

A typical cruise ship produces 210,000 gallons of sewage, over a million gallons of greywater, 130 gallons of hazardous wastes such as poisonous metals, and 25,000 gallons of oily bilge water in a single week-long cruise. Considering there are 28 cruise ships operating 150 days annually in Alaska, this results in over one billion gallons of sewage and waste water being dumped into Alaska state waters every year.

The Alaskan initiative targeted this nasty problem with sewage, while also prohibiting the discharge of heavy metals like zinc, copper and nickle from cruise ships’ plumbing systems. In response, the cruise lines threatened to pull its ships from Alaska and lobbied legislators heavily. The major polluters of Alaskan waters, like Carnival owned Holland America Lines and Princess Cruises, led the charge to Oasis of the Seas Pollutionrepeal the green legislation in order to avoid the expense of installing advanced waste water treatment technologies.

While polluting the waters, the cruise industry is resisting clean air legislation as well. CLIA cruise ships still burn bunker fuel, the dirtiest and most deadly fuel on the planet. and the industry is resisting complying with clean air laws, citing reduced profits.

As the industry’s ships get bigger and bigger, there is increased damage to coral reefs and the environment of the fragile ecosystems from the Caribbean to Alaska. To accommodate giants of the seas like the Oasis and the Allure into its new port in Falmouth Jamaica, Royal Caribbean oversaw the dredging of 35 million cubic feet of coral reefs which were crushed and dumped onto old mangroves. The Oasis and Allure can now squeeze into the once quaint fishing village, where they sit and burn high sulfur bunker fuel.

The cruise industry has a historical reputation of abusing the seas, with the major lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL all pleading guilty to environmental crimes and lying to the U.S. Coast Guard and federal prosecutors. Although it has promised to protect the waters on which its business depends, the cruise industry has consistently chosen the cheaper and more destructive path on environmental issues. 

The cruise industry needs to clean up its act. It must distance itself from its renegade past of being the conservator from hell.    

 

Read the other problems facing the cruise industry:

Problem No. 5: Disappearance of Passengers and Crew Members

Cruise Shipping Miami ("CSM 2013") starts tomorrow morning.  Word on the street is that notwithstanding rough times for the cruise industry over the past year, there will be a record attendance.

Formerly known as "Seatrade," CSM is a huge trade show in the Miami Beach Convention Center with all types of cruise vendors, tourism delegates and port representatives.  

You can appreciate just how dynamic and wealthy the cruise industry is by attending the show.

Here’s the official schedule.

Cruise Shipping Miami I will be there all week.  

Here’s my review of the last Cruise Shipping Miami trade show I attended:

Cruise Shipping Miami (SeaTrade) – the Good, Bad and Ugly

Email me at jim@cruiselaw.com if you want to meet. My perspective – "everything the cruise lines don’t want you to know" – is a little different than that of most people attending.

i will be blogging and tweeting all week.

See you there.