MSC touted the MSC Seaside as the “first of a new generation of MSC ships with revolutionary architecture and cutting-edge technology” when it christened the ship in Miami last year.  USA TODAY explained that MSC specifically designed the MSC cruise ship to “appeal to American cruisers.”

But when U.S. passenger Laura Eka and her newlywed husband, Ebong,  boarded the MSC ship several weeks ago to celebrate their honeymoon, they were greeted by a caricature of a black person. Ms. Eka complained to MSC that she and her husband (who is black) felt “unwelcome and uncomfortable” by the blackface artwork.

MSC refused to acknowledge the racially insensitive artwork which it chose to display on its Miami-based cruise ship. So Ms. Eka went to Twitter to express her disgust with the racist caricature.

Blackface is an ugly part of United States history. Like Dixie flags which still fly over several southern states today, blackface is a symptom of racism. Blackface involves derogatory racial images like the “darky” icon with large, exaggerated red lips and bright, white teeth which became a common racist motif used in entertainment, cartoons, comic strips, postcards, and advertisements throughout American culture from the turn of the 1800’s to at least the 1960’s. It is totally inappropriate for any cruise line to use such an offensive image at this late date, particularly a cruise line catering to the American public.

Has MSC removed the “artwork” from the cruise ship by now?  I doubt it. But if it is still hanging on a wall somewhere on the ship, please let us know.  And don’t hesitate to take a photo and post it on Twitter. Let MSC know what you think of whether blackface appeals to American cruisers today.

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November 29, 2018 Update: Miami New Times covers the shameful incident: Honeymooners Shocked by Bizarre Blackface “Artwork” on New MSC Cruise Ship.

I realized that I confused the MSC Seaside with the MSC Seaview which contained the racist artwork in my article. Mea culpa!

Take a moment and read:

Money Mississippi & the Murder of Emmett Till

For a different perspective, read:

New York Times  Confronting Racist Objects

Last week, United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers arrested seven MSC crew members for smuggling cocaine into the port of Miami aboard the MSC Seaside, according to crew members wishing to remain anonymous.

On Saturday, November 17, 2018, CBP officers boarded the MSC Seaside after it arrived at the port of Miami and “busted a drug smuggling ring”  involving MSC crew members, according to other crew members with personal knowledge of the arrests. “A lot of cocaine was found on the ship. The drug smugglers are dangerous and many on the ship are afraid,” one of the other crew members informed us.

CBP officers reportedly found six kilos of cocaine and over $100,000 in cash.

Five of the crew members who were arrested were identified as Jamaican men were and taken into custody. At this time, we have not been able to confirm all of their identities with law enforcement. There were reportedly four women from South Africa who were arrested together with the five Jamaicans.

Two Jamaican crew members were held in jail over last weekend. They were subsequently released and taken by CBP officers to the airport and flown back to Jamaica. They were first fingerprinted and their seaman’s visas were canceled before they were flown back to Jamaica.

We have seen other crew members arrested for drug smuggling who were released who were treated in a similar manner. One such crew member was placed on the do-not-enter-the-U.S. list of U.S. immigration, as we mentioned in NCL Drug Bust Fallout.

There have been other drug busts involving both passengers and crew members involving MSC cruise ships in the past. In 2010, eight people were convicted of attempting to smuggle over 75 pounds of cocaine (worth many millions of dollars) ashore from the MSC Orchestra when it arrived in Dover from Brazil.

In January of 2011, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Broward Sheriff’s Office with K-9 dogs raided the MSC Poesia at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale before it sailed and arrested a number of music fans on its Jam Fest cruise for a relatively small quantity of recreational drugs.

In August of 2013, the Spanish police arrested two crew members from the cruise ship MSC Magnífica, which docked in Spain on drug trafficking charges after they were caught with 15 kilos of cocaine on the cruise ship.

In November of 2013, a MSC crew member was implicated in a scheme to import ten kilos of cocaine from South America in Italy on the cruise ship MSC Armonia.

In March of 2014, the police in Brazil arrested a crew member on the cruise ship MSC Preziosa for smuggling cocaine.

November 26, 2018 p.m. update:

This evening the Miami Herald covered the drug bust and identified the crew members allegedly in smuggling the drugs.  MSC crew member Jamaican Damion Hawthorne (age 32)(From Ocho Rios)  recruited South African crew members Londiwe Shange (age 27), Wandile Mhlongo (age 29), Thembeka Sokhulu (age 36), and Viwe Tshaka (age 23). Jamaicans Errol Roy Sutherland (age 39) and  (age 27) were also allegedly involved in the smuggling operation.

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Photo credit: Dickelbers – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

This afternoon, May 17, 2018,  the United States Coast Guard (USCG) released an official press statement indicating that it ended its search for an overboard crew member from the MSC Seaside cruise ship.

The search was for a Filipino crew member who went overboard from the MSC cruise ship around 1:00 A.M. in the late night / early morning hours the previous day, on May 16, 2018.  But the Coast Guard stated in its official press release that it was not notified of the man overboard until 4:00 A.M. on May 16, 2018, which is approximately three (3) hours after the crew member went overboard.

The press release states that a Filipino crew member went overboard southeast of St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands “at approximately 1 a.m. Wednesday. The cruise ship crew launched a search and contacted watchstanders at the Coast Guard Sector San Juan Command Center at approximately 4 a.m. alerting them of the situation.”

This is consistent with the eye witness accounts of a passenger on the MSC Seaside who notified me that the ship began employing searchlights around 3:00 A.M.

It appears from this information that the MSC Seaside was not equipped with an automatic man overboard system that would be triggered immediately whenever someone went over the rails of the cruise ships and automatically notify the bridge that a person went into the water.

This is disappointing because last October, 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. Apparently, MSC has not employed the technology on the MSC Seaside.

There are currently several very sophisticated systems manufactured by a variety of companies that use motion, heat sensing and radar technology that will not only automatically notify the bridge of the person going overboard but will actually track the person in the water at night.

Waiting three hours to notify the Coast Guard of a person going overboard suggests that the ship did not know the person went overboard because the ship was not equipped with this life-saving technology.

The failure to employ the technology not only leads to these type of delays but it results in a huge wasteful expenditure of money by the U.S. government. The Coast Guard release sates that:

“Coast Guard rescue crews comprised of a C-130 aircraft from Air Station Clearwater, two MH-65 Dolphin helicopters from Air Station Borinquen, a 33-foot Special Purpose Craft–Law Enforcement response boat from Boat Forces Saint Thomas and the Coast Guard Cutter Confidence conducted five air and three surface searches covering an area of approximately 1,216 square nautical miles.”

By notifying the U.S. Coast Guard three hours late, at 4:00 A.M. after the crew member went Confidence Cutteroverboard from the MSC Seaside at 1:00 A.M., MSC not only ensured that the late search would be unsuccessful but wasted the resources of Coast Guard stations in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas USVI and Clearwater Florida involving the deployment of a C-130 Hercules aircraft, two MH-65 Dolphin helicopters, a 33-foot Special Purpose Craft, and the Coast Guard Cutter Confidence (based in Port Canaveral, Florida). These governmental vessels involved in the delayed search are in addition to the commercial vessels also involved in essentially looking for a needle in a haystack, including the Carnival Glory and the oil tanker Rose which were both involved in the belated search.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests regarding other man overboard searches indicate that the U.S. government spends around one millions dollars in deploying Coast Guard aircraft, helicopters and vessels for each similar search. It costs a lot of fuel to fly a C-130 down to the Caribbean from Clearwater, Florida and deploy a couple of of Dolphin helicopters and a Coast Guard cutter to conduct a (delayed) search of over 1,200 nautical square miles. Cruise lines do not pay anything to the U.S. government for the deploying of such vast resources for such man overboard searches which become necessary simply because cruise lines refuse to invest the necessary money to employ existing man overboard technology.

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Photo credit: Top – Dickelbers – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.Bottom – U.S. Coast Guard 7th District Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands

A crew member from the MSC Seaside has been reported going overboard last night south of the Virgin Islands.

A passenger on the MSC cruise ship notified me this morning of the incident.  Florida resident Brett Morphis stated that the ship used spotlights to search for the crew member starting around 3 A.M. and continuing throughout the night.  The captain of the ship made an official announcement around 7 A.M., followed by a second announcement this morning stating that the search was continuing with prayers for the crew member.  A U.S. Coast MSC Seaside OverboardGuard helicopter and a Carnival ship (the Carnival Glory) as well as smaller commercial vessels reportedly were all engaged in the search. AIS systems seems to show that the MSC Seaside turned around west of the Virgin Islands and returned to a spot where the ship believed the crew member went overboard.

It is unknown whether the MSC Seaside was equipped with an automatic man overboard system which would have instantly alerted the bridge when the crew member went over the railing.

Last October, 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.

The man overboard has been identified as a 37 year-old crew member from the Philippines.

A news report from Puerto Rico states that the crew member “went overboard from the seventh deck of the Maltese-flagged cruise ship at approximately 1 a.m. Wednesday. The cruise ship crew launched a search and contacted watchstanders at the Coast Guard Sector San Juan Command Center at approximately 4 a.m. alerting them of the situation.”  If this account is accurate, it is unclear why there was a three hour delay by the cruise ship in notifying the Coast Guard of the man overboard.

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