On December 8, 2017, a crew member went overboard from the Vision of the Seas cruise ship operated by Miami based Royal Caribbean Cruises. I reported on the incident at the time based on what passengers were stating about the cruise.

The Vision sailed out of Galveston on December 4, 2017 on a seven day cruise, leaving and returning to Galveston, to ports in Progresso and Cozumel, Mexico.  During the return cruise to Galveston, a crew member could not be accounted for. He apparently checked into his job in the early morning hours but had disappeared from the cruise ship sometime thereafter. A ship-wide search was conducted without success.

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the Seas

I wrote at the time that there was no indication that the ship stopped or turned around to conduct a search in the water. Unfortunately, the scenario fits a typical pattern when a crew member goes over the rails un-witnessed late at night or in the early hours of the morning on a Royal Caribbean ship. Royal Caribbean has not invested in the available automatic man-overboard technology (using heat sensors, infrared, motion detection and/or radar technology) which can send a signal to the bridge, capture the image of the person going overboard, and track the person by radar in the water. Instead, the ship will eventually review closed-circuit television images, conduct a search of the cabin on the ship, often not perform a search at sea, and belatedly notify the U.S. Coast Guard.

Royal Caribbean registered the Vision of the Seas in the Bahamas which is responsible for conducting investigations when passengers or crew members go overboard from cruise ships registered in that flag of convenience (“FOC”) country. The Bahamas Maritime Authority (“BMA”) just published its investigation into this man overboard situation on the Vision. You can read the report here.

The BMA report offers a rare insight into how Royal Caribbean responds to and investigates man overboard situations. The report also attached internal security summaries and portions of Royal Caribbean’s safety and quality (“SQM”) manual which outline the cruise line’s written policies and procedures regarding a “missing person.”

The report reveals that Royal Caribbean repeatedly failed to inquire into the missing crew member’s whereabouts and failed to timely report his absence from the ship to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean register their cruise ships in countries like the Bahamas in order to avoid U.S. labor regulations and U.S. income taxes. They are used to having FOC states look the other way and not criticize them in situations like this, but the BMA report reveals very disturbing information about the shoddy operations of this cruise ship.

The BMA report indicates that the crew member was a 24 year-old citizen of Mauritius. The report  mentions that the crew member was a facilities cleaner who worked at the pool area on deck 9. He woke up around 4:30 A.M. in a cabin which he shared with his girlfriend who was also from Mauritius. He reported to work at 5:00 A.M. He walked to elevators which took him to deck nine and then he took an elevator to deck five. He walked to the stern on deck 5, placed his cleaning bucket on the deck, climbed over the stern rail and then climbed back onto the deck, and then walked toward the port side where he apparently jumped overboard.

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the Seas

CCTV images (which officers on the ship first reviewed approximately eight and one-half hours later) show the crew member’s movements on decks 9 and 5 but do not show the crew members actually going overboard because a floodlight blocked the CCTV camera on the port/aft side on Deck 5 with a view of the stern of the ship.

There was no mention in the report of an automatic man overboard system which would have immediately sent a signal and alarm to the bridge that the crew member went over the rails.

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the Seas

Unlike other cruise lines (like NCL), Royal Caribbean does not monitor the CCTV cameras on its cruise ships.

The BMA reveals the following chronology:

  • 04:30 – Crew member awakes and leaves cabin which he shared with his girlfriend;
  • 05:00 – Crew member reports to work and his supervisor assigns him the deck 9 pool deck to clean;
  • 05:09 – 5:14 – Crew member shown on CCTV heading to and walking on deck 9 and then goes to deck 5 where he climbs over the stern railing near the crew life-raft canister area which does not provide direct access to the sea and then he climbs over the rail back onto deck 5;
  • 05:14 – Crew member walks to port side of the stern which has direct drop to the water and apparently jumps overboard (although CCTV camera is blocked);
  • 09:30 – Crew member fails to attend mandatory safety training;
  • 12:00 – Designated safety officer responsible for training goes to lunch without noting that the crew member was absent from training;
  • 12:40 – Crew member’s supervisor, the Facilities Head Cleaner, notes that the crew member is missing from his work station;
  • 12:45 – 1st Announcement made in crew areas;
  • 13:05 – Bridge was informed;
  • 13:16 – 2nd announcement made in crew areas;
  • 13:40 – 3rd announcement made in crew and areas;
  • 13:40 – 14:45 – Officers review CCTV footage; take statements from the facilities head cleaner and head cleaner; staff captain and master interview the crew member’s girlfriend and isolates her in a different cabin with a security guard posted outside the door;
  • 14:45 – Security officer notifies Global Security department in Miami of a “possible missing person;”
  • 15:20 – Search of ship begins;
  • 15:45 – Security Officer seals crew member’s cabin, locks cabin door with padlock and “crime scene tape;” officers conclude that there is no clear view of crew member jumping overboard because the area of the railing is not covered by CCTV (blind area) but concludes that “CCTV clearly showed a CM …. entering the area where he possible jumped over board and did not return back;”
  • 15:47 – Master notifies U.S. Coast Guard in Galveston by telephone about “missing person” situation;
  • 16:49 – “Whole ship search” completed but missing crew member not found.

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the Seas

There are a couple of conclusions which can readily be made from this chronology:

It took seven and one-half hours before the supervisor noticed that the crew member was missing from his work station.  It took eight and one-half hours before the safety officer reviewed the CCTV images. It took over nine and one-half hours after the crew member went overboard (and two hours after the first public announcement of the missing man were made on the ship) before the security officer finally notified the security department in Miami that a crew member probably went overboard. It then took over another hour to finally notify the U.S. Coast Guard of the overboard crew member. At this time, it Royal Caribbean SQM Safety and Quality Manual was then over ten and one-half hours after the crew member went overboard.

It appears that the officers on the Royal Caribbean ship were indifferent to whether the Coast Guard even conducted a search after this extraordinary delay.  The Security Officer wrote in his report (attached to the BMA report) that “we are not aware if a search was carried out by USCG.”

The Royal Caribbean SQM (blurred in original) requires the master of the cruise ship to “immediately” notify the cruise line’s security and marine operations departments by telephone in any “suspected overboard situation.” Unless there is an actual and reliable sighting of the person going overboard, the SQM also prohibits the Master from turning the ship around to conduct searches in the water and even then only after the Master first notifies the cruise line’s marine operations department in Miami.

Notably absent from the flag state report is any mention of the fact that the cruise ship lacked an automatic man overboard system. The report’s conclusions and recommendations do not discuss the obvious problem that the bridge was not immediately aware that the crew members went over the rails. The only conclusion of significance was that if the security “trainer had reported him absent when training was to commence (i.,e., at 9:30, over four hours after the crew member went overboard) then his own work supervisor may have raised the alarm considerably earlier.” The only recommendation in the report was to review “possible impediments to all cameras should be made and rectified where found.”

Vision of the Seas SQM Safety and Quality Manual Royal Caribbean

This is hardly a reasonable conclusion or recommendation. Eliminating blind spots in CCTV cameras (to be reviewed only after-the-fact when crew members have already gone overboard long ago) or requiring diligence in requiring attendance in crew training (again with the hope that a person not attending a training session will somehow result in a supervisor learning that a crew member went overboard hours earlier) will not possibly achieve immediate notification of a man overboard.

A couple of year ago, I wrote about the problem of crew members going missing from Royal Caribbean cruise ships without explanation. During a three year period between 2009 and 2012, at least thirteen crew members went over the rails of Royal Caribbean (and Celebrity) ships, including the Majesty of the Seas, Monarch of the Seas (twice), Radiance of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas. Oasis of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Summit, and Monarch of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas (two). Most of these cases were never investigated by the flag state, which, it seems, could not care less.

Until the United States Coast Guard becomes concerned with the absence of automatic man overboard systems on cruise ships calling on U.S. ports and institutes serious action against the companies for the extreme delays in reporting overboard crew and passengers (like preventing the ships from sailing), cruise lines like Royal Caribbean will continue to act in this irresponsible manner.

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Image credits: Bahamian Maritime Authority

Silver Shadow The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting that there is a gastrointestinal outbreak on the Silver Shadow operated by the Silversea Cruises company.

The CDC reports that 28 of 327 (8.56%) of the passengers suffered from vomiting and diarrhea and other GI symptoms and reported being ill during the cruise, which took place between May 10th and today (May 24, 2018). 8 of 290 crew members reported ill with such GI symptoms during the cruise.

The CDC has not been able to determine the causative agent (norovirus, E. coli, etc.for the outbreak.

This is the fifth GI outbreak this year on a cruise ship meeting the threshold requirements of the CDC. The CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) is required to post a report when 3% or more of passengers or crew report symptoms of gastrointestinal illness to the ship’s medical staff. The medical staff of a cruise ship must send the reports to the CDC within 15 days of arriving at a U.S. port.  

The Silver Shadow failed a CDC inspection back in 2013 in a heavily publicized case when crew members were ordered to hide food and galley equipment in the cruise ship’s crew quarters. The Silver Shadow failed another CDC inspection in 2015.  The Silver Shadow passed four CDC inspections since 2015 (with scores ranging from 95 to as high as 100) and there is no indication of a correlation between the past failed CDC inspections and the current GI outbreak on this cruise ship. (The Silver Wind, on the other hand, recently failed a CDC inspection, in May of this year, with a score of only 79).

The Silver Shadow is currently at the end of a two week cruise which started in Tokyo, Japan on May 10th. The ship has called on a number of other ports in Japan (Aomori, Hakodate, and Kushiro) and Petropavlovsk, Russia before arriving at various ports in Alaska, including Seward where it stopped this morning. 

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Photo credit: Bahnfrend – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

May 25, 2018 Update: Here is a statement from Silversea Cruises:

Monaco; May 25, 2018

GI cases on Silver Shadow

“Following a number of passengers and crew reporting gastrointestinal symptoms to the medical staff on board the Silver Shadow the vessel registered these cases with the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in line with standard procedures.

Over the period May10-24, 28 out of 327 passengers and 8 out of 290 crew members reported GI symptoms to the ship’s Doctor during the cruise from Japan to Alaska with a call at the Russian Port of Petropavlosk.

The ship’s Doctor kept in regular contact with the CDC Officer during the passage to Seward Cruise Port, Alaska, where the Silversea Head of Fleet Operations, together with a CDC Officer joined the vessel to review all sanitation procedures and confirmed that the ship’s Management were following all the correct procedures. No further cases of GI of symptoms have been reported and the vessel has been cleared to continue cruising. All passengers are currently recovering.”

May 28, 2018 Update: Here is another statement from Silversea:

Monaco; 28th May 2018

“In its latest US Public Health/ CDC Inspection in Juneau on May 26, cruise ship “Silver Shadow” scored 93 out of a possible 100 points. This outcome, reflecting the company’s high standards, is the result of the work done by the ship’s management and staff in dealing with an occurrence of gastrointestinal symptoms reported to the USPH/CDC in line with standard procedures prior to the ship’s arrival in Seward, Alaska following a cruise from Japan.

Over the period May 10-24, 28 out of 327 passengers and 8 out of 290 crew members reported GI symptoms to the ship’s medical staff.

The ship’s Doctor kept in regular contact with the CDC Officer during the passage to Seward Cruise Port, Alaska, where the Silversea Head of Fleet Operations, together with a CDC Officer joined the vessel to review all sanitation procedures and confirmed that the ship’s Management were following all the correct procedures. No further cases of GI of symptoms have been reported and all passengers have recovered”

Carnival TriumphThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finally published the report of its sanitation inspection for the Carnival Triumph.  As you can read in the official report posted on the CDC website, the Carnival cruise ship received a failing score of 78. During its November 11, 2017 inspection, USPH inspectors numerous "heavily soiled" food preparation and storage surfaces among other shortcomings in the ship’s food service areas. 

A score of 85 or lower is considered a failure. 

Over six weeks ago, the popular Crew Center reported that the "Carnival Triumph failed to pass the recent USPH Inspection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Inspectors boarded the vessel on November 11, at the port of New Orleans, Louisiana, and found multiple violations.  (The) CDC has not yet released an official report on their website, however, several crew members have reported that the final USPH score was 78."

The Triumph has still not filed a corrective actions report with the CDC. 

Earlier this month, we received a similar tip from Carnival crew members after on the Carnival Breeze, failed a USPH inspection in Galveston. According to these crew members, the USPH gave the ship a failing score of only 77. However, as was the case with the Triumph, the CDC did not disclose that the Breeze received a failed score nor did it publish the inspection report.  

We have received similar tips over the years from cruise ship employees, including from crew members on the Silver Shadow where crew members were instructed to hide food, dirty pots & pans and cooking equipment from U.S. health inspectors. The Silversea cruise ship eventually received a failing score of 82. CNN aired a special on the story.

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Photo credit: Whiskey5jda  CC BY-SA 4.0

Carnival Pride AllisionThe National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its report yesterday regarding the allision* between the Carnival Pride and the pier and passenger walkway in Baltimore last year. 

On May 8, 2016, the Carnival Pride was attempting to dock at the cruise terminal in Baltimore, Maryland, when the ship’s bow struck the pier and an elevated passenger walkway on shore, causing over $2,000,000 in damages.

The Carnival cruise ship was returning from a cruise to the Bahamas. It had previously taken on a pilot while it was in U.S. inland waters. 

The staff captain later took the helm and was navigating the Pride to the terminal. As the ship approached the pier, the angle of approach was too steep and the speed was too fast.

The captain took control of the ship from the staff captain and applied full thrust away from the berth to slow the ship but not before the bow struck the pier support columns.

The NTSB concluded that the probable cause of the crash was the staff captain’s errors during the docking maneuver (approaching the pier with excessive speed and at too steep of an angle) and the captain’s insufficient oversight. 

You can see photos of the extensive damage here.  

Read the full report here

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Photos credit: Top – CBS Baltimore; bottom – NTSB report via gCaptain.

* Definition of "allision:" the action of dashing against or striking upon; example – by a vessel against an object ashore, in contrast to a "collision" between two vessels.  

Carnival Pride Allision Baltimore

Empress of the SeasAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Royal Caribbean’s Empress of the Seas flunked a surprise sanitation inspection conducted in early June. The Empress of the Seas scored a failing score of only 80.  You can read the report here. A score of 85 or lower is considered a failure.

The Empress of the Seas underwent an extended period of renovations in Spain and later in Freeport, Bahamas when the ship was transferred back from Pullmantur. Royal Caribbean canceled a total of thirteen cruises scheduled for earlier this year. The first sanitation violation related to the renovation and involved a bathroom for the medical staff which could be used only for storage and was "heavily soiled." Back in April of this year, Royal Caribbean told the Miami Herald that “as work has progressed, we learned that more significant infrastructure and physical improvements across the ship’s multiple galleys and provisioning areas were needed to meet our high standards.”

I was contacted previously by crew members, during the renovation period, who complained  of unsanitary conditions on the ship. There was talk that the CDC had inspected the ship and initially had not given the ship a passing score, although there was nothing officially posted on the CDC website. Several crew members said that the ship had fallen substantially in disrepair while operated by Pullmantur and had a major problem with pests.    

It is apparent, however, that once back in the Royal Caribbean fleet, the Empress failed to meet high standards. The report regarding the June inspection details forty four CDC violations, ranging from improper procedures to monitor acute gastrointestinal illness cases to incorrect potable water and swimming pool/whirlpool testing.   

The report included numerous references to live and dead flies and cockroaches around refrigerators, buffet lines and other areas used for food storage. The ships was also in violation of the CDC’s requirement to use rat guards, and was utilizing rat guards on only one out of six mooring lines while the ship was in port.

A crew member states that the Empress was reinspected earlier this month, on July 10th, and received a score of 97.  If such an inspection took place, the CDC has not posted that inspection yet.  

Royal Caribbean, including its Celebrity brand, has failed other inspections in the past.  In 2013, the Celebrity Century scored only a 78.  The same year, the Celebrity Summit scored only a 81. The Monarch of the Seas scored a 85 in 2011. 

Two years ago, Market Watch published the 5 Most Hygienic Cruise Lines and concluded that Costa and Disney and three other smaller lines had never failed a CDC inspection. Since then, the Disney Wonder experienced a gastrointestinal outbreak in April of this year.    

We last mentioned the Empress of the Seas three weeks ago when it experienced problems with one of its engines, causing Royal Caribbean to alter the cruise ship’s itinerary.

Photo Credit: By Jsausley – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.

The U.K.’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch has concluded that a cruise ship which hit rocks and lost power last year was due to poor planning and "poor bridge team management and navigational practices." The cruise ship sustained major damage to its hull which disabled one or its two propellers. Yet, what makes this grounding particularly egregious is that the captain ordered the cruise director to tell the passengers after the dangerous grounding that "all is well" and he proceeded on with the cruise while neither the master, the cruise line nor its shoreside managers reported the incident to the U.K. Coast Guard. 

The controversy arises out of an incident In May of last year, the Bahamas-registered cruise ship, the the MV Hamburg, owned by Conti Group, bareboat chartered to Hamburg Cruises SA, and managed at the time by by V.Ships, grounded on charted rocks in the Sound of Mull, Scotland on its voyage to Tobermory.  

According to the MAIB report (Crown copyright, 2016), the Bahamas-registered passenger ship had MAIB Report Hamburg Grounding Crown Copyright, 2016previously left Bremerhaven, Germany bound for London, England. The ship was scheduled to complete a cruise around England, Ireland and Scotland, including Tobermory, Scotland.  The U.K. had issued a gale warning for the Irish Sea prompting the master of the Hamburg to increase the speed of the ship so to reach the protected bay of Tobermory before the weather deteriorated.   

The Tobermory harbor association informed the ship that it could not safely enter Tobermory Bay because other smaller cruise ships were moored in the bay.  However, the master decided to proceed toward Tobermory with a new plan to drift in the Sound of Mull, outside of the bay, until the other ships left the bay. The weather conditions included a moderate swell and the wind was force 6 to 7 gusting up to 40 knots.

Having been unable to enter Tobermory Bay on arrival, the bridge team did not re-evaluate or amend the passage plan.

After one of the cruise ships left the bay and, later, the second cruise ship pulled its anchor and proceeded to depart the bay, the Hamburg proceeded toward Tobermory.  Meanwhile, other vessels, the motor yacht Nahlin and a bulk carrier, Yeoman Bridge, approached the area. 

The officer of the watch and an inexperienced cadet on the Hamburg plotted the vessel’s position on a paper chart, but were doing so ‘infrequently and irregularly." At one point, the cadet observed that his plotted position of the ship was some distance away from the officer’s position but closer to the shoals. However, he did not consult the officer and assumed his plotting was incorrect. This led him to remove his plotting from the paper chart using an eraser. 

The master was preoccupied with the marine traffic as the Hamburg approached the shoals and permitted the ship to hit the rocks. The ship "shook violently" as it struck the rocks but it did not become fast on the rocky shoals.  The port propeller was damaged with large portions sheared off and malformed; the port propeller shaft was distorted; the port rudder was displaced; and, the hull was heavily indented from the stern to mid-ship. The full extend of the damages was unknown to the master at this time. 

The ship temporarily lost power, due to the activation of a switchboard trip, and navigational systems and radar were temporarily shut down. Officers on the ship informed the mater that the main port engine had shut down and there was a problem with the port propeller and that it could not be used.  

The master decided proceeded on to Tobermory on one engine. The master ordered the cruise director to make an announcement to the passengers "telling them that all was well and that the cruise would continue." The MAIB report also noted that "despite the loud noise and vibration resulting from the grounding, the bridge team did not initiate the post-grounding checklist, (and) no musters were held . . "  

Upon entering Tobermory Bay, the master observed that there were many smaller boats which were moored in the bay. He decided to avoid the congestion and drop anchor near the entrance to the bay rather than at the position designated by the Tobermory bay association. A marine manager from the bay association arrived near the Hamburg in a powered rigid inflatable once the Hamburg had stopped and tried to communicate with the ship via VHF radio but was initially unsuccessful. She later communicated with the bridge team, advising them that there was more shelter further inside the bay but the officer of the watch said that the Hamburg would not proceed further into the bay. The ship began to drag the anchor and came perilously close to grounding again. The master then elected to back the ship out of the harbor and pull its anchor without further contact with the harbor association.

After leaving Tobermory Bay, the master attempted to notify the designated person ashore at the ship’s managers, V.Ships, to notify him of the grounding. The master spoke to V.Ships office, but he did not reach either the designated person ashore or the back-up contact, identified in the report as the V.Ships fleet manager, according to the MAIB report. The master then telephoned the technical consultant at Hamburg Cruise SA.  "It was agreed that the vessel would proceed to Belfast, Ireland for an underwater inspection." The Hamburg Shipping consultant then informed V.Ships of the grounding.

Incredibly, neither the master, Hamburg Shipping nor V.Ships reported the grounding to the U.K. Coast Guard, or the Tobermory harbor association or the MAIB. The report then continues:

" . . . the Dublin Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) was alerted to the accident when the concerned mother of a crew member telephoned them. She had been having a telephone conversation with the crew member about the accident when mobile phone contact was suddenly lost. Fearing the worst, she contacted the coastguard. Dublin MRCC, which was aware of Hamburg’s new destination port, warned Belfast MRCC that the passenger vessel might have been involved in a grounding. Belfast MRCC then contacted Hamburg and, in conversation with the master, established that the vessel had grounded earlier in the day. The master also confirmed that Hamburg was proceeding using one of its two propeller shafts since one had been rendered unserviceable by the grounding, but stated that he was content with the situation and was not in need of assistance."

While the Hamburg proceeded to Belfast, weather conditions worsened overnight. With with only one working propeller shaft, Hamburg struggled to make progress to Belfast. The master chose to "heave-to" in the Irish Sea and wait for the gale force winds to abate before continuing on passage for Belfast. ("Heave-to" in the report means "when a vessel is headed into the wind and swell with its engines MAIB Report Hamburg Groundingrunning but her position does not change.") The MAIB found the decision to sail for Belfast “without first developing a plan with the vessel’s senior officers, technical managers and the relevant authorities ashore” was “inappropriate and incurred additional unnecessary risks.”

The full extent of the damage to the Hamburg was revealed only after divers inspected the hull once the ship arrived in Dublin and was later taken to dry dock. It took approximately three months to complete the repairs to the ship.  

In June last year, the ship’s captain, Joao Manuel Fernandes Simoes, was prosecuted for failing to prepare a passage plan under SOLAS and failing to report the accident contrary to the Merchant Shipping Regulations. He admitted failing to properly plan the Hamburg’s passage into the bay, and to report the incident to authorities. A Belfast magistrate fined him a total of £800 plus costs. No penalties were levied against the cruise line or the ship’s managers. 

The MAIB comprehensively addressed errors by the bridge team and the failure to modify the ship’s passage plan and other factors which led to the grounding. A number of newspapers and news organizations like the BBC covered this aspect of the MAIB report. In my view, accidents like this can happen even with the most experienced bridge team and mariners at the helm. But, to me, the media has not addressed the most egregious and indefensible aspect of the incident, namely the misleading and deceitful information ordered by the master to be told to the passengers, the decision to proceed to cruise to Belfast without fully understanding the compromised and unseaworthy condition of the ship, and the refusal of the master, cruise line officials and ship managers to notify the U.KS. Coast Guard, the Tobermory harbor association or the U.K. Marine Accident Investigation Branch.

The master should have obviously sounded a crew alert and mustered the passengers as required by the Safety Management System checklist while the officers checked the extent of the damage and determine whether it was necessary to abandon ship or disembark the passengers in Tobermory. The master’s decision to sail on to Belfast in a damaged ship in rough weather seems particularly cavalier and dangerous to the passengers and crew members.    

Credit: Photos and report U.K. Marine Accident Investigation Branch (Crown copyright, 2016).

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) has released its list of the top safety violations for cruise ships for 2014. 

As you can see in the list of "deficiencies" below, the majority of the violations by cruise lines pertain to fire safety issues. The Coast Guard issued 329 deficiencies. Here is the list released by the USCG:

Fire Screen Doors Not Closing Properly – Fire doors didn’t operate correctly.

Blocked Escape Routes – Hallways and doors used to escape were partially or completely blocked.

Crew Drills and Training Issues – Crews members were unable to operate fire suppression systems, U.S. Coast Guard - Cruise Ship Inspectionlifeboats and rescue boats and could not communicate effectively during fire and abandon ship drills.

Lifeboats and Rescue Boats Problems –  Lifeboats, rescue boats and launching appliances were in deficient shape. Davits and lifeboats were not operating properly and were missing equipment.

Improper Use of Space – Crew members stored combustible materials in spaces without adequate fire protection and suppression systems.

Fire & Smoke Detection Problems – Fire and smoke detection systems didn’t work. 

Fire Suppression Problems – Sprinkler heads were in a poor shape or missing. Fire pumps didn’t start and valves and CO2 systems didn’t work.

Pollution Prevention Equipment Problems – problems were noted with bunkering station piping, marine sanitation devices, pumps, and oily water separators. 

Emergency Lighting Problems – Lighting to assist passengers and crew with locating emergency exits did not work.

Fuel and Oil Leaks -Engine rooms were found to have oil leaks around the main engines, in the oil purifier room and in shaft seals.  

It’s a shame that the Coast Guard does not disclose which cruise line have committed the violations or the top violators. 

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Photo Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

Crime Cruise Nassau BahamasThe  U.S. Department of State recently published  the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) crime report for the Bahamas for 2014.

It is a grim report.

It reflects the considerable problems with violent crimes against tourists and cruise visitors over the past year which we have been discussing.

We copied the relevant portions of the report below, but here are the highlights:

  • Population of the Bahamas’ 700 islands is 353,000.
  • 70% of population is on New Providence Island (Nassau).
  • 15% of population is on Grand Bahama Island.
  • 15% of population is on the remaining "family islands."
  • Since July 2013, the government has not published national crime statistics.
  • Bahamas continues to have high crime rate, particularly on New Providence Island (Nassau), which continues to experience escalated levels of violent crime.
  • Bahamas experiences a wave of armed robberies at gas stations, convenience stores, fast food restaurants, banks, and residences.
  • Despite anti-crime initiatives, there is a significant increase in violent crimes in locations frequented by U.S. citizen tourists in New Providence (Nassau), with some incidents resulting in death.
  • Violent crimes occurs in in well-established tourist locations, close to cruise ship port and Cable Beach resort areas.
  • Armed robberies and purse snatchings remain most common crimes against tourists.
  • Criminals carry firearms, machetes, or knives.
  • Sexual assault has increased, with many victims drugged.
  • Crime has also increased on Grand Bahama island (Freeport) notably crimes involving use of machetes.  

Crime in Nassau Bahamas. We have written many articles about the high crime rate against cruise passengers and tourists in Nassau. We listed the Bahamas as the most dangerous cruise destination in the world.

Cruise lines are finally warning the passengers about the problem.

Here’s a portion of the the official report:

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

"The Bahamas is a prominent tourist destination with cruise ship ports of call for Nassau and Freeport as well as an abundance of luxury resorts, including the world famous Atlantis and the soon to be developed Baha Mar. Over five million U.S. citizens visit or reside in the country each year. Approximately 80 percent of the tourists visiting The Bahamas are U.S. citizens.

The Bahamas is an archipelagic nation of more than 700 islands that cover a geographic region roughly comparable in magnitude to California. At the closest points – Bimini and Grand Bahama – the country is only 50 miles from the United States. As a result, the country is sometimes referred to as the “third border” of the United States. According to the 2010 census, the Bahamas has a population of 353,000. Seventy percent of the population lives on the island of New Providence where the capital, Nassau, is situated. Another 15 percent live on Grand Bahama, which has the country’s second largest city, Freeport. The rest of the population is dispersed over two dozen outer islands (commonly referred to as the “Family Islands”).

Crime Threats

While there has been a slight reduction in 2013 in some crime categories as reported by the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF), violent crime remains above the 2012 level. Since July 2013, the government has not published national crime statistics. The Bahamas continues to have a high crime rate, particularly on New Providence Island, which has continued to experience escalated levels of violent crime. Home break-ins, theft, and robbery are not confined to any specific part of the island. Generally, most reported crimes were perpetrated against local Bahamians in areas of saturated criminality not typically frequented by tourists.

The Bahamas has experienced a wave of armed robberies at gas stations, convenience stores, fast food restaurants, banks, and residences. Perpetrators of these types of crimes typically conduct pre-attack surveillance. There were several reports of victims being followed home after closing the business in an attempt to steal the nightly deposit. Several victims were severely injured.

The RBPF enacted a particularly forceful presence on New Providence Island in 2013, which included 12-hour police shifts, random armed police checkpoints, and a crime reduction plan in tourist areas. However, despite formidable anti-crime initiatives enacted by the government and specifically executed by the RBPF, during the past several months New Providence has witnessed a significant increase in violent crimes in locations frequented by U.S. citizen tourists. In some instances, these incidents have resulted in fatalities. In 2013, the police reported several incidents that either involved tourists or occurred in well-established tourist locations. Specifically, crimes were reported close to the cruise ship port (Prince George Wharf) and the Cable Beach resort areas. Of particular note, in May 2013, a U.S. citizen was shot and killed in New Providence during a violent altercation; in June 2013 a U.S. Embassy employee was robbed and suffered minor injuries while on the way to a Sunday worship service; in October 2013, the brother of a local political leader was shot and killed in a deliberate act of murder; and in December 2013 four locals were killed and 10 wounded in a hasty drive-by shooting using an automatic weapon. The upsurge in criminal activity has also led to incidents that could place innocent bystanders at risk.

Armed robberies, property theft, purse snatchings, and general theft of personal property remain the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists. Many criminals carry firearms, machetes, or knives. Unless provoked, criminals engaged in property crimes do not generally engage in gratuitous violence. There have been several reported armed robberies using a knife where the assailant assaulted the victim after the victim fought back and resisted. Many of these armed robberies were snatch-and-grabs involving purses, jewelry, and gold necklaces.

Residential security also remains a great concern, with the police reporting a large number of home burglaries and break-ins, including the December 2013 robbery of the Acting Prime Minister at his residence. A number of armed home invasions that occurred in both New Providence and Grand Bahama in 2013 occurred very close to U.S. Embassy residential housing.

Criminal activity in the Family Islands occurs less frequently. The Embassy has received reports of burglaries and thefts, especially thefts of boats and other watercraft. Grand Bahama is somewhat of an exception, in that criminality has increased on that island, notably crimes involving the use of machetes (large blades).

The U.S. Embassy has received an increase of reports of assaults, including sexual assaults at residences, hotel rooms, casinos, outside hotels, and on cruise ships. In some sexual assault incidents, the victim had reportedly been drugged."

 

Photo Credit: Top – Nassau Bahamas Press

WPTV Cruise Ship CrimeWPTV West Palm Beach aired an interesting program last night indicating that the cruise industry reports only a small percentage of crimes committed on cruise ships.

Last year the cruise lines reported only 78 crimes on cruise ships.  However, pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the news station located reports of more than 300 crimes on just cruise ships leaving from Florida ports. 

In 2013, the cruise lines disclosed only 14 thefts from cruise ships. However, WPTV’s Dan Krauth stated that a FOIA request uncovered 75 thefts on cruise ship on Florida-based cruise ships alone. Under current U.S. law, cruise lines have to report only thefts involving property worth $10,000 or more. So if $9,999 of a passenger’s stuff is stolen, the cruise lines keep it secret.

Jewelry, computers, money and other valuables were stolen essentially on every single cruise leaving Florida last year but only a tiny fraction of the thefts were reported by the cruise lines to the police. 

The cruise industry conceals the vast majority of physical assaults, sexual assaults and thefts which happen during cruising. It also touts crime statistics based on the incomplete database, creating a false and misleading impression of what really happens on the high seas. 

 

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WPTV interviewed me during the program. The news station also cited a publication by our firm’s former law clerk, Caitlin Burke, explaining that cruise ships evade U.S. law by incorporating in foreign countries and registering their cruise ships in places like the Bahamas. “Flags of convenience” date all the way back to the 1920s, according to Caitlin E. Burke, an advocate for cruise victims. “Flagging a ship under a foreign flag for the convenience of the cruise line is nothing new, nor is it rare,” Burke wrote in A Qualitative Study of Victimization and Legal Issues Relevant to Cruise Ships.

Interested in this issue?  Read Cruise Industry Launches False Crime Statistics Campaign

Credit: video and photograph WPTV

The following is an editorial / opinion piece by the Miami Herald which was published tonight:

"Crime on the high seas isn’t just about illegal commercial fishing practices, drug-running and Somalian pirates. Unfortunately, it also comes in the form of sexual assault, theft and suspicious disappearances on what are supposed to be pleasure cruises.

Under pressure from Congress, specifically, a consumer-safety bill introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, of West Virginia, the three largest cruise lines, Miami-based Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, agreed to release the data of alleged crimes reported on their ships. Combined, they make up 85 percent of the industry. The crime stats will allow potential passengers to make better-informed decisions, just as the flying public can access information on airline safety and car buyers can find out which are the most road-worthy.

The crime data’s release should also propel cruise lines to take the problem as seriously as their CEOs say they do. In South Florida, cruises are a bread-and-butter industry, boosting the economy and luring tourists back again and again.

Given the multitude of cruises that depart annually, there isn’t anything akin to a crime wave on cruise ships. However, Sen. Rockefeller is right to be perturbed by how many cruise lines handle — or fail to handle — crime reported on board. Cruise-industry leaders announced their crime-data release agreement last week during a hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation.

It’s been a rough 18 months for the cruise industry. The public has heard unsettling news of cruise ship fires, read published messages sent from frightened and beleaguered passengers adrift in the dark and, most disturbing, seen dramatic photographs of the Costa Concordia, beached off the Italian coast, lying on its side, swamped with water, 32 passengers dead. Because of the public nature of these incidents, cruise-line leaders were equally as public in taking responsibility for what went wrong.

Less so, however, when it comes to crime aboard cruises to exotic locales. Legislation in the U.S. House and Senate would require the information be made available to the public. Before, only crimes that no longer were being investigated by the FBI were made public. As a result, potential passengers only had misleading information to go on. A report showed that 130 alleged crimes in categories specified by the cruise safety act had been reported to the FBI in 2011 and 2012, but only 31 of those had been reported to the public during that time. Cruise lines reported a total of 959 alleged crimes overall to the FBI, the document says.

There’s another serious problem that lawmakers should address: Some cruise lines egregiously help crew members accused of sexual assault and other crimes elude prosecution. Unfortunately, it’s an old story being given new life in an awful case reported by WKMG-Channel 6 in Orlando. A crew member on a Disney cruise was caught on video molesting an 11-year-old girl while the ship still was in port. Ship authorities waited a full day before reporting the crime to the FBI. By that time the ship was on its way to the Bahamas, where the alleged perpetrator was allowed to disembark, out of the reach of U.S. law enforcement. Disney then did the guy a further favor and flew him home to India.

According to the website cruiselawnews.com, “Disney was able to avoid the U.S. investigation into the incident while making certain that any investigation was handled only by the Bahamas which, theoretically can investigate shipboard crimes because Disney cruise ships fly Bahamian flags of convenience.” But the Bahamas has a lousy record of investigating such crimes.

Lawmakers must pressure guilty cruise lines to confront and end this deplorable practice. Merely reporting the number of onboard crimes brings little comfort if perpetrators are not brought to justice." 

Disney Cruise Line Sexual PredatorRead other articles regarding this problem with Disney Cruise Line:

"Sickened" By Molestation of Child on Disney Dream, Brevard County Attorney General Vows to Zealously Prosecute Cruise Ship Crimes

Images of a Disney Nightmare: Are Your Kids Safe Sailing With Disney?

Did Disney Cruise Line Really Sail a Crime Scene from the U.S. to Nassau? International Press Focuses on Disney Child Molestation Case