Contributors

Charles R. Lipcon
Charles R. Lipcon is the firm's founding attorney and has been handling injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims for over 40 years. Read More »
Jason R. Margulies
Jason R. Margulies is an experienced maritime lawyer and an active trial attorney handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims. Read More »
Ricardo V. Alsina
Ricardo V. Alsina is an active trial attorney, handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims. Read More »
Michael A. Winkleman
Mr. Winkleman is an active trial and appellate attorney handling all personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims, as well as complex business disputes. Read More »

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South Korea Ferry AccidentTragedy stuck on Wednesday morning, when a passenger ferry transporting nearly 500 people capsized in frigid waters off the coast of the South Korean peninsula. Our maritime lawyers brought you the story yesterday, but have since learned of some new, disturbing evidence regarding both the rescue mission and the captain’s actions.

According to authorities, the death count is now up to 16 as of Thursday night, and no additional survivors have been located, despite the fact that over 500 divers have been scouring the area for two days. Unfortunately, unfavorable weather conditions have interfered with the ongoing search, reducing diver visibility and placing the lives of rescuers in danger.

As hope to find additional survivors continues to diminish, three large cranes have now been sent out to the accident site to raise the ferry, as several passengers are believed to have been trapped in the wreckage. Divers are also planning to pump oxygen into the sunken ship to aid any victims who may still be struggling for life inside the vessel.

As it stands, nearly 300 passengers remain unaccounted for – many of which are teenagers. The ferry had been en route to the resort island of Jeju on a class trip, when the ferry, a five-story ship named the Sewol, apparently crashed into a yet unidentifiable object and listed severely to one side. Passengers were told to remain calm and seated, but the environment onboard was anything BUT tranquil.

Footage obtained from rescued survivors shows hundreds of people with lifejackets on, trying to follow crew member orders, all the while the ship was  rapidly sinking. Many chose to jump ship, while others frantically searched the ship for any sign of help or good news from the crew.

Very little information has been revealed regarding the actual cause of the accident, but from the looks of it, the accident shares an eerie resemblance to the Costa Concordia capsizing accident. Both accidents appear to have resulted from negligence, and with new, appalling information regarding the Sewol’s captain, it seems our fears are coming to fruition.

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South Korea Ferry AccidentAnother day, another accident involving a cruise line. But this time, we can’t even peg the tragedy on negligence – or anything for that matter. There’s barely any information regarding what caused this latest tragedy, but what we do know is that hundreds of people have gone missing off the southwest corner of the Korean peninsula, and we’ve yet to hear an explanation as to what could have possibly caused this terrible accident to unfold.

All eyes are glued to South Korean news outlets, as we continue to receive word on the mysterious sinking of a passenger ferry named the Sewol. In what is already being dubbed the nation’s worst maritime disaster in two decades, 290 people are currently missing after the Sewol sank Wednesday morning while en route to the resort island of Jeju.

The passenger vessel was carrying roughly 470 people, 325 of which were high school students. Divers scoured the cold, murky waters on Wednesday, fearing most of the victims became trapped inside the sunken vessel. Nearly 100 rescue vessels and 18 helicopters were dispatched to search for victims, but given the dire circumstances of the accident, the chance of finding many more victims is grim.

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PortMiamiIt seems not everyone is excited for the new soccer stadium in Miami that David Beckham is sponsoring. But as it happens, the biggest opposition is coming from the cruise industry. Led by Royal Caribbean, an alliance of cruise lines have come together to take a break from being complained about to being the ones doing all the complaining.

Royal Caribbean Cruises and its allies have formed an organization to oppose Beckham’s Major League Soccer stadium at PortMiami, and in doing so, have become the first group to offer resistance to the stadium. Calling themselves the Miami Seaport Alliance, the organization took out a full-page ad in the Miami Herald to voice their opinions.

The ad, titled “Here We Go Again,” attacks the 25,000-seat, open-air stadium that was slated to be built in the southwest corner of the port. But why exactly is the organization complaining? According to the ad, the alliance just doesn’t want the soccer stadium built at the port.

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Justice ScaleJust yesterday, our cruise ship lawyers reported on the arrest of Guzman Ramirez, the 20-year-old suspected gunman accused of fatally shooting a Norwegian Cruise Line crew member. The victim, Gavan Yaycob, 27, was working aboard the Norwegian Pearl when the vessel docked in the popular port of Roatan, Honduras. As many crew members do when they have free time, Yaycob disembarked in the city and only made it a few feet away from the ship when he was mugged over his cell phone. Ramirez, the third suspect to be arrested in connection to the crime, allegedly shot and killed Yaycob on April 6, but was taken into custody shortly thereafter.

In the wake of such a terrible tragedy, at least the victim’s loved ones can have some semblance of justice following the arrest. It actually comes as a bit of a shock to the attorneys at our firm that Roatan authorities were able to perform such a fast investigation and apprehend the gunman. Many times, cruise ship crew members and passengers who are the victims of a crime at a port of call never obtain the justice they deserve. Because these foreign countries don’t have as strict of a legal system as the U.S., many assailants are able to get away with their crimes – especially when the victims are foreigners themselves.

Yet, not only was an arrest made in connection with the NCL crew member’s fatal shooting, but now, we’ve learned that another alleged assailant was apprehended in Roatan for is reported involvement in a robbery crime.

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HandcuffsLast week, the seafarer lawyers here at our firm reported on a tragic crime that cost one Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) crew member their life. The incident occurred on Sunday, April 6, when the victim, Gavan Yaycob, 27, a Filipino crew member aboard the Norwegian Pearl, disembarked in Roatan, Honduras during one of the ship’s routine port calls. According to new sources in the Caribbean island nation, Mr. Yaycob was allegedly approached by a gunman who demanded Mr. Yaycob hand over his cell phone. Not much information was provided by the Honduran government over the circumstances surrounding the crime, but what we knew thus far was that the victim was shot and killed.

Given the fact that foreign countries don’t have the extensive resources as the U.S. when it comes to investigating crimes – and the fact that crimes against foreigners don’t always tend to be prioritized, we are happily surprised to learn that the Honduras government has been hard at work searching for the assailant, who has now been apprehended and taken into custody.

According to a report in the Honduran newspaper, Tiempo, police arrested a suspect last week for the murder of the NCL crew member. The news source explained that the alleged suspect, Guzman Ramirez, 20, was hiding at a relative’s home near the murder scene in the El Swampo sector of Coxen Hole.

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HandcuffsBack in February, the cruise ship sexual assault attorneys at our firm reported on a disturbing case involving a Holland America crew member who brutally beat, raped and attempted to murder a female passenger in her own cabin. Now, we have learned of another horrific sexual crime also involving a crew member. Shockingly, the attack was against an underage girl and aboard Disney Cruise Line, of all lines.

According to news reports, 36-year-old Ahmed Sofyan, of Jakarta, Indonesia, was arrested yesterday after molesting a 13-year-old girl aboard the Disney Dream cruise ship. The crew member was charged with two counts of lewd or lascivious molestation and one count of false imprisonment.

The alleged incident occurred while the Disney Dream was docked in Port Canaveral yesterday morning just after 8 am. Unlike other sexual crime cases, which may never get reported and for which victims may never obtain justice, Disney responded right away to the incident and contacted local and federal authorities upon first hearing of the terrible crime. We don’t yet know the circumstances surrounding the sexual assault, such as where it happened or what prompted the attack, but what we do know is that the way Disney handed the situation was on par with maritime laws regarding sexual crimes.

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MotorboatBoating accidents can happen at a moment’s notice. But while some are the result of unforeseeable circumstances, like sudden changes in weather or an unexpected mechanical problem, the unfortunate majority stem from someone’s negligence by not abiding by proper safety laws.  Reckless operation, intoxication, failure to pay attention, and speeding are just a few of the many factors that can lead to serious – if not fatal – accidents on rivers, lakes and oceans.

When it comes to protecting communities from the devastating effects of a boating accident, there are several things both governments and citizens can do to stay safe. Citizens, for example, can exercise the greatest caution possible when out in the waters, minding their surroundings, refraining from drinking, and horsing around. As far as government entities, each state has its own specific guidelines when it comes to boating, but for most, there are general regulations across the board, including age minimums for operators, minimum experience acceptable for boating, as well as strict laws regarding Boating under the Influence (BUI).

No one is above the law when it comes to safety violations in open water channels, not even police officers.  Unfortunately, one officer learned this lesson the hard way last summer.

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Things within the cruise industry are heating up as Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) decides to take a stand against violence and intolerance. Though our maritime attorneys here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have been reporting mostly on cruise ship accidents these days, for the first time in what seems like a long time, NCL, one of the world’s major cruise lines is doing its part to fight against injustice.

Last month, the Tunisian government placed a ban prohibiting Israeli cruise passengers from entering the nation. Israeli tourists aboard the Norwegian Jade were not allowed to disembark the ship when it entered the Port of Tunis in early March, however, Jewish non-Israeli travelers were still permitted to enter the country. Israeli passengers were offended that the captain, who knew ahead of time that Tunisia was not allowing Israelis to enter the country, did not inform them of the matter.

One passenger, who decided to remain anonymous, said NCL offered the Israelis compensation for the incident and issued an apology, but he would like to see the cruise line take a stand against the Tunisian practices.

The cruise line appears to have taken the passenger’s wishes into consideration, because shortly thereafter, NCL pulled its ships out of Tunis. The cruise line also issued a public statement on the matter, stating it would not condone what it perceives as discriminatory treatment against its Israeli clients.

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gondola accidentIt’s no secret that environmentalists and residents in Venice, Italy are not a fan of large cruise ships. For years, activists have been trying to stop cruise lines from calling on the delicate lagoon city for fear that the growing size of ships is destroying the city’s ecosystem and integrity. Venice is one of the most popular ports of call for cruise travelers, but the constant presence of cruise ships has threatened to erode the city’s foundations with the continual displacement of water.

Residents also argue that the presence of large cruise ships is distracting and diminishes their quality of life. Matteo Secchi, head of the pro-Venice group Venessia that is working on banning all cruise ships from the city, once stated that “The vibration from the maxi-ships feels like small earthquakes under your feet.”

But while not much has been done to actually stop cruise ship calls on Venice, a recent accident might just do the trick.

According to an article in the Italian news source Medi Telegraph, the MSC cruise ship Preziosa was involved in an accident at the port of Venice. The ship apparently collided with a large passenger walkway, destroying the walkway – along with the cruise industry’s hopes of continuing calls in Venice, most likely.

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Life saver Lately, a lot of attention has been given to cruise ship accidents and crimes that transpire onboard the ship itself, including issues with passenger health, slip and falls, overboard accidents, and a host of sexual assaults. But while many of these incidents involve passengers, there are several where the victim is actually a crew member – especially crimes.

Just as passengers can become the targets of crime, so too can crew members. Sometimes the incidents occur onboard, and other times they happen ashore. Cruise travel is often glamorized, and in all honesty, for good reason. It’s one of the most economical ways to discover new and far off lands, and these days, the ships themselves are adventure enough for many.

But as with all good things, there is a darker side to cruising. Aside from the accidents and crimes that occur onboard, the foreign countries that are frequented by cruise ships are not always the safest. Last year, for example, there was a warning issued for travelers in the Bahamas after crime rates began to skyrocket in Nassau, the capital. Though port calls were still made in the popular island nation, passengers on several cruise lines were warned not to head too far into the city for fear of being robbed, attacked or even killed.

Honduras is another popular Caribbean destination for cruise ships. Of particular interest is the resort island of Roatan. But what not many people know is that crime in Honduras is even worse than in the Bahamas, and it has been for years! In fact, the U.S. State Department issued a warning for travelers in Honduras. The nation reportedly has the highest murder rate in the world, yet, cruise lines continue to call on the port.

As we’ve seen with several incidents in the past, cruise lines don’t tend to take action until AFTER something bad happens. And now, something terrible did in fact happen in Honduras; a Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) crew member was murdered in Roatan.

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