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 »

Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Law

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Charleston, SCLast year, our cruise lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. blogged about the South Carolina case involving the creation of a new port in Charleston. That legal battle is still ongoing, with environmentalists pushing for the idea to be scrapped, and the State pushing for the terminal on the grounds that it will increase revenue to the city.

At first, the idea seemed mostly favorable. South Carolina gave extensive consideration to a $35 million cruise ship terminal and obtained a permit from state environmental regulators at the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. Taking activists’ concerns into consideration, the Ports Authority and Charleston officials even agreed to limit the number of cruise ship port calls to 104 per year in order to minimize the environment impact.

But then, in a move no one saw coming, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel decided to void the federal permit that had been issued for the cruise terminal by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the grounds that the Corps of Engineers failed to give sufficient consider to the environmental impacts of the terminal. Environmentalists cheered, thinking they were victorious, but then, another unexpected turn of events took away the Environmentalist win.

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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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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 saverMarch was quite a month for the cruise industry. Between the Cruise Shipping Miami conference (CSM 2014) and last week’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) two-day forum on cruise ship safety, the industry has been at the forefront of the news, but not for the best of reasons. Cruise ship safety has long been questioned, and more often than not, cruise lines have been able to get away with accidents caused by operator negligence. However, the U.S. government is finally putting its foot down.

The NTSB discussed cruise ship safety – or lack thereof – at length last week. Of particular concern was the issue of cruise ship fires, especially the fire onboard the Carnival Triumph last year in February. Though the fire itself did not result in any known injuries, the ship became disabled and consequently, over 3,000 people were left stranded in the Gulf of Mexico with barely any rations, no working toilets, and amidst appallingly unsanitary conditions.

But by far, the worst part about the Triumph fire was the fact that it could have been prevented. A compliance notice was released several months ago detailing the fact that Triumph operators were told to install spray shields around the ship’s fuel hoses, which operators failed to do. Had Triumph crews complied, it is highly unlikely we would be discussing any incident aboard the Triumph today.

Alas, what’s done is done, but the Triumph should serve as a perfect example of what NOT to do from now on… right? In a perfect world, where the entire cruise industry works tirelessly to prevent accidents at sea and to protect passengers from harm, cruise leaders would take the Triumph accident and evaluate everything that went wrong so a similar future incident can be prevented. Yet, as the NTSB forum highlighted, accidents stemming from cruise operator negligence continue to happen.

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Life saverCruise ship safety – or lack thereof – has been a recurring problem within the cruise industry as of late. Although safety concerns have always been a topic of debate since the very first cruise ship set sail over a century ago, the past five or so years have been wrought with more accidents and crimes than ever before. The Costa Concordia capsizing in 2012 appeared to be a turning point in the industry that caused maritime authorities to take action and more strictly regulate the industry. Unfortunately, there is not much the U.S. government can do to improve safety because the majority of cruise ships are registered in foreign ports and only abide by the laws of those governments.

The Concordia tragedy took the lives of 32 people and the U.S. government has been working diligently to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries for cruise ship passengers. Sen. John “Jay” Rockefeller called a Senate Committee hearing last year to discuss the lack of transparency in cruise crime and accident reporting and to introduce the Cruise Passenger Protection Act. Since then, cruise lines have been cooperating, slowly, to improve safety features.

Many major cruise lines have voluntarily adopted tighter safety measures, but the ever-increasing accident rate shows that cruise operators haven’t done enough to improve safety.

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Life saver In the wake of the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) public forum on cruise ship safety, Chairman John “Jay” Rockefeller released a statement voicing his opinion and concerns regarding the topic. According to Mr. Rockefeller, even after the serious accidents cruise lines have faced in the past few years, including the Costa Concordia capsizing tragedy and the Carnival Triumph fire, cruise lines have yet to “commit to fostering a long-term, industry-wide safety culture.”

Mr. Rockefeller, who held a senate committee hearing last year after releasing a cruise crime report, which exposed the cruise industry’s lack of transparency when reporting crimes on the high seas, has been advocating for greater passenger safety for several years. Though he recognizes that most cruise passengers are able to sail the seven seas without a hitch, the accidents and crimes that do occur are extreme in nature, leading to severe injuries or even the death of passengers.

Like the cruise ship accident attorneys at our firm, Mr. Rockefeller recognizes that problems onboard cruise ships have been occurring at a rapidly increasing frequency. And the problems go much further back than the Costa Concordia accident in 2012. Back in 2010, the Carnival Splendor experienced an explosion and fire in its engine room that disabled the ship. Similar to the Triumph fire, the Splendor incident resulted in an electrical systems failure and left thousands of passengers adrift without working air conditioning systems and sanitation problems.

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More shipsOur maritime lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have discussed the increasing number of cruise ship accidents befalling the industry for quite some time. For the past five years or so, it appears accidents and crimes involving cruise ships have begun to skyrocket. Whether the incident involves a problem with the ship itself, such as the Carnival Triumph fire back in February, 2013, an error on a crew member’s part, such as the Costa Concordia capsizing tragedy of January, 2012, or an overall lack of safety and security onboard a ship that facilitates crime, it just seems as though terrible, but preventable tragedies keep happening on the high seas. Luckily, we’re not the only ones who are concerned. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is also worried about the escalating accidents and crimes on ships and has decided to hold a two-day forum on cruise ship safety to address these issues.

The forums will be held today (Tuesday) and tomorrow at NTSB headquarters in Washington, D.C. and will address the issues surrounding the cruise industry regarding safety – or lack thereof. It’s no secret that cruise lines are able to bypass certain U.S. maritime regulations due to the fact that most ships are registered in foreign countries. Until recently, cruise line accidents and crimes were not looked at with as much scrutiny as they should have. However, during U.S. Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing last year, it became apparent that cruise lines were likely underreporting accidents and crimes.

Usually, unless an accident or crime at sea is catastrophic, not much will be revealed to the public. Realizing that the situation within the cruise industry was, in reality, much worse than it appeared to be, the U.S. government has decided to take action not only to improve transparency in cruise crime and accident reporting, but to improve overall cruise ship safety.

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doctorOur cruise ship injury lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have  reported on several alarming accidents that have left cruise passengers seriously injured. Many of these accidents are the result of the cruise line’s own negligence in failing to maintain a safe environment onboard for guests. Additionally, many cruise passengers who are injured or become ill require much greater treatment than the medical facilities onboard a cruise ship can provide. If this is ever the case, cruise lines are required to arrange for the passenger to be airlifted off the ship and transported to the nearest land-based hospital.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t always occur. Not only do passengers often get denied the full extent of medical attention they deserve for their conditions, but oftentimes, onboard physicians misdiagnose passengers or refuse to even admit a sick passenger for overnight observation. This has led to countless incidents where a passenger’s condition became worse, and in some situations, resulted in the passenger’s death. All this, only to be slapped with a huge bill at the end of their cruise for the physician’s “services,” or rather, lack thereof.

But while many cruise passengers that become ill or injured do obtain adequate treatment at their ship’s medical quarters, they are counting on their health insurance to cover the costs. Well, recent reports have shown that this may not always be the case.

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sick cruise passengerThe 2014 cruise season hasn’t been off to a very good start. So far this year, the cruise industry has suffered at least six overboard accidents, several sexual assault crimes, and hundreds of Norovirus outbreaks. In fact, a record for the worst Norovirus outbreak in cruise ship history was set this year aboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas, with over 600 people falling ill with the infamous stomach bug. Norovirus is actually very common on cruise ships due to the fact that the virus spreads easily in confined spaces. And what could possibly be more confined than a cruise ship sailing in the middle of the ocean with few windows to help with ventilation?

The cruise ship lawyers at our firm have heard mixed thoughts regarding Norovirus on ships, with many wondering if outbreaks are just bound to happen given the confined quarters on a vessel or if they are the result of a lack of sanitation. Truth is, it’s probably a little bit of both. On the one hand, the starting point of a Norovirus outbreak is often a sick passenger who doesn’t even realize they are ill until their symptoms are showing. Even then, Norovirus symptoms can be as mild as a mild case of nausea, which means those who are infected may not even think they are truly contagious. Many chalk it up to just food poisoning or a sensitive stomach and continue with their day as usual. Unfortunately, since Norovirus is extremely contagious, the illness can spread quickly, leading to a huge outbreak.

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MSC crew member dumps garbage into oceanThe maritime lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. are concerned about the effects of cruise ship on pollution on our planet.  Just as most other forms of man-made transportation, cruise ships can pose great risks to the environment. Garbage, wastewater and oils are just a few of the harmful pollutants created on board by cruise ships.

All of them are supposed to be disposed of properly, but from time to time, evidence surfaces that makes us wonder how often they are not. According to Friends of the Earth, an environmental protection organization, an extraordinarily high number of cruise lines violate environmental laws – and the problem is only getting worse.  The organization evaluates the rate of cruise line emissions for major cruise companies and rates them on an A through F scale. A “Cruise Ship Report Card” is then released, which allows consumers to see which cruise lines pass and which fail. Unfortunately, most scores are abysmal.

Last month, our maritime attorneys blogged about a beach in Brazil that was suffering from what some suspect are the results of cruise line pollution emissions. Turtle Beach, called Praia da Tartaruga in Portuguese, is a public beach, frequented by adults and children alike. When many beach-goers began reporting health issues including gastrointestinal problems and difficulty breathing, the experts argued these were the result of cruise ship emissions that were reaching the waters of the beach. However, after testing water samples, the results were inconclusive.

Now, two undercover videos have come to light which purportedly document an incident which is alleged to have occurred onboard the MSC Magnifica cruise ship and which was allegedly filmed covertly by a former MSC Magnifica cruise ship worker.

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