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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Jay RockefellerSexual assault is an issue that has plagued the cruise industry for several years. Unfortunately, as each maritime lawyer at our firm knows all too well, not very many people are aware of this.  For years, the cruise industry has been allowed and worked very hard to hide the number of crimes that occur on board, as a result only minimal about this has gotten out to the public.

Though maritime law requires crimes to be reported to the FBI, Coast Guard and other appropriate law enforcement agencies, the fact that most cruise ships are registered in foreign countries and fly foreign flags results in a kind of loophole – one that has allowed the cruise lines to get away with not reporting these crimes. By flying these “flags of convenience”, cruise lines until recently, had been allowed by the U. S. government to not have to report these crimes.

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Life saver In Part 1 of this two-part blog series, we discussed how the continued lack of safety within the cruise industry has prompted Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller to host several Senate Committee hearings on the issue. Despite the advances in surveillance and accident detection technology and the number of incidents that have occurred within the cruise industry, including injuries, assaults, thefts, and death, the cruise industry doesn’t seem to be taking the necessary procedures to ensure optimal safety for passengers on board. The continued increase in cruise crime and accident statistics has led the senator to propose another hearing to discuss these issues, which will hopefully be the turning point for improved cruise safety policies and procedures.

The new hearing, titled “The Cruise Passenger Protection Act: Improving Consumer Protections for Cruise Passengers,” is scheduled for July 23, 2014 at 2:30 PM and will be broadcasted live to the public via the Senate Committee’s website.

Much like each admiralty attorney at our firm, Sen. Rockefeller recognizes that the lack of industry-wide safety onboard ships has contributed to the escalating number of incidents. A problem that we’ve seen time and time against is that safety seems to be an afterthought for the cruise industry. It usually takes a serious accident or crime to occur – followed by heavy media coverage – to get cruise operators to discuss safety concerns and make promises to improve safety policies or even address the concerns of the public or maritime safety organizations.

Unfortunately, cruise ship safety isn’t one of those “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” matters. Cruise lines shouldn’t wait until someone is seriously injured, assaulted, robbed, or killed in order to make improvements to their safety policies. If there is even the slightest chance that an accident or crime may occur due to a particular cruise ship’s maintenance conditions or the line’s overall safety policies, the issue should be addressed immediately. Sadly, this has not been the case, and hopefully, next week’s hearing will touch upon this critical concern.

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Life saver Last year around this time, the cruise industry was receiving a lot of negative attention following the Carnival Triumph fire in February, 2013, the Costa Concordia crash in January, 2012, and not to mention, a host of other cruise ship accidents and crimes. Though the cruise industry has never been 100 percent free of turmoil, the past few years have been wrought with an uncharacteristically large number of incidents involving passenger injuries, sexual assaults, overboard accidents, and deaths, along with several accounts of mechanical malfunctions, cruise operator negligence and crew member misconduct.

And while the cruise industry claimed several times it would improve safety features, new accidents and crimes have continually occurred and the industry had failed to provide any tangible evidence showing it had made good on the promise to improve safety. This prompted U.S. Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller to call a U.S. Senate Committee hearing on July 24, 2013 so the issues stemming from a lack of safety within the cruise industry could be addressed. The hearing, titled, “Cruise Industry Oversight: Recent Incidents Show Need for Stronger Focus on Consumer Protection,” was aired publicly online and provided shocking statistics regarding the discrepancy between cruise ship crimes and accidents and actual crime and accident reporting.

Several industry experts and notable figures testified during the hearing, including the “Cruise Junkie”, Professor Ross Klein. Prof. Klein’s website,, offers statistics and the latest news on maritime accidents, environmental issues, illness outbreaks, and other incidents at sea or in port. During the hearing, he shared his research, explaining that in 2013 alone, the cruise ship industry experienced 2 collisions, 2 passenger bumps, 3 groundings, 5 cruise ship fires, 8 failed health U.S. inspections, 10 cancelled port calls and/or itinerary changes, 16 delayed embarkations/disembarkations, and 19 mechanical issues.

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Alcohol on cruise shipsFor many, one of the best perks of going on a cruise vacation is the fact that you do not have to worry about finding a designated driver if you want to enjoy an alcohol beverage or two. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to kick back and have a cocktail while on your cruise. However, while the danger of drinking and driving may not apply on the high seas, alcohol consumption has played a significant role in many accidents – and even deaths – on the high seas.

One thing to keep in mind is that cruise ships make an enormous percentage of their revenue from alcohol sales. Naturally, cruise operators may glamorize alcoholic beverages, offering a “special drink of the day” or alcohol packages that allow guests the option of enjoying more alcohol for a lower price. But no matter where you are, be it the comfort of your own home, your neighborhood bar or a cruise ship, alcohol will always have the same effect if overly consumed – intoxication.

The dangers of becoming drunk while on land are vast. Intoxicated persons may become overly aggressive and be much more likely to get into an altercation – something that would otherwise not happen while sober. At the very least, an intoxicated person will lose inhibitions and may find themselves unable to keep their balance or a sharp focus on their surroundings. Bottom line, being intoxicated can lead to a plethora of unfortunate decisions, and unfortunate accidents.

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Walkie Talkies to reduce accidents, injuries and crimes at seaLast time, our cruise ship lawyers discussed some simple ways in which you, as a cruise passenger, can reduce your chances of becoming a target of theft while on the high seas or in port. In this part of our blog installment, we’ll explore how you can reduce your chances of getting hurt at sea, as well as how to keep loved ones as safe from harm as possible.

The attorneys at our firm have been representing the victims of cruise ship accidents and crimes for several years. Though we would like nothing more than for all cruise passengers to have an incredible and safe time on their vacations, our experience has shown us that unfortunately, even the most careful of travelers can get hurt at sea or in port. Sure, at some point we all take a tumble and suffer an injury through no particular person’s fault, and sometimes we may make a few wrong decisions (such as consuming a little too much alcohol) that can cause us to get hurt. But there are times when even the most prudent of travelers is faced with an unforeseeable circumstance that can result in a serious accident.

No one goes on a cruise vacation automatically thinking the worse will happen. But it’s important to always keep a watchful eye for signs that something may be off. Many of us get that “6th sense” when danger approaches, and it’s important to listen to that gut feeling. But for the average cruise passenger, who is trying to relax and having a good time, it can be difficult to stay alert at all times.

That being said, there is a huge difference between being in a constant state of anticipation for the worst possible scenario, and enjoying a vacation in a responsible and cautious manner. Let’s take a look at a few of the ways you can reduce your chances of getting hurt while on your cruise voyage.

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reduce theft on cruise shipWhile cruise vacations can be a lot of fun, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that (as with all vacations), they can also be dangerous. With a higher than average rate of cruise ship accidents happening lately, it’s important to understand that things can go wrong at sea. Sometimes accidents occur at random, through no one particular person’s fault. However, there are times when a cruise accident results from a lack of safety on board. Safety should be the number one priority for all maritime industries (cruise lines included), but unfortunately, safety is not always the main focus.

There are several factors that can contribute to an accident at sea, or even a crime on board a cruise ship. Oftentimes, incidents result from a lack of safety personnel. Our maritime lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have often discussed the need for cruise lines to hire a greater number of trained lifeguards, as well as trained security guards. However, these types of positions require greater pay – pay which cruise lines don’t always budget for. One might think that the cruise industry, a multi-billion dollar industry, would be able to afford highly trained safety personnel, but this isn’t always the case. One might also argue that cruise lines should be able to afford the installation of state-of-the-art technology, such as infrared sensor devices that can notify a ship’s crew the instant someone goes overboard. Yet, these technological advances are not mandated across the industry.

So then where does that leave passengers? Must cruise ship passengers fend for themselves while on a cruise vacation? Of course not, but given the fact that the possibility of an accident or crime on a ship is fairly high these days, it’s important that passengers become aware of their surroundings, of the fact that incidents can – and often do – occur, so they can better prepare themselves for an emergency.

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Security guardIn Part 1 of our blog installment, our maritime lawyers discussed the significance of onboard safety and how cruise lines go about protecting those onboard from harm. Cruise lines employ several tactics to reduce crime and accident levels on ships, including installing surveillance cameras and performing background checks on potential crew members, but oftentimes, these methods fall short. As we previously mentioned, one of the best options cruise lines have to maintain shipboard safety is to hire trained security guards who know how to spot crimes, who can efficiently prevent situations from escalating and above all, who can ensure a victim obtains justice.

Though all potential cruise line crew members undergo screening for their positions, as would be imagined, individuals applying for a security guard position are generally more thoroughly evaluated. We discussed the screening process employed by the majority of cruise lines in our last blog, but in essence, applicants are given hypothetical scenarios and asked how they would handle them, if such an incident were to arise onboard a ship.

Many cruise line security guards have prior experience in security, law enforcement and even military combat, but unfortunately, this is only a plus, not an actual requirement for employment. So what does this mean for the safety of passengers and crew on ships? Well, in all honesty, if “security guard” with no prior security experience is charged with the extremely important task of monitoring a huge vessel (and the 3,000+ people that may be on it), it is very likely that there will be crimes that go unnoticed, unreported, improperly documented, and, worst of all, assailants may even be able to get away with their offenses.

Which brings us to our next topic: training. Ok, we understand that the cruise industry is one that is rooted in entertainment, not law enforcement. But as experienced maritime lawyers, we also recognize the growing need for security personnel who actually know what they are doing.

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Security on cruise shipsIt’s no secret that crime onboard cruise ships is reaching disturbing levels. Even though technology has drastically improved since the first cruise ships set sail over 100 years ago, our maritime lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. continue to worry about the cruise industry’s safety standards.

Make no mistake, we think cruises are generally safe and an excellent, affordable vacation, but given what we do on a daily basis (help those seriously injured or harmed on cruise ships), we keep a laser-like focus on what is really on out of the public’s view.

Cruise lines are required by maritime law to keep both passengers and crew members safe from harm. But how exactly do they go about protecting those onboard?

For one, there are cameras onboard that monitor common areas. Unfortunately, these cameras aren’t monitored on a consistent basis. There are also certain safety protocols that cruise lines require their crew members to follow. Crew must be trained on how to properly handle emergency evacuations and must pass a background check, but even then, dangers can still be faced by everyone onboard. Some checks fail to provide the full scope of a potential new hire’s background, which means cruise lines can – and often do – inadvertently hire individuals with a criminal past or who have a history of mental disease.

The next line of defense the cruise industry has against crime onboard ships is to hire experienced security personnel. Let’s face it, even though crew members should be trained on how to monitor areas for signs of crime and how to apprehend suspects, many of the individuals who are involved in shipboard crimes are the crew members themselves! Enter security personnel to the rescue.

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Life saver In our last blog, our cruise ship passenger law firm discussed ways in which cruise lines could reduce the rate of crimes on board ships. Let’s continue exploring how the cruise industry can protect the safety of those on board and also, what passengers can do to reduce the likelihood they will become the victims of a crime as well.


Follow Maritime Laws and Policies

Victims of crimes on cruise ships often do not obtain the justice they deserve due to overlapping investigations, lost or insufficient evidence, failure to fully or properly question witnesses, and the fact that cruise lines often fail to abide by maritime laws and policies. There are a number of maritime regulations in place that are designed to protect those on board a ship against harm, especially against the threat of criminal activity.

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 is one of the most important maritime laws. Aimed at strengthening safety and reporting standards, the law requires the cruise industry to provide a safe environment on ships, which includes installation of video surveillance systems in common areas, as well as door viewers and security latches on cabin doors. The law also requires that cruise ships be fully equipped with materials that can adequately allow medical professionals to perform medical exams on sexual assault victims, as well as materials that allow for accurate collection of forensic evidence.

The law also requires cruise line operators to log and report all incidents related to missing persons and deaths, as well as criminal acts involving U.S. citizens. The purpose of this provision is to ensure the FBI, Coast Guard and all other appropriate law enforcement agencies obtain accurate information regarding the incident in order to carry out an investigation, as well as to ensure the public has full access to cruise ship crime statistics.

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Justice ScaleCrime is something that affects everyone, no matter where you live or where you travel to. Naturally, crime is something cruise ship operators have to deal with as well. Not only is crime something that can affect cruise guests and even cruise ship crew members while in a foreign port, but it’s also prevalent on the ships themselves.

Though there isn’t much cruise operators can do to change the laws of each country in order to make destinations safer for guests – aside from stopping port calls completely – there are several tactics cruise lines can employ to reduce the likelihood that someone on board a ship will become the victim of a criminal act, such as theft or assault.

Our cruise lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. will explore the many ways cruise lines can reduce the likelihood a crime will occur on board.


Improve Crew Member Training

Though there are times when incidents can occur without any foreseeable way to prevent them, many crimes on cruise ships occur because of the lack of adequately trained crew members. One way to reduce crime on board a ship is for cruise operators to invest in better training for their staff. For one, there is a significant lack of emergency training for crew members, as well as a lack in specialized officers, such as security guards. Far too many passengers become the victims of serious crimes and often, crew members are unable to help because they lack the proper training. Hiring trained security officers and providing specialized security training for all crew members can have numerous benefits. Crew members can better spot crimes in the making, for example, and can possibly stop life-threatening incidents from occurring or can stop minor crimes from escalating. Also, if crew members are properly trained on how to document incidents, crime scenes and evidence can be better preserved, which means those who have been wronged have a much greater chance of obtaining justice.

Additionally, given the fact that many perpetrators are crew members themselves, cruise lines can invest in more rigorous background checks to reduce the likelihood a convicted offender is hired. Just because a background check surveys the crew member’s record in their home country, this doesn’t mean they didn’t commit an offense in another country. More extensive background checks and even the issuance of psychological exams can prevent those who are not of sound mind from being employed on ships.

Furthermore, cruise operators can also station a greater number of crew members to stand watch in both public areas and in locations where only crew can access to reduce crimes. Many incidents take place in the late hours of the night or in hidden corridors, when no one is monitoring the ship. If a greater number of ship personnel are standing watch at all times, there is much less of a chance that a criminal will strike.

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