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 Maritime Matter of the Week

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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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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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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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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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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Cruise ship inspectionCruise ship safety is finally being taken more seriously. In the wake of the Costa Concordia capsizing tragedy, the Carnival Triumph fire, and the dozens of other accidents that have befallen the cruise industry, the U.S. government has begun taking a stronger stance, pushing for greater safety industry-wide. For many years, cruise lines have underreported both accidents and crimes, leaving the government in the dark about serious incidents. Now, the Coast Guard has begun to randomly inspect cruise ships and the truth is finally coming to light.

Though the Coast Guard conducts routine inspections of cruise ships twice a year, the agency began inspecting ships unannounced beginning on March 5th, focusing attention on ships that have received complaints during routine inspections. According to Coast Guard Capt. Eric Christensen,  the agency inspected 140 foreign ships last year when they reached U.S. ports and found a whopping 351 violations of international safety standards.

The inspections take about four hours to complete.  Once a ship reaches a U.S. port, several Coast Guard agents will be on hand to inspect the vessel for problems. Usually, agents begin by reviewing the ship’s log to see if crew members recorded any incidents  or made any repairs. If a malfunction is noted and allegedly fixed, the agents will verify the work.

The most common issue, present in 44 of the cases, was malfunctioning fire-screen doors, which would prevent the spread of a fire onboard a vessel. Other problems discovered in the inspections included lifeboats with cracked hulls, escape routes that were obstructed, and a lack of crew member training regarding emergency situations and proper emergency protocols.

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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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