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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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, which stated that Honduras has had the highest murder rate in the world since 2010. 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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emergencyOur cruise ship accident lawyers have discussed the issue of cruise passenger safety in great detail. Following last week’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) two-day forum on cruise ship safety, it has become apparent to the U.S. government that cruise lines are not doing everything within their power to prevent serious accidents from happening onboard their ships.

But aside from all the things that can go wrong while onboard a vessel, there are several more incidents that can threaten the safety of passengers while ashore. Most cruise lines offer shore excursions for guests, which provide a wide range of fun activities for the entire family to enjoy. However, not all guests are privy to the fact that most shore excursions are not monitored by the cruise lines. Instead, they are run by locals of the port the ship is calling on.  One consequence of this is that often,the U.S. Courts often do not have jurisdiction over the operators of the shore excursion.

Though some cruise lines send members of their crew with passengers while on certain excursions, many others are left to fend for themselves with excursion operators that may not even be certified to run the programs they offer. As a result, serious accidents can occur – and even crimes.

Just yesterday, a news station in Belize published an article on a shore excursion incident that highlights the importance of improving safety for cruise passengers, both onboard and off a ship.

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Life saverOnboard cruise ship accidents get a lot of attention these days, but accidents aren’t limited to the high seas. Cruise accidents can occur while the ship is docked, and sometimes, these can be the worst kinds of accidents. An incident at a dock can cause serious injuries for both workers and pedestrians, due to the large number of ships, freighters and other equipment. But even though there are strict laws that protect dock workers, seafarers and pedestrians from port accidents, negligence seems to constantly abound in maritime industries.

Now, just days after the Queen Victoria Ship came off its moorings, another dock accident has occurred, but this time, the results were much more tragic. According to CNN reports, two dock workers in St. Kitts were killed during a berthing accident involving Royal Caribbean International’s Independence of the Seas cruise ship. Accident reports show that the victims had been working on the mooring lines onboard a small boat when they were thrown overboard as the ship pulled out of port.

But what could have caused the force that threw the victims overboard?

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Fishing boatSpring is here and many excited boaters are getting ready to hit the waterways. But as boating season quickly kicks into gear, there are things that all boaters should do each time they head out in order to reduce their risks of getting into a situation where their safety is at issue, and to be able to better their odds of rescue or survival if they end up in trouble out on the water. Our boating accident lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina, & Winkleman, P.A. know that accidents occur at a moment’s notice, however being adequately prepared for them is only second to taking the right steps to prevent them all together.

Last week, three boats partaking in The Bass Federation (TBF) fishing tournament in Lake Powell were reported missing, but due to inclement weather conditions, a rescue mission couldn’t be carried out right away. The missing anglers finally made it back to shore when the weather cleared up, but the incident reminds us that boating is not a risk free endeavor – even for those with experience.

One of the anglers that was caught up in the storm decided to share his story, and from his tale, we learned that several small mistake can lead to a very serious consequences.

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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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