Contributors
Charles R. Lipcon

Charles R. Lipcon is the firm's founding attorney and has been handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims for over 40 years.Read More »

Jason R. Marguiles

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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Cruise ship travel in VeniceOur cruise ship lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have written about the environmental impact of the cruise industry and the lack of transparency of the industry in reporting pollution and waste management on board cruise ships many times before. The problem has become so serious that certain countries have gone as far as to ban cruise ships from docking or to limit the places and beaches where cruise ships can dock.

In 2014, Venice banned large cruise ships from travelling in Saint Mark’s basin and in the Giudecca Canal. The decision was made to protect Venice and the environment from damage that these large ships can cause. The ban was put into effect as a result of the Costa Concordia disaster. Fox News reports that celebrities, including Michael Douglas and Cate Blanchett supported the ban, citing the fact that large cruise ships can increase the risk of flooding in Venice. The city is already subject to serious flooding on a regular basis.

Yet, recent news reports reveal that Venice has had a change of heart about the ban. Tourism groups rallied to support a ban—but only after alternate canals and infrastructure has been put in place to properly re-route cruise vessels. The Contorta Sant’Angelo Channel, when completed, will afford larger cruise ships a safer passage through Venice.

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boating accidentsAccording to the U.S. Coast Guard, drunken boating is responsible for more fatal accidents that any other factor. More states are enacting harsher penalties for drunken boating. For instance, boaters who are caught with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher in Florida are subject to penalties similar to driving while under the influence of alcohol. A first offense carries with it a fine up to $1,000 and imprisonment up to 6 months. A second offense brings with it a fine up to $2,000 and imprisonment up to 9 months. If a person’s blood alcohol level is found to be much higher than the legal limit, offenders face more serious charges including required substance abuse treatment courses and mandatory community service.

These harsh penalties are put in place because drunk boaters pose a very real and serious risk to other people out on the water. On January 20th, a drunken boater received a jail sentence of 5 to 15 years for causing an accident that left two people dead. Brandon Verfaillie who was responsible for the deadly accident expressed his regret. His speedboat slammed into a cabin cruiser on the St. Clair river. He was found to be drunk at the time.

Thanks to Boaters Against Drunk Driving, more states have enacted harsher penalties for boaters who choose to drive while under the influence. Boaters Against Drunk Boating has also been monitoring drunk boating cases throughout the U.S. to ensure that boaters who are accused of drinking and boating are convicted and sentenced for their offense.

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jones act, jones act lawyer, tugboat accidentTugboats are considered the workhorses of the sea. They might be small, but their powerful engines allow them to pull larger ships and perform other crucial duties, like breaking up sea ice to allow the passage of other boats. Yet, crews aboard tugboats are subject to additional risks because they often have to pull around larger vessels that are unable to maneuver on their own. Sometimes these larger vessels carry hazardous materials, like oil or chemicals. Tugboat accidents occur when the boats capsize, experience breakdowns, collisions, and when equipment on board the ships causes injuries.

A tugboat accident recently reached national news, when a vessel in East China carrying an international crew capsized in the Fubei Channel in Jiangsu Provence. The New York Times reports that 22 people died in the accident. The rescue operation was made difficult due to swift currents in the channel. The vessel was eventually pulled to the surface and investigators were able to search inside. Four Singaporeans, an Indian, an Indonesian, a Japanese, and a Malasian are among the casualties.

The tugboat had been recently constructed and was on a test voyage when the accident took place. One survivor explained that the ship filled with water within 20 seconds, making it difficult for people to escape the sinking vessel. Government officials explain that the ship was undergoing testing without completing required procedures that included reporting on the condition of the tugboat, as required by current regulations.

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Seven Seas Mariner, RegentIn Fincantieri shipyard in Genoa, Italy, the keel was laid for what is touted to be the most luxurious cruise ship in history. The 750-passenger Regent ship will be an all-suite luxury vessel unlike anything that has come before.

The keel laying ceremony was the epitome of opulence. Master sommelier, Michela Cimatoribus popped the cork on a magnum bottle of Krug Grande Cuvée, which triggered a laser, which then cut the first piece of steel for the Seven Seas Explorer ship. During the ceremony, a Rolls Royce Phantom also delivered three symbolic coins to commemorate the commencement of construction. The coins were welded into the construction of the vessel. The archbishop of Genoa also blessed the metal.

The ship will offer passengers more space and privacy than any other ship before it. Additionally, its Regent Suite is billed to be the most opulent suite on board a cruise ship. At 3,875 square feet, its master bedroom features a wall of windows overlooking the ocean, and a private onsite spa. The room will reportedly cost passengers $65,000.

But perhaps the best news our maritime attorneys have heard about the ship thus far is the fact that it will employ cutting-edge environmental protection measures. Just the other day, we talked about how several major cruise lines are avoiding environmental safety protocols and polluting marine habitats and the air with harmful substances, chemicals, and wastewater.

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Elderly Woman Lives Aboard Crystal SerenityCruise vacations can bring wonderful memories when cruise lines take proper safety precautions and when nothing goes wrong—but one woman took her love of cruise vacations to the next level.

Lee Wachtstetter is an 86-year-old widow who has been living on a cruise ship for the last seven years. Her rent comes out to about $164,000 per year, after tips, drinks, and the cost of each cruise – a pretty hefty price, but she doesn’t seem to mind. After her husband passed away, Wachtstetter sold her estate in Fort Lauderdale and decided to become a permanent resident on a cruise ship, at the suggestion of her daughter.

It was actually Wachtstetter’s husband who introduced her to cruising. During their fifty years of marriage, they took 89 cruises together. The day before her husband passed away from cancer in 1997, he asked her to not stop cruising and Wachtstetter honored his request. Since his passing, Wachtstetter has taken over a hundred cruises and says that she stopped counting countries she’s visited once the tally reached 100.

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Boaters these days have access to more technology than ever to keep themselves safe when they hit the high seas. Modern technology has allowed boaters to accomplish extraordinary feats safely that would otherwise have been unimaginable in times past. While Magellan might have sailed around the world in 1522, his crew did this without GPS or other key devices that made for a safer crossing. These days, devices like satellite phones and positioning systems have made it possible for youths like Laura Dekker to sail alone around the world, safely.

So, with the spring boating season just a few months away, it’s time to consider what new gear you’ll be buying to make your boat safer and your boating experience more enjoyable. Here’s a list of the top five high-tech boating devices our boating accident lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. believe will help keep you safe out at sea:

  1. GPS. Modern GPS systems have made it possible for novice and experienced boaters alike to know exactly where they are in the ocean. Modern GPS devices rely on satellites to locate the position of a boat on the water. GPS devices also have the added benefit of helping boaters identify underwater terrain. This can prevent boaters from getting stranded in shallow water. Some GPS devices even help fishermen identify the location of schools. When deciding which GPS device to purchase, boaters should consider the number of satellites the device uses, the size of the screen, and what kind of additional alarms and safety features the device includes.
  2. Wireless Radars. These days, boaters can have their very own radar station on board the ship. Some of the more high-tech devices link up to an iPhone or iPad, allowing boaters to get up-to-the-minute weather reports. Boaters can avoid patches of severe weather using the device, or navigate around storm cells. These devices essentially provide boaters with their very own on-board weather station.
  3. Night Vision. Many boaters who choose to boat at night have been investing in night vision equipment. Thermal imaging cameras allow boaters to identify potential obstacles. Furthermore, this equipment allows boaters to successfully navigate in foggy, smoky, or particularly stormy conditions.
  4. Satellite Hotspots and Cell Service. If your phone isn’t a satellite phone, it can be difficult to maintain communication with loved ones if you leave areas where there is no cell phone service. If you’re traveling out into the sea, having cell phone service can mean the difference between a quick rescue and long days at sea without contact with land. For individuals who don’t want to invest in a satellite phone, there are devices that can turn your existing phone into a satellite device. Many of the services cost about $40.00 per month, plus the cost of the device. The system works anywhere in the world.
  5. Electronic Charts. Gone are the days where boaters have to carry around heavy and cumbersome nautical charts that could get wet, torn, or stained. Now, electronic charts offer up-to-date navigation information for boaters. Because these charts are more readily updated, boaters don’t have to worry about hitting new underwater obstacles.

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cruise ship, cruise ship lawyer, cruise pollutionCruise ships have long been known to be major air and water polluters. One New York Times correspondent recently wrote a column about the problem, citing lack of proper regulation as the main contributing factor to both accidents and pollution on the high seas.

According to The Guardian, the cruise industry burns millions of tons of fuel, and produces over a billion tons of sewage. Exhaust and sewage must be treated or it can fog the air and pollute the water. Some cruise destination countries like Belize are so concerned, that they’ve limited cruise ships to only one area of the beach in order to prevent pollution of more pristine areas. These beaches are often “sacrificed” to allow for cruise tourism to continue. Other countries want to prevent cruise travel from reaching their shores entirely. In fact, cruise ships that use large amounts of fuel are currently banned from traveling to Antarctica because an oil spill there would be disastrous to the environment.

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Disney Magic, Royal Caribbean, overboard passenger, cruise ship safety, maritime attorneysIn our last blog, we discussed the strange cruise ship overboard accident that has made headlines across the nation. A Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas passenger mysteriously fell overboard last week and was rescued by the Disney Magic. But there are several questions left unanswered.

Witnesses aboard the ship explain that several passengers heard victim while he was in the water crying out for help. After passengers spotted him, the crew of the Disney Magic began a rescue mission. Passengers were able to throw life vessels out to the victim, identified as 22-year-old Frank Jade, and he was subsequently taken to a hospital and treated for his injuries.

What’s strange about the incident is that the victim has no recollection about how he fell into the sea. Fortunately – and quite shockingly – he suffered no major injuries as a result of the accident, but our maritime attorneys are left wondering about the real details surrounding the incident and how this passenger could have even survived in the water for so long. If he has no memory of falling, it could mean he lost consciousness. But if the victim was unconscious, how did he stay afloat? Something just doesn’t seem right.

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Disney Magic, Royal Caribbean, man overboard, rescue, maritime attorneysWhen a 22-year old man fell overboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship near Cozumel, Mexico last week, the crew on Disney Magic were put on alert. Finding a passenger who has fallen into the vast ocean is extremely difficult, even for trained Coast Guard personnel, as we discovered in the case of Robert Konrad who fell off his boat and wasn’t spotted by Coast Guard, even after they shined their lights right on him. In a man overboard situation, all people available to scan the water should be asked to help to spot a fallen passenger. It can be very challenging to spot a person in the water, especially if he or she isn’t wearing a life jacket.

Miraculously, the Disney Magic was able to find and rescue the victim. However, the accident raises several concerns, not only calling into question the safety tactics and protocols of both Disney and Royal, but those of the cruise industry as a whole.

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In the wake of the holiday season, our boating accident lawyers have seen numerous reports of accidents and injuries that could have easily been prevented. Last month, a three year old girl had to be airlifted to the hospital in Santa Cruz when the boat she was riding aboard flipped and hit rocks. San Jose Mercury News reported that the vessel was attempting to reach the shore, despite high swells, when the accident occurred. The boat was a rental and the business had warned its patrons about how to approach the shore safely. In this case, negligence and recklessness led to needless injuries suffered by a child.

This incident highlights the inherent risks of navigating in shallow waters. Fortunately, there are many things responsible boaters can do to prevent these types of boating accidents. Here are some important tips you can follow: Continue reading