Carnival Corporation (Carnival) is headquartered in Miami, Florida and is the largest cruise vessel owner/operator in the world. It owns or operates 100 cruise vessels: Carnival Cruise Lines (24 vessels), Princess Cruises (16 vessels), Holland American Line (15 vessels), Costa Cruises (14 vessels), AIDA Cruises (9 vessels), P&O Cruises – UK (7 vessels), Seabourn (6 vessels), Cunard (3 vessels), P&O Cruises – Australia (3 vessels), and Iberocruceros (3 vessels).
The Carnival Triumph departed Galveston, Texas on February 7 and suffered a fire in the engine room 3 days later while cruising off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. This comes on the heels of the Costa Concordia sinking with 32 dead and more injured a little over a year ago.
There will undoubtedly be an initial negative impact; however, such an impact will not be long lasting as it pertains to the number of people who choose cruise vessel vacations or the revenue generated by cruising passengers. There are automobile accidents every day, but that does not stop people from driving cars or being driven. There are periodic air line crashes, but that does not stop people from flying.
To provide some perspective, the length of each of Carnival cruises can be from 3, 4, 7, 14 days or longer. For the sake of argument, let’s use a calculation of 100 vessels departing each week, or a total of 5,200 cruises per year. Using that given, the number of accidents, collisions, fires or engine problems on cruise vessels owned or operated by Carnival resulting in something more than inconvenience, i.e., injury or death to passengers is less than ½ of 1 percent.
Will this incident be a temporary public relations problem for Carnival, probably; a death nail for Carnival, probably not. However, there are some with a different opinion. Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of CruiseCritic.com, has said, “It’s starting to build up that cruising is not safe. Everybody out there who has ever thought about taking a cruise is having second thoughts. It’s a train wreck. There has to be an impact.”
There have been numerous reports from passengers detailing the conditions on the Triumph, including but not limited to, overflowing toilets, long waits for food, flooded rooms, unsanitary conditions, and repugnant smell. It has also been reported by a number of news and media outlets, Carnival has promised the passengers of the Triumph a reimbursement of the cost of the cruise, reimbursement of the cost to travel home from the cruise, a credit for another cruise, and $500.
The Triumph is a Bahamian-flagged vessel, and as such, the Bahamas Maritime Authority will be the lead investigative agency working in conjunction with the National Transportation Safety Board and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Patrick Cuty, a Coast Guard Senior Marine Investigator, has said, “We started the investigation right after we were notified Sunday that the ship’s engine room had caught fire cutting all but generator power to the floating city.” He also said, “The crew did an excellent job from what we saw above and below decks, and overall I think, they accomplished their mission as far as safety goes; they brought everybody back safe.”
Lawsuits have already been filed, and more can be expected. In order to prevail in a lawsuit in this instance, it must be proven Carnival knew the vessel was not seaworthy and did not advise its passengers at the time it contracted with them or at the port of departure. As per Black’s Law dictionary, vessel unseaworthiness is based on the vessel owner’s duty to ensure the vessel is reasonable fit for its’ intended purpose.
The investigations by the Bahamas Maritime Authority, the National Transportation Safety Board, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the legal investigations (discovery) will go a long way in determining whether the Triumph was unseaworthy.
The conditions on the Triumph were uncomfortable, inconvenient, hot and messy. The following litigation(s) will most likely be the same.
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