Its been a chaotic month in the cruise industry marred by incident ,
however the most publicized story of the month is the Carnival Triumph which suffered an engine room fire causing the ship to loose power in the Gulf of Mexico , leaving massive ship adrift for days in the Gulf of Mexico along with 4,200 people, including 3,100 passengers.
Investigators know roughly where the flames erupted in the engine room of the Carnival Triumph, but it could be a year before they learn what caused the fire, however, because of the amount of work involved. It includes a painstaking analysis of the ship's records, automated data and wiring.
There are three generators in the engine room where the fire broke out. Three other generators are in a second engine room that wasn't involved in the fire investigators say.
According to a notice posted on the website of Carnival senior cruise director John Heald , the Triumph had encountered a problem in January with its propulsion system prior to the incident.
Two weeks prior to the engine room fire casualty at sea, the Carnival Triumph experienced propulsion issues that caused it to be five hours late returning to its Galveston home port on January 28, 2013, delayed the ship's departure for its next cruise from 2:30 p.m. until 8 p.m. that night, and resulted in the elimination of a scheduled stop in Cozumel because of the ship's diminished cruising speed. While in port, a Port State Control (PSC) vessel inspection by the Texas City, Texas, U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit was conducted, resulting in a finding that there was "a short in the high voltage connection box of one of the ships generators causing damage to cables within the connection box", a deficiency under 50AC SOLAS 2009 Ch 1 Reg 11.
The Coast Guard Marine Information Safety and Law Enforcement System showed that this deficiency remained unresolved at the time of the subsequent fire and loss of power while at sea on February 10.
DETAILED SERIES OF EVENTS :
On Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 5:30 a.m. CST, the Triumph suffered a fire in the aft engine room. Although the fire was automatically extinguished, it resulted in a loss of power and propulsion , there were no casualties or injuries to passengers or crew. While the emergency generator was providing some power, the ship was left adrift about 150 miles off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico.Carnival Triumph was originally expected to be towed to the Mexican port of Progreso. After drifting northward on currents in the Gulf of Mexico while awaiting arrival of large, seagoing tugboats, she was expected to dock in Mobile, Alabama instead. This was the fourth engine room fire on a Carnival-owned ship resulting in a loss of power, the others being the Tropicale in 1999, the Carnival Splendor in 2010, and the Costa Allegra, owned by Carnival subsidiary Costa Cruises, in 2012.
By February 11, 2013, the emergency electrical generators allowed partial restoration of some shipboard functions, including the freshwater system. Additionally, the sewage system was restored to the forward section of the ship, but was still inoperative in the aft portion. Supplies were transferred from the Carnival Elation during the night of February 10, which departed by midnight. Carnival Legend was en route from Tampa and arrived on the scene around 3 p.m. on the afternoon of February 11 to complete a transfer of food and water, and to take on a patient in need of dialysis for transport to Cozumel. The Carnival Conquest en route to Montego Bay, Jamaica from New Orleans stopped and delivered food and supplies during the afternoon and early evening on February 11, 2013.
On February 13, Carnival made the announcement that the February 21 through April 13 sailings were being canceled, in addition to the February 11 and 16 sailings already canceled. Guests whose trips have been canceled will get a full refund of their cruise fare along with other considerations. Passengers on the disabled ship will get a full refund of their cruise fare along with additional considerations and compensation. The afternoon of February 13, two seagoing tugboats were towing the ship, with a third tugboat expected to arrive that evening. The goal was to reach port in Mobile, Alabama by early afternoon February 14, but strong winds delayed the expected arrival until 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Helicopter footage Thursday morning showed the ship in the open Gulf of Mexico with passengers holding giant signs reading “SOS” and “Help! Get us to Eunice, LA.”
Later in the day on Feb 14th , with the vessel in sight from shore, a cable snapped between the Triumph and one of the four tugboats dragging it to land, forcing yet another delay in the rescue , after a tow line broke, arrival was delayed still further.
Eventually, four tugboats were towing the ship, with a fifth on standby along with the coast guard escorting the stricken vessel.
By 9:20 p.m. CST, the ship had docked, with passengers disembarking the stricken vessel .
Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill has apologized to guests and families for “this very difficult situation.” The cruise line has reserved 1,500 hotel rooms for passengers in Mobile and New Orleans, and 20 chartered flights will take passengers to Houston.
The Triumph was on the third day of a planned four-day cruise from Galveston, Texas, to Mexico when the fire broke out and brought the trip to a halt.
The loss of power not only crippled the ship but also created dilapidated and deteriorating conditions. Toilets stopped working, and waste spilled onto floors and into hallways ,passengers had to use plastic bags to collect their waste.
Passenger Cassie Terry described the ship as "a floating toilet, a floating Petri dish and a floating hell." in a lawsuit filed Friday against Carnival for unspecified damages related to the cruise.
Passengers reported long lines for food, shortages of fresh water and widespread boredom. Many passengers slept in hallways or outside to escape the odors and heat below decks.
Passengers also described the conditions since as sweltering, unsanitary and becoming dangerous as the time passed .
“It smells like the zoo ... it’s horrible,”
After the power went out and toilets stopped working, the cruise staff instructed passengers to urinate into the showers and put fecal matter into plastic bags,which were regularly collected by room stewards and put into a giant trash bags.
Eye witnesses confirmed reports of passengers being fed onion-and-cucumber sandwiches, many people on board had gotten upset stomachs, nausea and sick from the deteriorating conditions.
Scattered reports described the ship that was descending into chaos, with reports of people looting rooms and taking laptops, phones and cameras and civil unrest occurring , the atmosphere was highly reminiscent of hurricane Sandy here in New York city only on a more isolated scale.
'People were acting like idiots' “There were people screaming obscenities in the hallways, wasted.
There were also frightening moments when the cruise staff began serving alcohol to passengers at one point during the ordeal.
You had children sleeping out on the lido deck with drunk people running around, that’s not ok.”
One of the passengers who was on Deck 8 in a room with a balcony cabin, at first kept the door of her cabin open to allow a breeze to come in so that passengers with interior rooms across the hall would be more comfortable. But as reports of looting spread, she has kept their doors closed.
The Triumph was eventually towed into port in Mobile, Alabama, Thursday night, and the last passengers disembarked Friday. The ship is at a Mobile shipyard for repair and won't resume cruises until at least mid-April , the Triumph is the largest ship to dock in Mobile , Alabama.
Teams were already in place to receive the weary passengers with warm food, blankets, cell phones, and refreshments, over 100 buses will then take passengers to Galveston, Texas, or hotels in the area.
As for the crew, had the option of staying on the ship or move to a hotel and that the hotel crew would be allowed to go on vacation early and Carnival would fully compensate them.
On Saturday, Carnival crew members were bused to and from the ship to help with the clean up.
Passengers have praised the crew for its response and valor during the horrific ordeal and in the face of immeasurable odds against them , their courage to assist the passengers in need under such conditions is a true show of courage.
Because the Carnival Triumph is a Bahamian-flagged vessel, the Bahamas Maritime Authority is the primary investigative agency and will work with the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board.
Investigators pulled the voyage data recorder, a device that records alarms, voice communications on the bridge, engine speed, navigation information and rudder angle.
It appears that the fire suppression worked as designed.
The engineer who was on watch around dawn February 10 saw the fire ignite over a video feed and immediately notified the bridge , Initial reports from investigators on February 18, 2013 indicated the fire was caused by a leak in a flexible fuel oil return line from the No. 6 Diesel engine, allowing fuel to spill onto a hot surface and ignite causing the fire.
As compensation, Carnival offered each passenger $500, a free flight home, a full refund for the trip and for most expenses incurred on board, and credit for another cruise.
AFTERMATH AND A SEA OF LAWSUITS , LIES AND SCANDALS:
Less than a week since passengers left the ill-fated Carnival Triumph, the lawsuits are already piling up against Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines.
The latest was filed Wednesday in Galveston by the Mississippi law firm of John Arthur Eaves, which is also representing 80 passengers and family members affected by the Costa Concordia shipwreck last year which left 32 people dead and the ship still run aground on the island of Isola del Giglio now undergoing a massive salvage operation which has cost Carnival Corp millions dollars yet for Costa Cruises it will forever go down as the worst disaster in the Brand's history and a public relations nightmare.
Earlier this week, a Miami law firm filed a proposed class-action suit in federal court in Miami, following two other complaints filed over the course of 2 weeks after the incident.
In the aftermath and this continuing saga , many questions have yet to be answered and a call to overhaul procedures and increase safety measures so an incident of this magnitude can never occur again.
Carnival has made no comments on the lawsuits filed in the wake of the Triumph disaster.
The proposed class action suit, filed by Miami maritime law firm Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, alleges that Carnival should have known that the ship was likely to have problems because of prior propulsion issues — problems Carnival has said were unrelated. The suit also claims that Carnival had the ship towed to Mobile instead of a closer port in Mexico because it was cheaper and more convenient.
“Carnival recklessly and intentionally put more than 3,000 passengers through a five-day living nightmare so it could protect its bottom line,” the suit says.
Carnival has said the decision to tow the Triumph to Alabama, where it remains, came after the ship drifted north in strong currents while awaiting tugboats.
While the proposed class-action suit alleges that passengers suffered severe suffering, emotional distress and risk of physical harm, the court would likely decide that guests were only due what they paid for the ruined trip.
101 ON CRUISE PASSENGERS RIGHTS & MARITIME LAW:
Cruise passengers have few rights, even fewer than airline passengers, and little hope to recover costs or damages in court.
Cruise ships are not like U.S. airlines, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The cruise industry is governed by the Federal Maritime Commission, but the ships are typically registered in foreign countries such as Hamilton , Panama , Bahamas , Malta & the list goes on , allowing their United States owners to avoid U.S. labor laws, safety regulations and paying federal taxes. Carnival, which is incorporated in Panama, registered the Triumph in the Bahamas.
That is how the Bahamas became the lead investigator in the Triumph case, with U.S. interests represented by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Coast Guard.
In 98.6 % of cases “Maritime law is very much on the side of the ship owner.”
The Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims. The convention is referred to on the Web site of the International Maritime Organization as “A virtually unbreakable system of limiting liability” for the owners of ships after accidents.
That limitation on liability can be set aside in cases of egregious acts by the vessel’s owner, in the language of the convention, “ If it is proved that the loss resulted from his personal act or omission, committed with the intent to cause such a loss, or recklessly and with knowledge that such loss would probably result.”
"As part of the terms and conditions, when consumers purchase a cruise ticket, they agree to expect the unexpected" However, nobody in their wildest dreams expects to be stranded at sea without fresh air, plentiful food and sanitary facilities."
The Carnival ticket contract specifically covers what happened to the Triumph, when "The proposed voyage is hindered or prevented by the breakdown of the vessel." In those cases, passengers essentially get nothing: " The guest and his baggage may be landed at the port of embarkation or at any port or place at which the vessel may call, at which time the responsibility of Carnival shall cease and this contract shall be deemed to have been fully performed."
The contract also limits Carnival's liability for lost or damaged bags (including contents) to $50 for each guest or $100.00 for each stateroom.
A Texas woman who called the Triumph a "Floating toilet" sued shortly after the ship was towed to Mobile, Ala., seeking damages. If she's claiming just emotional distress, mental suffering or anguish, the suit won't go far because Carnival isn't liable , it's in the contract and the fine print.
A class-action suit with other passengers might be more effective. A suit filed in federal court Feb. 18 in Miami seeks class-action status , passengers, in the ticket contract, relinquished their right to sue collectively.
Other passengers who wish to sue must notify Carnival within six months and file the suit within one years time , it's in the ticket contract.
With such threadbare protection, travel experts recommend insurance for cruises and other trips. Cruise lines, conveniently, sell travel insurance. Better coverage at a better price is available elsewhere.
For the record , the same types of accidents that occur on land can occur on cruise ships, including sexual crimes, robbery, slip and fall accidents, food poisoning, theft, etc. Some of these crimes are committed by passengers, some by crew members. In February of this year 22 passengers were robbed by masked gunman after leaving the Carnival Splendor while docked in mexico
The passengers had sailed to Mexico on the Carnival Splendor and were on an excursion near Puerto Vallarta which was advertised and sponsored by the cruise line.
According to crime statistics analysis, the odds that a person will be sexually assaulted are twice as high on a cruise ship than on land. The recommendation is that passengers be on guard ( Live your life in caution and not in constant fear which leads to paranoia) , and avoid using public restrooms at night, riding elevators alone, etc. - particularly women.
As the story goes that when a crime takes place, cruise lines generally take great measures to protect themselves, rather than helping the victim , in plain English its just about the same with any major corporation .
Can cruise ships be held liable for costs associated with injuries sustained by passengers or crew members?
A: In most cases, yes. Cruise ships are responsible for maintaining safe premises and a reasonably safe environment. When you suffer an injury due to a slip and fall or slip and trip accident caused by loose carpeting or floor tiles, or because of slippery conditions, you may have a premises liability claim. This is also true if you are injured in a sexual assault, because of negligent navigation or due to an airborne illness caused by unsanitary conditions, such as Legionnaire's Disease.
Defective or dangerous products may also lead to a cruise ship liability claim. For instance, if you are injured because of exercise equipment, swimming pools or spas that are faulty in some way or not properly maintained, you may have a claim. If a fire was to break out and injury occurs due to lack of sufficient safety equipment, the cruise ship company may be held responsible.
The U.S. and international media covered the saga of the stricken Triumph cruise ship non-stop last week. CNN led the coverage with its "ceaseless, rigorous reporting" on what some newspapers are characterizing as essentially "inconvenienced cruise passengers without working toilets." CNN enjoyed a 74 percent increase from its recent prime time numbers according to the people that follow these type of statistics.
There is a debate playing out in newspaper articles and cable news shows whether aggrieved passengers should pursue lawsuits over the incident or, as I feel, they should accept Carnival's meager compensation and move on with their lives.
But there is little debate about whether there are too many fires and capsizings involving cruise ships these days.
The cruise industry has done a pretty good PR job with its talking points over the years - "cruising is remarkably safe, the "safety of our passengers is the cruise industry's top priority" and ect ect ect
Yet surprisingly after the deadly Costa Concordia disaster just a year ago on Jan 13th 2012 , came a dozen cruise ship fires on cruise lines like Azamara, Costa, Cunard, Princess, and Royal Caribbean. At some point, the casualties reach a critical mass. If the cruise lines' response is always "cruise-accidents-are-rare," at some point the public simply does not believe a word they say.
We are past the point of no return today in this day and age and in most cases we take their word with a giant grain of salt and pepper.
A good majority of the American public is not naive and ignorant to what is seen before them. Don't ever underestimate peoples intelligence and common sense. If I have a problem with my case, I acknowledge it. I make certain that I discuss the weaknesses in the case in my closing argument. But If you talk around troubling issues and try to bamboozle people, you will lose your credibility and lose your case in the process.
The cruise industry has some serious problems, including a lack of federal oversight over the safety of passengers and crew. But the cruise lines will not acknowledge anything negative about their industry.
By publishing a puff piece like cruising is "safe and healthy" when cruise ships are catching on fire and guests suffering for days in deteriorating conditions and no power the cruise industry is doing more harm than good to its already shaky reputation.