Dangerous Voyages-Cruise Ship Accidents
With the recent grounding of the "Empress of the North" in the news, I'd like to bring to light the issues of cruise ship accidents. Let me first state that by no means am I an expert on the cruise ship or travel industry. But I am a maritime officer that has been sailing onboard commerical vessels since 2001. I have worked as a Second Mate onboard a small cruise ship in SE Alaska.
In the past 10 years no less than 4 ships have run aground in SE Alaska and the Inside Passage. And as more and more cruise ships visit this pristine part of America, that number will surely increase. But the numbers at large are far greater. According to Cruisejunkie.com 4 ships have run aground, in 2007 alone. Now you maybe thinking that these numbers reflect "fly-by-night" cruise ships that are operated under "flags of convience". But the truth is that these accidents occur with some of the biggest and most popular operators, including NCL, Carnival, Cunard and Princess cruise lines.
Ship groundings are not always a catastropic event. This may sound contradictory, but in fact depending on the sea floor, weather conditions and other factors, ships maybe towed or floated off the bottom. On some occasions this can be done with little or no damage to the ship or environment. But, there are other issues that concern me about cruise ships at large. First, grounding are not the only type of maritime accidents/problems. There have been many documented cases of fires, flooding, illnesses, thiefs, and physical and sexual assaults. In researching this article I came across cruiselaw.com, which is a laundry list of case law and articles on the accidents and problems of the cruise ship industry. As an example, usatoday.com and cnn.com document the fire onboard the "Star Princess", on March 23rd 2006 in which 11 people were injured and 1 person was killed. And the Norovirus has canceled many cruises in the past several years. But what you may not have heard is that this virius is spread not only by enviromental contamination and person to person contact but also by fecal contamination of food and water.
There are alot of causes and factors in any maritime accident. The training and expirence of the ship's crew, weather, ship's construction and condition, and altogether acts of God may be at play. But most of all due diligence and resonable care must be exercised when so many lives are at risk.
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Kapaa, Hawaii, United States