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International Cruise Ship Accidents Could Lead To New U.S. Regulations

Sep 27, 2014 - Articles - by Dodson & Hooks, APLC

2012 marks the 100 year anniversary of the Titanic disaster. Hundreds lost their lives when the British passenger liner was pulled to the icy depths of the North Atlantic.

A string of recent cruise ship accidents make it abundantly clear that even a century of progress has failed to quell the risk of traveling by sea. Yet, could more be done to improve cruise ship safety? Human oversights, not unavoidable acts of God, are largely to blame for the most recent cruise ship incidents.

Costa Concordia Disaster Among Maritime Disasters Blamed On Human Error

In January of 2012, the cruise liner Costa Concordia struck a reef off the Italian coast. Its hull began to fill with water, and the ship eventually came to rest on its side in 45 feet of water. At least 25 passengers were killed, many more were injured and seven remain unaccounted for.

It wasn’t bad weather, strong tides or simply bad luck that brought the Costa Concordia down; no, numerous reports indicate that the vessel’s captain overrode a preprogrammed navigation waypoint. In addition, the chaotic evacuation that contributed to passenger injuries and deaths was blamed on crew disorganization and an absentee captain (he abandoned ship almost immediately and refused to return when ordered to do so by the Italian Coast Guard).

While the Costa Concordia is the most high profile cruise accident in recent memory, any international maritime injuries lawyer could tell you that the mismanagement of passenger safety it evinces is no isolated incident. In late February, a fire onboard the Costa Allegra, a ship in the same fleet as the battered Costa Concordia, resulted in the evacuation of more than 1,000 passengers. Another fire onboard the luxury cruise ship Azamara Quest injured five in March. In fact, from 1998 to the end of 2011, there were at least 10 major accidents on Carnival cruise ships alone – and that is to say nothing of the day-to-day slips, falls and other incidents that cause countless passenger injuries but rarely make the headlines.

Congress Explores New Regulations for the Cruise Line Industry

On February 29, a Congressional hearing was held on cruise ship safety as a first step in exploring whether current U.S. and international cruise liner regulations need to be tightened up to keep passengers safe. The hearing raised the possibility of future roundtable discussions with cruise industry representatives and the U.S. Coast Guard on the topic.

Possible regulatory developments could advance cruise ships safety in the future, implementing better crew training, higher standards for equipment and standardized evacuation procedures. Even so, it is impossible to regulate away all human error. If you have been injured onboard a cruise ship, you may have a right to compensation from those responsible. Find out more by contacting a maritime injuries lawyer.

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