Cruise Ship Safety Concerns Increase as Ship Sizes Continue to Grow

A recently published article shines a spotlight on the ever expanding size of cruise ships. Cruise ship companies based in Washington and around the United States have been building increasingly larger ships as cruise ship vacations gain in popularity. According to the Cruise Lines International Association, the number of passengers onboard ships have more than doubled from seven million in 2000 to seventeen million last year. With the increase in ship size and demand, safety concerns among safety experts, regulators, and law makers have begun to arise.

Some of the most recent dangers have come to light as Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean both publicly experienced issues with fires onboard and utilization of emergency procedures on the Carnival Triumph, Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas, and Costa Concordia. While measures to improve safety operations and fire safety equipment have been put in place by the cruise lines, federal legislation has been introduced to tighten federal oversight of the consumer protections and safety procedures. One expert cited in the article expressed that, as ships grow in size, available options in an emergency decrease. A new set of global regulations was released in 2010, named the Safe Return to Port rules. This set of regulations account for the larger ship sizes, complex electrical systems, and intricate ship layouts. One goal is to safely and quickly evacuate passengers when necessary, but industry leaders aim to ultimately avoid the need to evacuate because the ship itself is considered to be its own best "lifeboat". Staying on this ship is better because rafts and lifeboats can readily become inadequate in rough seas and expose passengers to greater dangers.

All shipowners are obligated under maritime law to provide their crew members and passengers with a seaworthy vessel. A seaworthy vessel is one that is equipped with furnishings and appurtenances appropriate for their intended use. Owners who fail in their duty to provide a seaworthy vessel are liable to those who are injured as a result of the ship's unseaworthy nature. A showing of negligence by the owner is not required for a passenger or crew member to recover damages incurred from the injuries sustained. Passengers are also owed the duty of reasonable care under the circumstances when sailing on board a cruise ship. Slippery surfaces or faulty stairs that lead to slip-and-falls are examples of a cruise ship failing in its duty to provide reasonable care. Unlike the claim of failing to maintain a seaworthy vessel, the injured passenger or crew member must show that the cruise ship company was negligent in order to recover damages.

The Washington cruise ship accident attorneys, John Merriam and Gordon Webb, have over 50 years of combined experience litigating and negotiating maritime law cases for injured passengers, injured crew members, and family members of those who were killed while working or sailing onboard a ship. They understand that medical recovery and bills can rapidly become overwhelming, and they work tirelessly to fight for all the compensation their clients deserve. If you have been injured while onboard a cruise ship, contact one of our attorneys for a free, confidential consultation at the Seattle (206.729.5252) or Bellevue (425.454.3800) office.

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