Cruise ship accidents and tragedies are major concerns for the Cruise Lines International Association, which represents 26 cruise lines. With more than 20 million passengers worldwide every year (more than 11 million passengers are from the United States), ensuring passenger safety ought to be every cruise line’s highest priority.
Passenger safety is the reason behind the passing in 2009 of the “Safe Return to Port” regulation. This directive was passed during the 2009 International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). “SOLAS is an international maritime treaty which requires Signatory flag states to ensure that ships flagged by them comply with minimum safety standards in construction, equipment and operation.”
This program on safety is to make sure that crew members are capable of handling emergency situations competently and on time, and that every cruise ship is equipped with all types of emergency and life-saving equipment, such as life boats, rescue boats and life jackets, fire safety provisions, radio equipment and Search and Rescue Transponders (SARTs).
Today, cruise ship accidents, however, happen not only while the ship is out at sea. Shore excursion, which is now conducted in almost all ports of call, is a new possible cause of accident than can injure a passenger. A shore excursion is either conducted by the cruise line itself or by an independent tour company. It is meant to add excitement to a passenger’s cruise experience and, though time-constrained, it allows participating passengers to get the most out of the activities, which can include hiking, ziplining, horseback riding, rock-climbing, jet skiing, parasailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, shopping at local outdoor markets, dining, and cultural, archeological or tropical island tours.
For some passengers, shore activities have been a source of injury, though, rather than fun. Worse, some do not even make it to tour destinations as accidents already injure them while boarding a tender boat (the boat that will transport them to the shore and back to the ship) or while waiting for their bus at the port. Sometimes, while on land, passengers become targets of assault, sexual harassment or theft mainly due to the very poor security by the cruise line or private tour provider personnel.
According to the law firm Louis A. Vucci, PA, causes of cruise ship excursion injuries include dock accidents, tender boat accidents, inadequate security, defective/malfunctioning equipment, and motor vehicle accidents. Cruise ship excursion injuries are serious issues that often result to physical, emotional and financial sufferings for those injured. Though victims have the legal right to “seek compensation to help them cope with the effects of their injury, filing a civil lawsuit can be complicated without help from a seasoned cruise ship accident lawyer due to the:
- Statute of limitation (the time limit for filing a civil lawsuit) and
- Issue of jurisdiction. Lawsuits involving cruise ships are usually heard only at the U.S. District Court of Florida); this is the forum selection clause which is indicated in cruise ships’ ticket contracts. Jurisdiction can altogether change if the accident occurred on land, during a shore excursion.