I have been handling Maritime Personal Injury and Wrongful Death cases involving the cruise ships for 28 plus years and have been amazed not only at the increase in the cruise ship business over the years, but in the size of the cruise ships. I recently read an article about these huge cruise ships that are now sailing the waters, and I marvel at the architecture and construction of these ships. I often wonder how these things stay afloat on the seas. Cruise ships have always been referred to as floating hotels, and floating cities. They have become more like floating cities with the amount of people the cruise ships are now able to carry.
For example, the biggest cruise ships currently are the Royal Caribbean cruise ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. Just to give an idea to readers of the sizes of these cruise ships these days, the Titanic, which was the world’s largest cruise ship a hundred years ago, would not even rank among the world’s fifty largest cruise ships today.
The Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, just to give you an idea of the enormity of these cruise ships, weigh 225, 282 tons, are 1,187 feet long and have a capacity of 5,400 passengers. The ships carry 2,384 crewmembers, which are more than the passenger capacity of most of the ships that were built before the year 2000.
The ships provide wonderful vacations, including zip lines, rock climbing walls, elaborate Broadway shows, as well as many other activities.
Along with the increase in the cruise ship industry, and the increased size of the ships, of course come more problems that one sees when such a huge population of people are interacting on a daily basis, and crewmembers are working long hours to make the cruise a success. Injuries and accidents, including crimes, occur aboard the ships with some frequency. There are even sexual assaults, and disappearances that happen during cruises. The crewmembers are subjected to long hours of work, seven days per week, with very little opportunities for rest and relaxation. The crewmembers are hired typically from third world countries and do not often come with the type of training and background that would best suit an individual for the particular jobs and tasks these crewmembers are assigned to. The security onboard the cruise ship has always been an issue regarding passenger safety once onboard the ship. There have been Congressional Hearings addressing all of this, leading to the passage of cruise ship legislations signed into law by President Obama on July 27, 2010.
With the increased number of new passenger cruise ships, and the increased size of these ships, will come a growing need to be aware of safety concerns aboard these cruise ships. The cruise ship industry continues to have to abide by International regulations, especially strict regulations dealing with fire prevention and life saving measures. It is through our tort system in courts that the crewmembers and passengers can enforce their legal rights against the cruise ship operators to provide safe cruises, and safe places to work.
The cruise ship companies, as they get bigger, and their ships get bigger, continue to exert their power through lobbying efforts in Congress attempting to restrict the rights of both passengers and crewmembers to just and adequate compensation for injuries and accidents that happen onboard the cruise ships. It is important for all of us to be aware of any legislation attempting to restrict rights of consumers or workers, and to be active by contacting local Congressmen so that the powerful lobbyists do not prevail at the expense of everyone’s safety.