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PerthNow, from Australia, featured a story about two of our clients who were passengers onboard the Costa Concordia, Tracy Gunn and Rob Elcombe. Our clients from Perth decided to cruise aboard the Costa Concordia as a last ditch effort to save a troubled relationship. What they didn’t expect was that the cruise was going to turn into a re-enactment of the TITANTIC.

The article describes how my clients were among the last of the passengers to get off the vessel. Mr. Elcombe suffered a physical injury to his lower leg when he was crushed against the side of the boat as passengers were scrambling to lifeboats. He described the situation as utter chaos. Both of my clients are currently being treated for post traumatic stress disorder as a result of the Costa Concordia disaster.

In the article, my clients are quoted as stating that they are pushing hard for change in the industry to make sure that better safety procedures and training are implemented with respect to a mass evacuation of a cruise ship in case of a disaster. I have reported several times about the serious concerns with evacuation of all of the passengers and crewmembers on these new mega cruise ships in the case of a disaster. There appears to have been no real preparation for such a situation. The Costa Concordia shed light on this deficiency in the safety procedures, especially the fact that mandatory safety drills were not being conducted prior to the sailing of the cruise ship. Most of those onboard the Costa Concordia described the evacuation procedures as hap-hazard, and there was utter chaos in getting the passengers and crewmembers off the ship. We even had an unbelievable twist with the fact that the captain was one of the first to get off the ship instead of being the last. The deaths are being attributed to the lack of a faster and more efficient evacuation from the vessel once the vessel struck the reefs off the coast of Giglio, Italy.

As we know, the captain steered this massive cruise ship very close to land in effort to “salute” the islanders and please the mayor of the small town. According to the captain, this was a known procedure involving this cruise ship and the owners/operators were aware of this tradition of sailing close to land to salute the islanders. The cruise ship company initially came out and denied any liability and blamed the captain for not following the company’s procedures. The captain has fought back saying that the company was well aware of this maneuvering of this cruise ship close to land for “showboat” purposes.

The captain is currently under house arrest in Italy, and it will soon be determined whether he will go to trial for criminal charges, including manslaughter. The death toll has increased since the initial reports as more bodies have been located, with the current death toll being cited at 25.

This disaster has been the focus of documentaries, and much media attention. It has also resulted in Congressional Hearings that I have reported about addressing cruise ship safety. I am hopeful that all of the attention given to this disaster will result in some good, and that there will be positive changes in the laws regulating cruise ship companies. In the meantime, it is hopeful that the cruise ship companies will voluntarily study their safety procedures regarding evacuation of passengers, and make voluntary changes of these procedures so that s similar disaster does not occur again in the future.

These mega ships continue to ply the waters of the world with more than 6,000 passengers and crewmembers onboard. These mega ships have been described as floating cities and towns, floating hotels and casinos, serving alcoholic beverages and operating all types of entertainment rides and games onboard the ship. The potential for disaster in the event of a fire or sinking cannot be over-emphasized. Even though we all expect and hope for the best, we must plan for the worst. This is what safety is about. We must make sure that the cruise ship companies put safety ahead of profits.

I applaud my clients from Australia for speaking out and continuing to fight for positive changes in the industry to avoid another Costa Concordia disaster.

Our Miami based maritime law firm is assisting passengers and crewmembers involved in the Costa Concordia disaster. We handle all types of cases which fall in the area of maritime and admiralty law, involving personal injuries and wrongful deaths. These include incidents that occur onboard a cruise ship, or any type of seagoing watercraft, including recreational watercraft. Maritime law will most likely apply to any type of accident or event that occurs on a navigable waterway, and involves some type of seagoing watercraft. The maritime law governs claims by guests onboard a cruise ship or pleasure boat, and will also apply to crewmembers, longshoremen, oil workers, divers, and any other individuals working in the maritime field that are associated to some type of seagoing watercraft.

Maritime law can be complicated regarding jurisdictional issues and other laws specific to a maritime claim. Anyone who believes they may have a maritime law claim should consult an experienced maritime attorney for advice. Maritime law consists of its own body of judge made law, as well as various statutory laws.

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