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Following in the wake of the disaster of the Costa Concordia, it has been reported that a cruise ship operated by Costa Cruise Lines, the Costa Allegra, caught fire during a cruise. The cruise ship was approximately 260 miles from the Seychelles in the Indian Sea. Why the fire occurred is still being investigated. There were 630 passengers aboard, as well as 413 crewmembers aboard the cruise ship.

At this time, no passengers or crewmembers are reported as being harmed or injured.

The fire left the cruise ship disabled at sea. To make things worse, it has been reported that the Costa Allegra was going to spend an additional 10 to 12 hours disabled at sea, without any electricity, air conditioning or toilet facilities for the passengers. Why the delay before the Costa Allegra can arrive safely at port? The Seychelles authorities are asking that very question, as they are not happy at all that the vessel’s arrival at port is being delayed. The authorities wanted the vessel in port as quickly as possible in order to insure the safety and well being of the passengers, according to the Seychelles Minister of Home Affairs, Environment, Transport and Energy.

Why can’t Costa get the disable cruise ship back to port faster? It is reported that the delay is due because of a French fishing vessel that first responded to the cruise ship refused to turn over the operation to faster tugboats. This is information provided by a Seychelles government official, and reported by Fox News. Apparently there was some type of standoff between the faster tugboats and this French fishing vessel. The fishing vessel refused to step aside and allow the operation to continue with the faster tugboats, which according to the Seychelles authorities would have resulted in the Costa Allegra safely arriving at port much sooner.

What seems to be the problem with Costa? According to Davide Barbano, who is a Costa spokesperson, he denied that the vessel would have arrived faster with the two tugboats. According to him, “It was decided to continue with that (the fishing vessel) because it guaranteed a smoother voyage for those onboard.”

It is reported that the fire broke out in the generator room on Monday. The Italian Coast Guard is being kept very busy by Costa lately, and they are currently engaged in an investigation, although not a full fledged investigation, of this fire aboard the cruise ship.

A fire onboard a cruise ship is not unheard of. There have been many examples of fires onboard cruise ships. The most serious fire that I have experienced during my 30 years as a maritime lawyer involved a case in which our law firm represented 250 family members who lost loved ones during a fire aboard the cruise ship the Scandinavian Star. This fire occurred in 1990, killing 159 people.

Fires, and incidents such as the Costa Concordia, raise serious questions not only as to how safe cruise ships really are, but how safely an emergency evacuation can take place onboard one of the mega cruise ships carrying many thousands of passengers and crewmembers. Safety issues include who is actually regulating the cruise ships to ensure that they are complying with necessary safety rules and regulations.

In addition, bringing a lawsuit or claim against a cruise ship company, as well as investigating an incident that occurs onboard a cruise ship, including crimes, can raise very complex jurisdictional legal issues.

I have been a maritime attorney for 30 years now, and the growth of the cruise ship industry has definitely resulted in many safety concerns that must be evaluated and appropriately addressed at this time.

One Comment

  1. Gravatar for Gerry McGill

    Ironically, "allegra" in Italian means merry or happy. It occurs to me that the French fishing vessel would not turn the cruise ship over to the tugs because the French vessel intends to claim some type of salvage award. Salvage is not my field of maritime law, but if the fishing vessel caused delay and additional hardship for the passengers, would the passengers have a claim against the fishing vessel.

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