Maritime Safety for Children Questioned after Fatal Accident

Maritime safety for children is being questioned after a fatal accident claimed the life of an 8-year-old girl aboard the Carnival Glory.  Cruise ships are considered a safe way to travel and vacation, and are often targeted at families.  Unfortunately, accidents do occur on cruise ships, and due to the complexities of structure and sea, these accidents often lead to injuries.

In this post, we will discuss the recent fall accident and how it has increased the focus on safety and security aboard cruise ships, especially for children.  Anyone with questions about accidents or injuries occurring in the maritime industry can contact us for more information.

Cruise Ship Accident ends in Tragedy, Raises Safety Concerns

In October 2017, as thousands of people prepared to disembark the Carnival Glory, an 8-year-old passenger fell over a railing five stories high.  After the fall, she was taken to the ships medical center, and was then transferred to a hospital.  Unfortunately, at the hospital, she died from her injuries.  Such a tragic and traumatic accident has certainly taken a toll on the child’s family and those onboard, but it has also raised concerns about the overall safety of cruise ships.

According to the Cruise Lines Industry Association (CLIA), passenger capacity increased by almost 42 percent between 2009 and 2016.  During that same time, the number of onboard accidents remained steady, and the fatality rate was a slight 0.15 per billion passenger miles traveled.  To offer comparison, worldwide airline fatality rates equal 0.09 per billion passenger miles traveled.

Based on this data, traveling by cruise ship would seem to be more dangerous statistically than traveling by air, but still much less dangerous than traveling by U.S.  highways, which have a fatality rate of 7.4 per billion miles traveled.

Maritime Safety Regulations and Laws

In the U.S., cruise lines must abide by a series of federal and international laws and regulations.  This includes regulations and laws governed by the U.S.  Coast Guard, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and the U.S.  Department of Transportation.  Each of these organizations has certain regulations and responsibilities related to accidents occurring at sea, including aboard cruise ships.

In terms of cruise ship and maritime safety, consider the following information about regulations and data gathered from these sources:

  • S. Department of Transportation: The U.S.  DOT collects incident reports from almost a dozen major cruise lines.  Between April and June 2017, the DOT reported 30 incidents on those cruise lines, including one missing person report and 19 sexual assaults.
  • National Transportation Safety Board: The NTSB has authority to investigate significant maritime accidents, including those occurring on cruise ships. The NTSB investigates and reports on serious accidents, such as a docking accident involving Carnival Pride in May 2016.
  • S. Coast Guard: The U.S.  Coast Guard manages all safety inspections on cruise ships bearing U.S.  flags, as well as those taking on passengers from U.S.  waters or ports.  Coast Guard requirements mandate that all cruise ships must meet national and international standards in terms of fire prevention, lifeboat adequacy, evacuation procedures, etc.  The Coast Guard also investigates serious incidents occurring in U.S., or territorial, waters.  Accidents that happen outside U.S.  waters are investigated by the jurisdiction where they occurred.

While these organizations regulate and uphold laws designed to protect travelers and maintain safety, there are some factors that may increase the risk of accidents occurring onboard cruise ships.  For example, cruise ships are not required to use building code inspectors in the same way that landlocked buildings are.  That means there are no inspections to ensure that cruise ships meet minimum standards for things like lighting, signage, step height, or architectural features.

Another area of concern is the fact that many cruise ships do not have active lifeguards on duty at their pools.  Some ships specifically catering to families or children have recently began to employ fulltime life guards, but many ships operate on a “swim at your own risk” basis.

Maritime Safety for Travelers

The U.S.  Coast Guard recommends anyone traveling on the water, whether it is a small boat or a massive cruise ship, take time to familiarize themselves with the basics of marine safety.  It is recommended that anyone traveling on a cruise ship do the following:

  • Familiarize yourself with vessel safety procedures and lifeboat locations
  • Review instructions on how to properly use life jackets or other safety gear
  • Participate in fire or “abandon-ship” drills, which are required weekly on cruise ships
  • Listen to, and review, all instructions from cruise ship staff
  • Follow maritime safety protocols onboard a ship as you would on land, or at any given time
  • If traveling with children, never leave them without adult supervision

While you want the focus of your maritime adventure to be fun and relaxation, it is important to ensure that your family is safe and secure.

Getting Help after a Maritime Accident or Injury

If you or a family member have been injured while traveling on a cruise ship or while working in the maritime industry, you likely have many questions.  Who is at fault? What are my legal rights? Can I file a lawsuit to recover medical and other expenses? These are just a few of the most commonly asked questions about maritime accidents and injuries.

If you have questions about the maritime attorneys, related laws, or a specific accident or injury, contact us to explore your legal rights and get answers to your questions.  Maritime injury law is complex, and our team has the knowledge and experience you need.  Fill out our online form today to get started.