Located on the southeast coast of Florida, Miami’s proximity to the West Indies and Latin America makes it ideal as both a tourist destination and a hub for both the U.S. and global economies. Its main maritime facility, PortMiami, is known as the “Cruise Capital of the World” and the “Cargo Gateway of the Americas.” As a consequence of the large number of ships, passengers, and maritime workers that pass through PortMiami, there have been numerous unfortunate events that have resulted in maritime injuries and deaths. A significant fraction of these incidents were caused by negligence, unseaworthiness issues, and wrongful actions by seamen employers or other parties.
Examples of Notorious and Recent Maritime Accidents in Miami
Scandinavian Sun Fire: August 1984
On the night of August 20, a fire broke out in the engineering spaces of the Scandinavian Sun, a Bahamian-flagged cruise ship, while passengers were disembarking at what was then called the Port of Miami. The wheelhouse, where the fire alarm went off promptly, was unmanned, and there was a delay in closing off the ship’s ventilation system. As a result, 31 passengers were injured. An additional passenger, along with a crew member, died.
Carnival Ecstasy Fire: July 1998
Eight passengers and 14 crewmembers of the cruise ship Ecstasy were injured after a fire in the ship’s engineering room spread to other decks shortly after leaving the Port of Miami on a voyage to Cozumel. Mexico. Carnival Cruises first claimed the fire had started in the ship’s laundry room, but a U.S. Coast Guard investigation determined the blaze’s true point of origin. The Miami-based cruise line has never explained why it initially reported that the fire had started when workers were welding a piece of equipment in the ship’s laundry.
Leda Trader Fire: January 2014
On January 19, 2014, a fire broke out aboard the freighter Leda Trader, a 650-foot ship bound for Costa Rica from Port Everglades, FL, while it was near the port of Miami. The fire was detected by the Leda Trader’s crew and the ship was able to dock in Miami while still in flames. It took the efforts of 19 Miami-area fire units to extinguish the fire, which luckily did not detonate flammable materials near the docked ship. The cause of the fire has not been determined, but investigations into negligence are still ongoing.
The frequency of shipboard fires and other incidents involving ships that sail from Miami is of concern, considering that the Leda Trader incident occurred less than a year after the Carnival Triumph “poop cruise.” In that incident, a fire aboard the Miami-based company’s Triumph left the ship without power in the Gulf of Mexico for several days. Thousands of passengers and seamen endured hot temperatures and horrible sanitary conditions due to the ship’s condition.
Legal Resources in Miami
In Miami, as with other cities with a large maritime presence, maritime injuries can happen to passengers on cruise ships to seamen working long hours for a maritime-based company. Both types of accidents can result in benefits and compensation to the victims if the injuries are a result of negligence. If you’re a seaman whose suffered injuries, you have the legal right to seek damages from your employer under the Jones Act. Cruise and guests passengers are protected under general maritime law. For more information, see our articles Jones Act Lawyer and Maritime Rights and Compensation.