|Hit the law books|
While NAUTICAL LOG does have a Diploma in Law and taught Maritime Law to Masters and Officers he is by no stretch of the imagination an Attorney. So this is not "Legal Advice". It is a summary of points which apply in all ships but especially apply to cruise ships sailing from United States Ports with mostly United States citizens as passengers or as the cruise lines like to call them "guests". Lets us list some points and perhaps a short explanation:
- A cruise ship may look and feel like a floating resort, which is the current intent of cruise lines but it is not it is a ship therefore sea transportation.
- "Guests" is a term used by hotel people who seem to operate cruise ships these days but has no legal standing in sea transportation you are passengers under maritime law.
- Passengers/guests are covered by that small print on the back of the ticket. Believe me it covers everything to the cruise line's advantage.
- The ship, please NOT boat, is registered in a particular country and rarely in the United States. That has been tried with mostly disastrous results particularly in the State of Hawai'i.
- The country of registry is called the Flag State and its national flag is flown on the stern/back of the ship with a Port name of the Flag State.
- In the case of MS Cardinal Triumph this was The Commonwealth of the Bahamas and Nassau.
- Once you cross the gangway from the cruise terminal and step on to the ship you are legally in that country and subject to all its laws. Even if the ship is tied to the terminal in a United States Port - surprised?
- Many United States passengers think that because they are "Americans" the United States laws apply to them everywhere - not so - the Flag State laws apply regardless of the passengers and indeed the ships crews nationality.
- For example NAUTICAL LOG sailing as an Officer in cruise ships had to have five (5) sets of Maritime Officers Papers, which included a Master Mariners Certificate of Competency from The Commonwealth of the Bahamas, to cover the different Flag States of the vessels sailed in and my Nationality Passport.
So are you getting the picture that once you having boarded the cruise ship you are in a foreign country? Now in the case of the MS Carnival Triumph the vessel and passengers in a floating section of that foreign country were on the High Seas off the coast of Mexico and were in International Waters when the ER fire occurred possibly from a fuel leak.
Basically this means that International Maritime Law and The Commonwealth of the Bahamas Maritime Law applied. Now doubt, due to the most comprehensive coverage by CNN of a maritime event that NAUTICAL LOG has ever seen, you will have heard, repeated over and over again, that the Bahamas Maritime Safety Agency has responsibility to investigate the cause of the reported Engine Room (ER), the resulting total loss of power with the backup system apparently unable to handle the vessel's power requirements. The United States Government will sit in on this Inquiry and Investigation through the United States Coast Guard (USCG) which has the U.S. responsibility as the U.S. Maritime Safety Authority for inspecting both foreign Flag State vessels and U.S. flag vessels operating from U.S. Ports and is known as the Port State. In addition the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will be represented and observing due to its mission as the Federal overall body for land, sea and air safety.
Still thinking of suing? After the fire and the maritime event that following the Carnival Corporation announced that it would reimburse all the passengers on board MS Carnival Triumph. To do this they cancelled the cruise fare charges, cancelled charges for all on board purchases, offered a future cruise at special rates and very important, offered each person $500 cash compensation. Now NAUTICAL LOG expects that however you received that "$500 cash" you had to sign a receipt for it. The signing of that receipt one would think constitutes a waiver and therefore again one would think the acceptance of all this compensation negates further applications for additional compensation.
Of course you have every right to file suit but again on several TV programmes that Miami, FL based maritime lawyer, whom we mentioned at the beginning, suggested filing suit was most likely a waste of time. After all in which country and court would one file such a suit? For a legal opinion see Cruise Law News in MY BLOG LIST in the righthand column.
In closing NAUTICAL LOG sailed for 60 years, the last 25 years in cruise ships of several lines (not Carnival ships!!) and never had a bad cruise - pretty lucky huh!