Last year, passengers on a Carnival Cruise ship were horrified as their vessel crashed into a pier at a harbor in Baltimore. After returning from a weeklong trip to Florida and the Bahamas, the cruise ship approached the pier while traveling too fast, and was unable to avoid a collision. Luckily, no one was injured, but the incident raised questions about cruise ship safety. After a lengthy investigation into the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board has finally released its report on the episode.
Incident like these are not uncommon. If you were injured on a Carnival Cruise ship or any other type of cruise ship, our South Florida cruise ship accident attorneys can help.
Investigators Blame Ship Captains for Cruise Ship Accident
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is the federal safety agency in charge of our nations various means of transportation. The agency can investigate collisions and accidents on the highways as well as ship and boating accidents, aviation accidents, and pipeline and railway accidents.
The NTSB investigated the Baltimore collision for nearly a year before releasing its final report. The report recounts the events of the collision, and lays the blame on human error.
According to the NTSB, the staff captain, who is second-in-command of the ship, made a mistake in judgment while controlling the vessel. While he recognized his mistake, he was unable to assume the controls of the ship and eventually crashed into the pier.
The collision occurred even though the cruise line was receiving assistance from ship pilots who knew the water around Baltimore. The NTSB noted that a harbor pilot from the Maryland Association of Pilots was on board the cruise ship to help its crew navigate the Chesapeake Bay and the Baltimore harbor. However, that pilot had transferred control of the ship to the staff captain for the final approach and docking. After the Maryland pilot told the cruise ship staff captain to slow down his approach into the harbor, he attempted to control the ship manually but was unable to do so. Eventually, the ship’s captain (the first-in-command), assumed control from the bridge of the ship and attempted to slow down its approach by applying the ship’s thrusters to slow down the approach to the pier. Unfortunately, these attempts were too little, too late.
The crash not only caused damage to vehicles on the pier and the pier itself, but also caused a significant amount of damage to the ship itself and to permanent fixtures on the pier. The gangway installed on the pier collapsed onto three vehicles, and the ship itself was damaged. In all, the accident caused approximately $2.1 million in damages.
The NTSB’s report stated that the agency was “unable to determine a cause other than possible human error,” and faulted the ship’s captain for maintaining insufficient oversight of the staff captain and the docking process.
Close Calls May Happen Frequently
Whenever a ship runs aground, it must be reported to the authorities. This usually means that these incidents make national headlines. While cruise ship accidents may not happen frequently, close calls may happen more than passengers would like. For instance, last week a Fort Lauderdale couple made headlines after recording a video of the massive 122,000-ton Celebrity Equinox drifting uncomfortably close to their home. The video showed the massive ship just feet from the couple’s back deck. The ship eventually stopped, applied their reverse thrusters, and made it back out into the channel without incident.
Cruise ships are so big that they cannot maneuver quickly. If they come too close to shore or too close to an obstacle, it may be impossible for the ships’ captains to avoid it in time. If the ship does run aground, passengers may face terrifying risks.
First, the sudden jolt or change in direction may throw passengers off balance, leading to an injury. This is especially if passengers are not warned that a collision may be imminent. Second, passengers and passersby may be injured when the boat crashes into an object on shore. While the cruise line was lucky that no one was injured in Baltimore, it is entirely possible that the crash could have harmed people nearby in the busy harbor. Finally, when a ship runs aground or crashes, there is always the possibility that the vessel could be damaged and left without power, water, or other necessities. Worse yet, the ship may sink.
When a person is injured on a cruise ship due to a captain’s error, he or she may be entitled to recover compensation for their injuries. At Gerson & Schwartz, our attorneys have decades of experience holding negligent cruise lines responsible for injuring their passengers. If you or a loved one were harmed on your vacation cruise, contact our experienced Miami cruise ship injury lawyers today by calling (877) 475-2905.