South Korean Ferry Disaster Shines Spotlight On Cruise Industry

Our Florida Cruise Ship Attorneys have dedicated their decades of experience to representing cruise ship passengers that are injured by the acts or omissions of the cruise ship industry and its employees. This past Tuesday, the New York Times published a short editorial discussing the questionable actions of South Korean ferry captain, Lee Jun-seok, in abandoning the ship while it sank with hundreds of passengers still aboard. The South Korean ferry, Sewol, turned on its side and sank last Wednesday, leaving two-thirds of the 476 passengers dead or missing. So far as we know, none of those aboard included American citizens.

Captain Lee and two-thirds of ferry’s crew survived, many of whom, including Lee himself, jumped ship shortly after it began to go down. According to reports, only one of the ferry’s 47 lifeboats was deployed, and the order to abandon ship wasn’t broadcast until 30 minutes after the ferry began to sink. One crew member claimed that an immediate evacuation was not conducted the ferry’s officers were attempting to stabilize the vessel. To date, Lee and six crew members of the Sewol have also been arrested, with others under investigation. South Korean law allows for an individual convicted of abandoning passengers at a time of crisis to be punished by life in prison.

The tragedy of the Sewol casts the spotlight back on the cruise industry, especially given the similarity of the allegations against Lee to those asserted against the captain of the Carnival cruise ship Costa Concordia in 2012. In one of the worst cruise disasters in history, the Costa Concordia crashed into the rocks off the coast of Giglio Island, Italy, resulting in the deaths of 32 individuals and injuries to dozens of others.

Carnival and ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, took heavy criticism for the botched evacuation efforts, which involved suffered from significant delays, allegations of bribery, and the captain’s early abandonment of the ship. Schettino is currently on trial in Italy for causing a shipwreck, manslaughter and abandoning ship.

As this blog recently discussed, although some cruise liners are now “volunteering” statistics regarding the safety of their vessels, those companies are unscrupulously artificially deflating crime numbers and diluting crime statistics through several underhanded tactics. According to an article published in the New York Times last year, cruise incidents are much more common than commonly perceived, citing the following statistics:

  • Between 1990 and 2011 there were approximately 79 fires onboard cruise ships and, until 2006, there were three or four fires each year.

  • Between 1972 and 2011, 98 cruise ships ran aground, an average of 2.5 ships each year.

  • Between 1980 and 2012, 16 cruise ships sunk. Although sinking of cruise ships is becoming more rare, such incidents can be devastating, as demonstrated by the catastrophic crash and sinking of the Costa Concordia in 2012, which resulted in the deaths of 32 individuals and injuries to dozens of others.

Cruise companies have a duty to provide a safe environment for their passengers and the failure to do so may entitle the injured party to compensation. Despite enhanced safety measures and new policies designed to ensure passenger safety, cruising can be a risky activity.

The Florida cruise ship accident and personal injury attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. are licensed to practice law in all of Florida’s state and federal courts and have been representing injury victims  for over four decades. If you or someone you know has been injured in a maritime or cruise ship accident, contact the Florida  injury attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz, PA today.

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