If you have ever been on a cruise, and the ship visited ports of call, you may have noticed that in many cases, the countries you visited did not have easy transport from the ship to land. In fact, in many cases, there may not have been any access at all, but rather you may have had to board smaller ships to take you to the mainland from the ship and back again.
This is quite common. Unfortunately, a recent tragedy is highlighting what a cruise line’s duty is with respect to these transports.
Accident Happens While Getting Off Ship
While aboard a 112-night world cruise, a passenger died when boarding a tender, the name of the smaller boats that take passengers from the cruise ship to the mainland. These boats are often needed because many ports of call don’t have the infrastructure to accommodate larger cruise ships. Sometimes, inclement weather may require that a cruise ship stay a distance away from shore.
Access to the tenders from the cruise ship is often by a ramp that extends from the ship to the tender. But transfer from ramp to tender can be tricky: both may be moving with the tide, and the alignment from one to the other is never perfect. In many cases, the cruise line will have employees there assisting customers in making the transport.
Unfortunately, it appears in this case as if the ramp gave way as the passenger was making the tender-ramp transfer. This may have been a result of bad weather that delayed the ship when it reached its destination. Despite the fact cruise line employees dove into the water to help her, the passenger died as a result.
Cruise Lines Can’t Blame Others
In many cases, the companies that operate the tenders are private companies that may have no relationship with the cruise ship company. Thus, many cruise lines may try to place blame for any accident on these companies.
But federal maritime law makes this difficult. The law places a heightened duty on cruise lines when it comes to providing transport on and off their vessel. That heightened duty prohibits the cruise line from blaming another company for negligence. In legal terms, this is known as a “non-delegable duty.”
It’s important to remember the distinction between transport on and off a vessel, and excursions. If you are injured on an excursion (the activities that are available at the port of call), the cruise line usually will be able to place the blame on the excursion company as an independent contractor of the cruise line. The question is whether the activity involved getting to and from the cruise ship. If it did, the heightened duty comes into play.
If you are injured while a passenger on a cruise ship, make sure you have attorneys that understand complex federal maritime laws, and the different legal standards that may apply depending on your accident. Talk to the Florida cruise ship attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. today for a free consultation about your cruise injury case.