According to Seattletimes.com, incidents such as fires, loss of power and others on board cruise ships are common place and often are not reported. In fact, many incidents are not reported at all because although many cruise lines operate from ports in the United States, their ships are registered in other countries, putting them outside U.S. jurisdiction.
Moreover, while these cruise lines are obligated to report crimes committed on board to the F.B.I., they only report incidents like fires, power loss or evacuations to the Coast Guard in the ports they operate from. In other words, there is no comprehensive database of all significant incidents that occur on board a cruise ship or a cruise line.
Yet, for the last couple of decades one person has tried to keep a somewhat comprehensive database about most of the incidents relevant to safety that take place on a cruise ship. Ross A. Klein, a Canadian/American Professor of Sociology at Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada has been a cruise enthusiast all his life, spending more than 300 hours at sea between 1992 and 2002. At some point he noted that there was a difference between his observations and the statements made by the cruise industry about environmental and labor issues, so he decided to start compiling data on all kind of cruise related issues.
Now Professor Klein is considered an authority on cruise ship safety and regularly testifies before Congress about the cruise line industry. His website, CruiseJunkie.com, is perhaps the most comprehensive database to date of fires, sunken ships, collisions and other events at sea. Professor Klein gathers the information for his website from news reports and other sources such as crew members and passengers.
However, there are some limits to Professor Klein's database: most of the information he receives is from events that happen at cruises in North America and Europe because his sources are English speakers and English-language news organizations. This makes it unlikely that he will receive much information from events happening in Asia, Africa and South America.
Typical Events Reported
Among the events typically reported by Professor Klein are:
- Adrift at Sea: Ships left adrift at sea by loss of power are common incidents. Professor Klein has logged dozens such events over the last two decades. Fortunately, most of these situations last only a few hours, thou there have been cases including the recent power loss of the "Triumph" from Carnival Cruise Lines that have gone on for days. Last February a fire in the engine room shut down the 14-year-old ship's power, propulsion, sewage and air-conditioning systems, leaving over 4,000 passengers adrift for days in the Gulf of Mexico with little food and raw sewage overflowing into the ship's walls and carpets...
- Evacuations: Although not frequent (according to Professor Klein's numbers they happen approximately three or four times a year) when they do happen, they are carried out in an safe way and rarely end with the passengers actually abandoning the ship.
- Fires on Board: Unfortunately, fires on board cruise ships are not infrequent. Professor Klein has recorded approximately 79 fires on cruises between 1990 and 2011. Until 2006 there were about three to four fires reported every year. From 2006 on there has been an increase in the number of reported fires to seven or eight a year, not only because the incidents themselves have increased (which they have because the industry itself has grown,) but due to social media, which makes it easier to report cases.
- Non-Functioning Toilets: The problem is more common than usually thought because cruise ships use a vacuum system that gets easily clogged when someone (especially in the upper decks) flushes down the toilet anything other than human waste or toilet paper. When this happens, all the pipes from the top to the bottom (including some cabins across) get clogged and toilets overflow.
- Running Aground: Fortunately, cruise ships run aground more often than they sink. Again, according to statistics gathered by Professor Klein, 99 cruise ships have run aground in the last 32 years. Of course, ships can run aground and sink too, as it happened to the "Costa Concordia" on February of 2012.
- Sinking: Sixteen ships have sunk in the last 32 years. Of course, the disaster of the "Costa Concordia" is still fresh in everyone's mind. Yet, the worst sinking incident during that period was that of the "Estonia", a cruise ship that sank in the Baltic Sea in 1994, killing more than 800 people.
Dangers to Cruise Ship Passengers
There are many different activities for passengers to enjoy while on a cruise. Unfortunately, some of these activities can be dangerous, especially when using faulty equipment. When planning how to spend their time at the various ports of call, passengers often decide to book excursions with local excursion companies instead of booking them through the ship. While the excursions booked with the ship are usually more expensive, they are also usually safer, primarily because the cruise line is supposed to make sure that their operators maintain higher safety standards, since the cruise line itself may end up facing liability for any injury suffered by a passenger that booked the excursion thru the ship.
Following are some of the activities enjoyed by passengers while on land:
- Scuba diving or snorkeling
- Jet skiing
- ZIP lining
- Excursions on bicycles, on motorbikes or on 4X4 vehicles like Jeeps, etc.