Carnival Triumph Passengers Have Fewer Rights Than Air Travelers (+Video)
Guarino, Mark, The Christian Science Monitor
Passengers aboard the stricken Carnival Triumph cruise ship do not have the same compensation rights afforded air travelers when similar emergencies strike.
The reason is that the cruising industry is not as strictly regulated as the airline industry, which is overseen by the US Department of Transportation. The cruising industry is under the Federal Maritime Commission, which mainly deals with safety and not consumer issues.
Moreover, leading industry operators like Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean incorporate their vessels in foreign countries like Liberia, Honduras, Panama, or the Bahamas, which allows them to avoid paying US federal taxes and following a long slate of regulations governing health, safety, and labor practices.
The result is that the industry largely regulates itself, critics say, which is not always favorable to the consumer. Fires, power outages, and vessels going adrift, are hazards passengers can face without reprisal.
Each of these issues requires urgent attention from both the industry and regulators, Ross Klein, a researcher at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. Johns, wrote in the Seattle Times last April. Because most accidents are avoidable related either to human error or to allowing ships out of port with unresolved mechanical issues there is a need for much greater oversight of the industry and stricter enforcement of safety standards.
Mr. Kleins research suggests that there have been 100 incidents worldwide in which ships have gone adrift or lost power since 2000. Since 1990, 79 have had onboard fires and 73 had had collisions.
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which represents 26 cruise lines, says on its website that its members are subject to a very comprehensive body of laws, regulations and policies established at the national and international levels.
The International Maritime Organization, a United Nations agency, mandates global standards. But those standards have more to do with safety inspections, such as insuring the height of passenger railings or number of life vests.
Past cruising incidents have prompted new CLIA safety rules. Last year saw a fire on the luxury cruise ship Azamara Quest outside Malaysia; the grounding of the Costa Concordia near Tuscany, which killed at least 25 people, with seven others missing and presumed dead; and a power outage on the Allegra in the Indian Ocean, which left 1,000 people stranded without power or water for about a week. …