Cruise ship accident: Steps to take before filing a maritime claim

Maritime Articles

Steps to take before filing a maritime claim.Cruise ship accident or incident are two unwanted puns when traveling by sea, however knowing about maritime law, and having a Miami lawyer specialized in international maritime law is important.

  1. If you are injured from a maritime accident, do not work. Heavy work can worsen your injury.
  2. Report the cruise ship accident in writing to the ship’s security department and keep a copy of the report.
  3. Go to see the ship’s doctor immediately so that you can receive medical treatment and ask to be seen by a shore-side doctor in order to receive better medical treatment.
  4. Write down and keep the addresses, emails and telephone numbers of all the accident witnesses.
  5. Take pictures of the accident’s scene, even if it has changed.
  6. Call us for information about filing a maritime claim. We can answer all of your maritime law questions and advise you as to how to proceed with your cruise ship lawsuit.

Cruise ship accidents and injuries that crew members and seamen suffer

Maritime Articles

Crew members and seamen suffer cruise ship accident in every conceivable way aboard the ships or on land working for the ships.

The most frequent accidents on cruise ships and cargo ships are caused by:

frequent accidents on cruise ships and cargo ships

  1. Slip-and-falls, trip-and-falls, and falls
  2. Lifting, pushing, or pulling heavy objects once
  3. Lifting, pushing, or pulling heavy objects repeatedly
  4. Dangerous working environment on the ship
  5. Defective conditions on the ship
  6. Abusive labor policies on the ship
  7. Lack of equipment on the ship to work with
  8. An insufficient crew to perform the work on the ship

The most common injuries that crew members and seamen suffer.

Crew members and seamen suffer all kinds of injuries. The most common cargo and cruise ship injuries are:

  1. Back injuries
  2. Knee injuries
  3. Neck injuries
  4. Elbow injuries
  5. Arm injuries
  6. Hand injuries
  7. Foot injuries
  8. Leg injuries
  9. Head injuries
  10. Eye injuries
  11. Ear injuries
  12. Injuries to internal organs
  13. Broken bones
  14. Burns
  15. Chemical injuries

For more information, please see Steps You Should Take In Case Of a Maritime Accident .

Who is a Seaman or Crew Member under the Jones Act?

Maritime Articles

Who is a Seaman or Crew Member under the Jones Act?Unlike land workers, maritime workers cannot claim worker’s compensation benefits. Instead, an injured maritime worker or crew member must file a claim for damages under the Jones Act. The Jones Act gives a maritime worker, more specifically a "seaman" or crew member, the right to claim damages against his employer in the event of injury caused by the employer’s negligence or a ship owner’s failure to ensure the seaworthiness of a vessel.

Under the Jones Act, the plaintiff can claim loss of income, medical expenses, and money compensation due to an injury suffered aboard a vessel in the course of performing his duties or while in the service of the ship. However, the Jones Act only protects maritime workers that meet the legal definition of "seaman" or crew member.

The Jones Act does not define the status of a seaman or crew member. Rather, case law has sought to clarify the legal definition of a seaman or crew member. In two cases, Harbor Tug and Barge Company v. Papai (1997) and in Chandris v. Latsis (1995), The U.S. Supreme Court stated that to be classified as a seaman or crew member and be covered by the Jones Act, the plaintiff must meet two essential requirements:

In the event of an injury that you contact a maritime lawyer.

  1. His "duties must contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission."
  2. He “must have a connection to a vessel in navigation (or to an identifiable group of such vessels) that is substantial in terms of both its duration and its nature."

The first requirement is fairly self-explanatory.
Every vessel that takes to the water does so with a mission, whether recreational, scientific, or commercial. The mission might be to transport passengers from one port to another or it may be to transport cargo. Every seaman constantly aboard the vessel contributes to the fulfillment of the vessel’s mission. That is, everyone working aboard a vessel is contributing in some way to a vessel’s mission or they would not be aboard. The cook, the waiter, the cleaner, the navigator, the ship’s doctor, the engineer are all contributing in their own way to the fulfillment of the vessel’s mission.

It is with the second requirement that things start looking a little tricky, and this is why it is important that in the event of an injury that you contact a maritime lawyer. This is because while you might meet the first requirement, you may not necessarily meet the second requirement, and if you do not, you may not qualify to file a claim under the Jones Act.
The second requirement for defining a seaman or crew member has two parts: the plaintiff must work on a "vessel in navigation" and his contribution or work is "substantial in terms of both its duration and its nature".
To qualify as a seaman or crew member, a maritime worker must work most of his time on a vessel that is in navigation. And it is the "in navigation" bit that is important. For a vessel to meet this definition it must meet the following criteria:

  1. The vessel must operate on navigable waters, which are waters that the vessel can travel across to reach the United States or another state within the Union. Navigable waters could be an ocean, or a large river, or an inland lake.
  2. The vessel must be capable of moving under its own power.
  3. The vessel must not be permanently anchored to the sea floor.

This strict definition excludes oil rigs. It also excludes vessels sitting in ship breaking yards. While an oil rig appears to float, it can only move if it is towed. For most of the time, an oil rig is anchored to the sea floor and so does not meet the definition of a vessel in navigation.

When it comes to assessing the worker’s contribution to the operation of a particular vessel or a fleet of related vessels, a seaman or crew member is one who contributes at least 30 percent of his time aboard in the fulfillment of the vessel’s mission.
Consider this example: an administrative clerk who normally works in an office on land but occasionally catches rides on ships to and from ports suffers an injury while aboard. Is he entitled to file a Jones Act claim?

Well, it depends.
If he performs no work aboard the ship that contributes to the operation of the vessel, then no, he does not qualify as a seaman or crew member under the Jones Act. If this administrative clerk spends 40 percent of his time aboard a ship performing duties that contributed to the operation of the vessel and the balance of his work time in an office on land, then he could potentially qualify as a seaman or crew member because more than 30 percent of his work time is given over to duties aboard a vessel in navigation.

A court would look at a plaintiff’s career with the shipping company. If he spent more than 30 percent of his career aboard a particular vessel or fleet of vessels, he could qualify as a seaman and seek damages under the Jones Act.

Because the Jones Act does not explicitly define what a seaman or crew member is under the law, case law has been used to give the term "seaman" a legal definition. Because the legal definition is not exactly cut and dry and due to the variety of vessels in operation today, as well as the slew of maritime-related jobs that exist, it is important that a maritime worker seek legal counsel in the event of an injury to determine if he qualifies as a seaman or crew member under the Jones Act before filing a claim.

The Maritime Labor Convention Seeks to Bolster Abandoned Seafarers’ Rights

Maritime Articles

In April 2014, the Maritime Labor Convention (MLC 2006) committee meets in Geneva, Switzerland, at the headquarters of the International Labor Organization (ILO) to discuss changes to the landmark MLC 2006 code. The goal is to clarify the liability of ship owners with regard to maritime workers’ claims related to maritime injury and death, as well as clarify what constitutes the abandonment of seafarers.

An United Nations Maritime Review about the shipping industry According to the 2013 United Nations Maritime Review, 80 percent of global trade by volume is conducted by sea. Shipping is the backbone of the global economy, yet until 2006, no international convention existed to protect maritime workers against threats like seafarer abandonment.

MLC 2006 features a global standard that defines seafarer abandonment as a ship owner who:

  • fails to cover the costs of repatriating a seafarer
  • leaves the seafarer without any maintenance or support
  • severs all ties with the seafarer, including failure to pay contracted wages for two months

The abandonment can cause maritime workers and their families severe hardship. From 2001 to 2010, ship owners abandoned 136 ships, stranding 1,612 seafarers. At the height of the Great Recession in 2009, ship companies abandoned 57 ships, leaving 647 stranded.
When ship owners walk away from their crews, leaving them stranded in foreign ports with no means of getting home or worse, at sea with dwindling fuel supplies and stocks of food and water, it is not only the maritime workers that suffer, but also the families that these maritime workers support.

Shipping companies facing bankruptcy or the threat of creditors seizing their vessels may simply cut all ties with their vessels, including ending all contact with the crews. They effectively leave these abandoned crews up to their own devices. In some instances a port authority may seize a vessel because the vessel is unseaworthy. If the ship owner refuses to pay for repairs, the crew members find themselves stuck in a foreign port, far from home.

In a paper co-authored by Rear Admiral Charles Michel, former Chief of the US Coast Guard Office of Maritime and International Law, and Lieutenant Amber Ward, Staff Attorney at the Operations Law Group of the US Coast Guard Office of Maritime and International Law, the authors summed up the terrible situation in which an abandoned seafarer finds himself in:
At best, abandoned seafarers are often subject to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and at worst, they may find themselves in life-threatening conditions with no means of sustenance. […] It should be unacceptable in this modern age that crew members continue to be abandoned in foreign ports without food or water, the financial resources to get home, or their earned wages.”

While, 56 ILO Member States have ratified MLC 2006, covering 80 percent of the world’s shipping and some 1 million seafarers, there are countries that have not yet signed up to MLC 2006, including seafaring nations from Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Maritime workers aboard ships sailing under the flags of countries that have not ratified MLC 2006 do not enjoy the same protections as those crews that do.

The International Labor Organization has maintained a database of cases of seafarer abandonment since 2009.  However, the wrangling over what constitutes abandonment means that the database does not record all instances of seafarer abandonment, making it ineffective at identifying and tracking disreputable shipping companies.
This is why the meeting of the MLC committee in April is so important. Its aim is to bolster the rights of abandoned maritime workers by seeking to broaden and clarify the definition of seafarer abandonment. The hope is to finally bring an end to the inhumane practice of seafarer abandonment.

Source: https://www.marineinsight.com/shipping-news/time-come-change-rules-protect-seafarers-aandonment

Two Recent Deaths Puts Captain Phillips Ship Back in the Headlines

Maritime Articles

The continuing threat of piracy in the Indian Ocean has prompted a global shipping company, The Maersk Group, to place armed security teams on its ships in order to repel potential assaults by Somali pirates. This includes the Maersk Alabama, a container ship made famous by the Oscar nominated film, Captain Phillips, which chronicled events surrounding the pirate hijacking of the Maersk Alabama off the East African coast in 2009.

The Maersk Alabama was back in the headlines in February, when two members of the ship’s security detail were found dead on board while the ship was berthed in Port Victoria, the capital of The Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean. The two American citizens, Jeffrey Reynolds and Mark Kennedy, worked for Trident CMG, a United States based global security and crisis management firm. Both men were former Navy SEALs.

Following the discovery of the two men’s bodies and in response to the police investigation, a senior director for Maersk, Kevin N. Speers stated that the deaths of the Trident CMG security officers were "not related to vessel operations or their duties as security personnel." Speers said that Maersk contracted with Trident CMG to safeguard crews and vessels travelling through "persistently high risk areas," like the waters off the east coast of Africa.

The 2013 film Captain Phillips, starred Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips, the American captain at the helm of the Maersk Alabama when she was boarded by Somali pirates in April 2009. The incident marked the first time since the 19th Century that a maritime vessel sailing under the United States flag fell victim to an act of piracy. However, the pirates’ attempt at taking the 500 feet Maersk Alabama failed.

Members of the crew fought back resulting in the pirates abandoning the hijacking and escaping in a boat while taking Captain Phillips with them as a hostage. After three days as a hostage, Captain Phillips was eventually rescued by United States Navy SEALs. The ring leader, an 18 year old Somali, was taken into custody and tried in the United States. He was eventually found guilty and is currently serving a 33 year prison sentence.

Somalia is a failed state, a lawless country, and today most of the vessels seized by pirates worldwide are taken by Somali pirates. In 2010 alone, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), of the 53 ship incidents related to piracy, 39 of the vessels were hijacked off the Somali coast. The shipping lanes through the western Indian Ocean are amongst the most trafficked in the world.

While Captain Phillips came out of the 2009 incident a hero, crew members went on to file a multimillion dollar lawsuit against Maersk and against Waterman Steamship Corp., claiming damages for emotional and physical injuries sustained during the attempted hijacking. The claimants argued that Captain Phillips and the shipping companies named in the lawsuit ignored a maritime warning to stay at least 600 miles off the coast of Somalia to avoid the pirates’ well reported hunting waters.

Since the incident in 2009, security teams placed on the Maersk Alabama have repelled two more assaults by Somali pirates. The three attempted hijackings show the need to have adequate security aboard all ships to mitigate the risks of ship hijacking and hostage taking incidents in pirate infested waters.

As for the two Trident CMG security personnel found dead on board the Maersk Alabama, evidence points to a drug overdose. Maersk believes that this is an isolated event and its spokesman, Kevin N. Speers, says that Trident CMG is stepping up the frequency of drugs screening for its security personnel.

Sources: cnn.com/2014/02/21/world/asia/seychelles-maersk-deaths,
cbsnews.com/news/police-deny-suggesting-navy-seals-died-from-overdose-on-maersk-alabama,
marineinsight.com/shipping-news/two-americans-found-dead-maersk-alabama-captain-phillips-ship,
cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/03/09/somalia.pirates.maersk/index.html

Cruise ship safety, contagious diseases, and the Norovirus

Maritime Articles

In the event of an injury that you contact a maritime lawyer. In early 2014, an extremely contagious virus spread among the crew and guests of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. Those infected with the virus became violently ill with diarrhea, vomiting, and other symptoms. So devastating was the onset of the virus that the ship had to return to its port of origin, carrying over 600 ill passengers and crew members.

Cruise ship safety, contagious diseases, and the Norovirus.Following this disaster, experts theorized that the outbreak may have been caused by the norovirus. This virus is known for its quick spread and disgusting symptoms, which include intestinal inflammation, fever, diarrhea, cramping, and violent vomiting. Since the norovirus cannot be killed by standard household cleaning fluids, hand gels, or disinfectants, powerful chemicals are necessary to eradicate the virus once it has a foothold. The virus can live on hard surfaces for up to 12 hours, and it lasts nearly two weeks on soft fabric surfaces. Untreated standing water can harbor the norovirus for many months. As if its resilience was not enough, the norovirus is incredibly contagious. A tiny drop of vomit from one sick individual can infect over 100,000 people.

Royal Caribbean was not the only cruise line recently affected by an unsavory incident. One Carnival cruise ship suffered electrical issues, resulting in loss of power to the ship. Passengers and crew struggled with a lack of air conditioning and plumbing, leading to illness and deplorable conditions on board.

A credible cruise line should take immediate steps to address a major viral outbreak or power failure such as those reported in these two cruise ship incidents. The company should offer compensation to crew and passengers alike, to help alleviate some of the trauma from the voyage. Royal Caribbean, for instance, offered their passengers a refund of half their cruise cost, along with a credit of 50% off a future cruise. In addition, they conducted multiple barrier sanitizations of the ship, attempting to kill off any remaining vestiges of the virus.

Unfortunately, no one can tell for certain whether the virus originated on the ship as a result of unsanitary practices. In fact, it is far more likely that a passenger or crew member brought it aboard and infected others. The norovirus infects about 20 million Americans every year.  Therefore, it is sufficiently widespread for such an infection scenario to be possible.

To keep cruise ship incidents like this from occurring, crew members, passengers, and cruise companies must take a variety of precautions. Anyone with symptoms of stomach illness, whether they are paying customers or part of the crew, should refrain from boarding the ship. If the illness starts while the cruise is in progress, the affected individual should go to a medical center immediately. Medical professionals who suspect a contagious virus should recommend a limited quarantine for the sick person to prevent the illness from spreading to others.

Only through regular cleaning, routine sanitization, and careful inspection can a cruise company hope to minimize the impact of infection and sickness aboard its ships. The investment in cleanliness is worthwhile because it can save a company millions of dollars in customer fares.

If a cruise company upholds the proper standards of cleanliness and safety and passes all inspections by the Center for Disease Control, the company is most likely not at fault for the spread of a virus such as the norovirus. In fact, lawyers who process claims for personal injuries do not always take on claims related to norovirus outbreaks, since it is difficult to prove that the cruise line did anything to facilitate the problem. Other types of personal injuries claims against cruise lines are far more likely to succeed in court.

When stories of virus outbreaks on cruise ships surface, customers start to wonder if the luxury of the trip is worth the risk. They begin searching for cruise lines with the lowest recorded number of outbreaks. For instance, a cruise company like Royal Caribbean is actually far more appealing than the Princess Cruises line. From 2011-2013, nine different Princess Cruises ships endured norovirus outbreaks, compared to the Royal Caribbean’s four outbreaks.

Another factor that prospective crew members or passengers can look at is the number of inspections that a company’s ships have passed or failed. Some cruise lines have a reputation for passing a significant percentage of their inspections with a perfect score. Working for these companies or booking a cruise with them does not eliminate the possibility of a viral outbreak, but it can lessen the potential risk. A few of the top cruise lines known for their cleanliness are Costa, Norwegian, Oceania, and Disney. In contrast, stand ships like the Amadea of Phoenix Reissen cruises. This particular vessel failed its inspection miserably. The report revealed dirt, bugs, clogged drains, and multiple other issues.

Before you go to work on a specific cruise ship or book a cruise with a particular line, find out that cruise line’s record for inspections. Do a little digging to uncover any personal injuries that others have suffered aboard a cruise company’s ships. In addition, check out the results of sanitation inspections for some of the company’s vessels. Remember that a cruise company should keep its ships well supplied with state-of-the-art water filtration and disinfection systems. The cruise line must also have adequate medical centers that document every illness. In the galley and dining areas, cleanliness is paramount. The entire food preparation and food service area should be pristine, with all the high-quality equipment necessary to keep surfaces clean and to preserve food from contamination.

Cruise ship incidents such as the Royal Caribbean outbreak may make customers think twice about booking a cruise. In addition, these situations often cause concern among crew members who work aboard cruise vessels. Repeated personal injuries and illnesses aboard an employer’s cruise ship should inspire crew members to defend their right to a safe, sanitary workplace. If you are concerned about the cruise ship environment in which you work or relax, consult with a reputable maritime injury lawyer to see what legal recourse you may have.

Sources: marketwatch.com/story/6-most-hygienic-cruise-lines-2014-01-30, cdc.gov/nceh/vsp/surv/gilist.htm

Scrapping of Famous “Love Boat” Cruise Ship Kills 2 and Injures 8

Maritime Articles

Work on the famous “Love Boat” Cruise Ship kills 2 and injures 8 The deaths of two maritime workers at a ship scrapping yard in Izmir, Turkey in August made headlines around the world, not because it was yet another deadly incident in the notoriously dangerous ship demolition industry but because of the history of the cruise ship the men were scrapping.

Turkish authorities have launched an investigation into the incident in the flooded engine room of the MS Pacific, a leisure liner made famous for its role as the titular "Love Boat" in the hit ABC TV series that aired from 1977 to 1986.

Small by today’s standards at just 554 feet in length, the vessel, originally called the Pacific Princess was sold to a Spanish company in 2002, and renamed the MS Pacific.

The iconic leisure cruise liner was set for a refit in the Italian port of Genoa in 2008 but it was seized by Italian authorities after its Spanish owners abandoned the vessel. The MS Pacific was then sold for scrap in 2012 and towed to Turkey.

It was during its Mediterranean crossing to Izmir, Turkey, that the MS Pacific suffered severe flooding due to high seas. Before the Izmir Ship Recycling Co. could begin dismantling the cruise ship for scrap, diesel-powered pumping equipment was brought in to pump water out of the vessel’s flooded engine room.

The probe into the accident may look at why ten men happened to be in an enclosed engine room while exhaust-spewing pumping equipment was in operation. All ten men were rushed to a hospital suffering from exhaust inhalation. Eight men recovered, while two men, Doğan Balcı (37) and Davut Özdemir (40), died.

The investigation may also query an allegation made by relatives of one of the deceased men that he did not receive proper medical treatment for alleged Freon gas exposure two days prior and that this incident played a role in the man’s death.

A Turkish newspaper, Today’s Zaman, quotes a relative of Balcı: "Doğan came over to our house on the second day of Eid and said he had been exposed to poison at work along with three others. However, they were given a yogurt drink by their employer instead of being taken to a hospital."

Freon gas is a refrigerant used in refrigerators and air conditioning systems. Inhalation can impair the proper functioning of the heart and lungs. If both men were exposed to Freon, this earlier incident could explain why out of the ten men that suffered exhaust inhalation in the flooded engine room, it was these two men that died.

Turkey scraps about 400 vessels a year, and is responsible for 23 percent of worldwide maritime demolition activity. The ship demolition business is infamous for lax health and safety procedures that cost the lives of scores of workers every year and injures many more.

Sources:
https://www.shipbreakingbd.info/Worker%20Rights%20Violation.html
https://www.todayszaman.com/news-323331-freon-kills-two-workers-in-izmir-another-dies-in-fire.html.

Luxury Cruise Ship Fails Health Inspection

Maritime Articles

A game of hide and seek aboard one of the most luxurious cruise ships afloat resulted in a failing grade from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) when a surprise inspection was conducted. This summer, in Skagway, Alaska, the cruise ship Silver Shadow, which had previously scored in the highest range of grades, was repeatedly cited for using an “organized effort” to remove 15 trolleys of food from the ship’s galley to individual crew cabins to "avoid inspection." This surprise inspection occurred because concerned crew members sent photographs to the CDC showing meat in sinks and trays of food in the hallways outside the cabins.

The Silver Shadow received a failing grade of 82.  Anything less than an 84 is considered “unsatisfactory“, according to the CDC website.
Before the release of the score, a spokeswoman for Silversea Cruises, Ltd, e-mailed CNN stating that the firm was “deeply disappointed” with the inspection.  Silversea Cruises, owner of the Silver Shadow, sells itself in its advertisements as emphasizing luxury and a “world class culinary experience.”  Most large cruise ships carry from 2,000 to 5,000 passengers, but Silversea Cruises focuses on a more intimate experience carrying only around 300.  This luxury and “world class” experience is not cheap. Passengers are charged an average of $5,000 per week to sail on their ships.

During the inspection, the crew members aboard the Silver Shadow claim their superiors ordered them to sleep with food in their cabins.  Adriano Colonna, a pastry chef, hired on a short term contract, said salami, blue cheese, as well as other food items, were kept unrefrigerated in crew cabins night after night to avoid health inspections. According to the CDC’s final report, bleach was poured over the discarded food to prevent it from being used after the inspection. A promise was made to correct these actions, but no fine was issued and the ship was allowed to continue on its scheduled trip along Alaska’s inside passage to Juneau.

The CDC has no real authority to correct these issues.  The CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program employs inspectors from the U.S Public Health Service and all it can truly do is ask the cruise line to correct the problems.  "The CDC requires all ships to submit corrective action statements for deficiencies," the program states on its website. "The CDC does not verify that the deficiencies have been corrected until after conducting the next vessel inspection."

This failed inspection aboard the Silver Shadow is not an anomaly.  This year alone, six cruise ships have met failing grades upon inspection from the CDC.  Despite cruise ships being the subject of many negative headlines in the past few years, recent surveys have shown that overall customer satisfaction remains high with the eight major cruise lines. (J.D. Power and Associates) Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International and Holland America Line came in first, second and third, respectively, in customer satisfaction, while Carnival ranked last. Silversea Cruises was not included in the survey which measures seven factors that can affect a passenger’s enjoyment and experience: condition of the room, food, service, the efficiency of boarding and departing the ship, entertainment, cost and excursions.

The question remains:
Is the food aboard cruise ships safe?

Royal Caribbean Cruises Mistreats Elderly Passengers

Maritime Articles

Royal Caribbean finds itself in a very uncomfortable position and is receiving a lot of negative publicity in the headlines news worldwide.  Most people do not think lightening can strike in the same spot twice, but sadly for an elderly couple, it did.  Their sad story has caught the attention of the American Embassy in Turkey and U.S. Senators.

Jill and Dodge Melkonian, 89, were on a cruise ship last April when a fire ignited. To compensate them for their troubles, Royal Caribbean offered them a full refund and a free trip, which they took a few months later.

accident aboard the cruise shipJill and Dodge are not novice travelers. They have visited nearly 200 countries and have been on more than 30 cruises.  While aboard the Royal Caribbean’s Azamara Journey (the trip offered to them as a consolation for the previous cruise that resulted in a fire), Dodge Melkonian fell and broke his hip. “I had just gotten to sleep, and I heard him scream and my husband takes a lot of pain — he doesn’t even use a needle for dental work — so I knew he was in trouble,” recalled Jill Melkonian.

Dodge was treated promptly for his accident aboard the cruise ship.  However, his injury was too serious and he required more specialized medical care.  The Melkonians had bought medical traveler’s insurance through Royal Caribbean and were near a small town, Bartin, on the coast of Turkey.  Dodge and Jill were taken to the local hospital there, but Jill insists they were not as lucky as they thought. 

Jill said “No one spoke English, the conditions were very poor and I wasn’t even able to explain in the hospital that he needed something for his pain.” Jill also stated that, “The hospital was so dirty that I was worried about infections, and because of strict cultural customs, no women were allowed inside.”

As she watched her spouse in increasing pain in a foreign country, Jill felt despondent.  She called her travel agency, Elite Travel.  "Nobody was there physically with them from Royal Caribbean. They basically left them, and that was it,” said Tammy Levent, owner of Elite Travel. 

A local tour guide by the name of Okan Kutlu was called and essentially rescued Dodge Melkonian and his wife Jill. He donated his very own blood and coordinated a transfer for Dodge to a much larger hospital in Istanbul nearly six hours away.

Royal Caribbean was never reached for an interview regarding the Melkonians but did release a statement:
"We helped arrange transportation via ambulance to the closest area hospital. Once ashore, we worked closely with the travel medical insurance company because they have the expertise to deal with local authorities and medical facilities. … One of our care team specialists is still in contact with them today."

Many disagree that this was enough including Sen. Bill Nelson, Democrat for Florida, "What we’ve communicated to the cruise line is that we expect you to make them financially whole," he said. "It is not right to treat an elderly couple like this."

Jill says this will not keep them from cruising in the future but they will be more knowledgeable about their medical travel insurance coverage and where it comes from. 

CBS reported on this case and News travel editor Peter Greenberg explained, "In this particular case, they bought the medical insurance from the cruise company — Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines — and they do provide basic care, and if you look at what happened here, they performed to the letter of the language in that particular policy. They stabilized the patient; they got him off the ship and took him to the nearest medical facility. That was not enough, and that is the key issue here.  Should you buy the medical insurance from the cruise company? I advise that you do not.  You want to go to a third-party medical insurance company that does not have the same language in its policy as the cruise lines have in theirs."

His advice to travelers like the Malkonians is to purchase a medical travel insurance plan from a third-party and through a travel agent. 

Key West & Venice Band Together To Oppose Large Cruise Ships

Maritime Articles

In an effort to preserve the beauty and delicate ecosystem of their environment, concerned citizens in Key West, Florida, and Venice, Italy have come together to ban super sized cruise ships from visiting and docking at their ports.

The Comitato No Grandi Navi (the "Committee for no big ships") of Venice and the Key West Committee for Responsible Tourism are joined in their opposition to large cruise ships, which they say have disturbed the area’s natural ecosystem and can disrupt the visitor experience.

Both organizations issued a joint statement, saying that "The scale of the vessels far exceeds anything that these historic ports were built to accommodate and their sheer size overwhelms the historic setting, diminishing the visual appeal and sense of place."

"They (Comitato No Grandi Navi) are experiencing the same things we are", noted Jolly Benson, member of the Key West Committee for Responsible Tourism. "We reached out to them and they agreed to form an alliance with us. Both cities are seeing their culture and way of life diminished and both are seeing the very real effects these larger ships have on our sensitive ecosystems".

The issue is urgent for concerned residents, since Key West voters will be voting whether the Army Corps of Engineers can study the possibility of dredging the island’s main ship channel to open it up for super sized cruise ships. Dredging is currently illegal in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Key West could be granted a permit to dredge, as long as the Army Corps of Engineers publishes a favorable study that claims minimal impact. However, Sanctuary superintendent Sean Morton pointed out that there is no permit category that allows dredging solely for economic purposes.

Eric Bush, chief of the Planning and Policy for the Corps of Engineers Jacksonville office, has stated that his agency will take its cue from the resource agencies like the Marine Sanctuary. If the sanctuary disapproves of the proposed study, the agency will not go ahead with seeking funding for the dredging study.

Supporters of the ballot initiative include Jennifer Hulse, one of the key attorneys who helped create the PAC (political action committee) for the Greater Key West Chamber of Commerce. According to Hulse, the study is necessary because Key West has seen its cruise ship traffic shrink by almost 30% since 2003 -from 1 million passengers annually to around 700,000 in recent years-. "The reason for that is the restrictions on the channel", Hulse explained. "This (economically) affects every aspect of our community".

In the next month, Key West residents will have to determine just how much cruise ship business matters to their communities’ economic health. Still, it’s important to remember that conducting a study does not mean that dredging would be an inevitability. In one month, Key West voters can vote for their economic interests, or they can choose to preserve the reason tourists come to their island in the first place.