How Common Are Cruise Ship Accidents?

Cruise ships are beloved by passengers for the escape they offer from everyday life. These large floating luxury hotels take a lot of effort to operate. The largest cruise ship in operation, Symphony of the Seas, carries 2,200 crewmembers and 6,680 passengers. These ships are large, complicated, and have the ability to carry many people at once. So, safety must always receive prioritization within the industry. However, some reports have found that the cruise industry has a low standard for accident reporting. This means that accidents onboard these boats might be more common than many realize.

Cruise Ship Accident Rate

These massive boats are filled with activity options such as swimming, fine dining, dancing, and more. A variety of factors make any activity on a cruise ship potentially dangerous. First, the unpredictable motions of the ocean create an unstable environment for passengers. Cruise ships are like floating hotels and sit high above the water. If a passenger falls overboard, they can sustain injuries and, in the worst situations, die.

Other cruise ship dangers include the following:

  • Engine failure
  • Fires
  • Collisions
  • Running aground
  • Sinking
  • Spread of illness

Safety on Cruise Ships

According to Forbes, about 20 million people use a cruise ship annually. Forbes also reports that cruise ships have large crews and an extensive amount of equipment dedicated to safety. The Cruise Lines International Association reports that a single cruise ship will have at least 60 safety, environmental, and health inspections each year. Additionally, the U.S. Coast Guard frequently inspects ships docked at American ports.

Each cruise ship must have up-to-date navigational equipment and have a specific number of lifeboats, life preservers, rafts, and other safety features for each person on board. International ships are governed by the International Marine Organization (IMO) and the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) treaty. Each of these exists to help ensure that passengers return safely from their trips. However, this does not always happen.

How Dangerous Can Cruise Ships Be?

While having safety regulations for the cruise industry is important, accidents still happen on cruise ships regardless of rules. They typically happen as a result of a crew member or company’s failure to adhere to safety standards. In March of 2019, the MV Viking Sky was carrying 1,373 people when it encountered rough waters. This ship suffered a loss of oil pressure and low oil pressure warnings did not sound. The ship lost its engines while facing waves which were nearly 50 feet tall. Footage from inside the ship was dramatic, showing passengers trying to avoid furniture as the large boat was tossed side to side by waves.

Rescue boats couldn’t reach the ship because of the rough waters. Instead, rescue helicopters evacuated about 300 passengers before a towboat was finally able to bring the ship to Molde, Norway. An investigation is currently examining why the crew set sail despite storm warnings.

Cruise Ship Accidents

While the cruise ship industry claims that safety is important for it, it is difficult to find statistics regarding the number of accidents that occur on cruise ships each year. The U.S. Department of Transportation only produces quarterly data regarding criminal activity on cruise ships. According to Cruise Junkie, an independent website that compiles cruise accident information, at least 348 individuals have fallen overboard while on a cruise since 1995. This is an average of at least 17 people per year.

The Cruise Ship Junkie also states the following:

  • 56 passenger and cruise ships sank between 1979 and 2013
  • 131 passenger and cruise ships ran aground between 1972 and 2013

Are Cruise Accidents Underreported?

While cruise ships are considered one of the safest ways to travel, Reuters questions this reputation due to lack of any public databases about cruise line safety records. Research from Reuters found that inconsistent safety data and minimal reporting standards have made it nearly impossible for the public to access information about accidents.

Under resolutions created in 1999, cruise operators are only required to report incidents to “relevant parties involved and should preferably be made public.” Notably, these guidelines do not require the industry to reveal accident reports to the public. So, a cruise operator can keep information private in the hopes of preserving its image after an accident. Reuters notes that the IMO database, which should be a wealth of knowledge, is missing significant data about cruise ship accidents.

For example, Reuters reports that Carnival had a ship collide with a dock in Egypt in 2010. The incident killed three crew members and injured four passengers. The IMO does not list this accident in their database. Professor Ross Klein, the person behind Cruise Junkie, testified in a U.S. congressional hearing about cruise safety. He points out that the data he has collected is more than twice what the IMO shows for passenger ships.

“No one keeps track of it and it’s not really reported anywhere,” Klein commented to Reuters. “I scour the world media every morning and look for what’s been reported anywhere. I receive about 3,500 hits on my website every day, a lot of them are passengers and crew members and they send me information.”

If You’ve Sustained Injuries During a Cruise, You Are Not Alone

If you’ve sustained injuries while on a cruise, or if you've lost a loved one on a cruise, help is available. The team at Arnold & Itkin has extensive experience with maritime law and are ready to help those who are suffering after a cruise ship accident. Our team of lawyers has obtained billions of dollars to help rebuild the lives of our clients. We’re ready to help you recover starting today.

Call our cruise accident lawyers today at (888) 346-5024. Our team is ready to talk to you at no cost.

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