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On our latest trip to Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia we met with crew members from all three countries who were sent home on medical grounds and were able to assist one of them in getting being flown back into the U.S. to undergo further medical treatment after one of the doctors selected by the cruise line in her home country performed an incorrect surgical procedure. We also interviewed many others experiencing problems getting prompt and adequate medical treatment as well as getting their medical costs reimbursed.
The last time that a catastrophic event of similar magnitude took place aboard a cruise ship, it occurred right in our back yard in the Port of Miami. On May 25, 2003, an explosion occurred in the boiler room aboard the SS Norway, a passenger cruise ship owned and operated by Norwegian Cruise Lines, claiming the lives of 11 Philippino seamen. Even though Norwegian Cruise Lines like Carnival Corporation, the parent company of Costa Cruise Lines, is head quartered right on the Don Shula Expressway, when the families of the deceased seaman tried to seek justice in the U.S. Courts, Norwegian Cruise Lines succeeded in slamming shut the court house door and convincing the judge that justice would be best be served by having these family members seek relief through arbitration in Manila where the recoveries for death are capped at a mere $65,000.00 which is less than what any cruise ship generates in one hour.
Costa Cruise Lines which has a substantial base of operations in Hollywood, Florida and calls Port Everglades and Port of Miami its home ports during the winter months, will no doubt as it has in the past, attempt to close the courthouse doors as well on any American passenger or foreign crew member who attempts to seek redress in the U.S. Federal Courts or the Courts of this State. Never mind that Miami calls itself the Cruise Line Capital of the World or that the “Big 3" Cruise Line companies-Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd and Norwegian Cruise Lines are all headquartered right here in Miami, Dade County, these “foreign corporations” unlike any other business operating in the United States, are able to avoid having a jury of their American peers -the same peers they so creatively market to spend on average of $3000.00 per cruise- decide whether they are responsible for the death of a fellow American passenger or hard working foreign crew member who they hired to work below U.S. minimum wages or any work safety regulation to the detriment of American workers. It is time for our legislature and our Courts re examine how these “foreign corporations” sailing “foreign flags” avoid the American system of justice and responsible business practices and put an end to this charade.
Julio J. Ayala, Esq
Crew Member & Maritime Advocacy Center
66 West Flagler Suite 200
Miami, Fl 33130