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Every year the United States Coast Guard reveals the top 10 cruise ship safety problems it finds as a result of its inspections aboard the cruises. In its Spring 2014 Cruise Ship Semi Annual Newsletter, the Coast Guard’s Cruise Ship National Center of Expertise reported over 350 deficiencies found in that year alone. The violations were found during both planned and surprise inspections on a number of cruise ships.

Unlike Annual inspections, Unannounced Coast Guard inspections are short and usually do not delay a ship’s scheduled departure–unless a condition is discovered that poses an imminent danger to the passengers or crew.

During an Unannounced inspection, Port State Control Officers walk through portions of the deck, galleys, and machinery spaces, but not an entire cruise ship. The inspections are meant to spot check for obvious and immediate cruise ship safety violations such as fire hazards; smoke detectors, and escape routes.

The Top 10 cruise ship dangers found by the United States Coast Guard. While the Coast Guard analyzed and revealed the data, they did not disclose the names of the ships nor the cruise lines where the deficiencies were found.

1. Broken Fire Screen Doors

The Coast Guard found 43 occurrences of broken fire screen doors that failed to close fully because of damaged door mechanisms; in some cases the fire doors simply did not fully close and latch. According to the report, all of these deficiencies were corrected on the spot by the cruise line, simply by making simple adjustments or repairs.

2. Leaking Life Boats

The Coast Guard found 35 occurrences of problems with lifeboats or associated safety equipment–including several lifeboat engines that would not start, damaged propellers, steering problems, expired food, and even leaks. Not all of these problems were corrected before the ship was permitted to depart. In some instances the lifeboat was taken out of service, or the onboard passenger count had to be reduced.

3. Blocked Passageways

The Coast Guard inspection revealed 28 occurrences of objects obstructing escape routes. They found locked emergency exit doors or doors blocked by advertisements or displays. Those dangerous situations were fixed on the spot by simply moving the obstructions to stowage areas.

4. Explosive Materials

The Coast Guard found 19 occurrences of combustible materials stored in spaces not suitable for flammable items. Those situations were addressed by moving the combustible materials to safer storage areas.

5. Defective Emergency Drills and Poor Crew Training

The Coast Guard inspections found 19 occurrences of deficient emergency drills performed by the lifeboat crews, as well as stairwell guides who were unfamiliar with their duties and failed to conduct the drills realistically. These deficiencies were corrected by giving the crew additional training and by redoing the drills.

6. Electrical Hazards

Coast Guard inspections found 14 occurrences of electrical hazards that included broken light fixtures, exposed wiring, and missing cover plates on electric panels. These problems were noted in different sections of the ship, and the deficiencies were corrected on the spot by ship’s engineering crew.

7. Cracked Ships

Inspectors found 14 occurrences where wastage had resulted in small holes in the
Ships’ structure and decks. These included small cracks in side-shell door hinges
and watertight door frames. On average it took the ships between 14 and 30 days to fix these problems.

8. Fuel Leaks

Inspectors found 13 occurrences of leaking oil and hydraulic leaks in machinery piping
internal to the ship. These leaks can cause both fires and slipping hazards. These deficiencies were reported corrected on the spot by the ship’s crew.

9. Wrong Garbage Cans

Inspectors found 9 occurrences of non-combustible garbage cans used for waste that could cause a fire. These deficiencies were usually cleared on the spot, but on some cruise lines the remedies took 14-30 days.

10. Broken Smoke Detectors

Inspectors found 7 instances of malfunctioning fire and smoke detection systems. Most typically these deficiencies involved individual detectors not working at all or not providing an indication at the control stations or manual call points. If a broken smoke detector was identified, equivalent arrangements were made until the system/components were brought back into full service.

Safety for cruise ship passengers is governed by a complex legal labyrinth that includes both Federal and International Law as well as the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which mandates the global standards for the operation of all cruise ships, no matter where they are flagged or what ports they visits.

I am a lawyer experienced in suing cruise lines such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian. Since 1991 I have passionately helped passengers obtain justice for their injuries caused by careless cruise ship companies.

Not every slip and fall onboard a cruise ship is a viable case. However, having an experienced maritime lawyer quickly investigate what happened, as well as how and why an accident occurred, is crucial. We provide free legal consultations to anyone who has been hurt on a cruise, anywhere in the world. We provide free telephone, email, and SKYPE consultations.