'Listing' of Cruise Ship Crown Princess Not Isolated - Amtrak Train Crash in Washington State

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July 21, 2006


Just got back from cruise on Carnival Celebrations out of Jacksonville, Florida to Key West/Nassau and return. On return leg at approx 4:15am on Wed. Feb. 28, the ship listed badly enough that articles slid off all flat surfaces and the bed slid against the outside wall. The list lasted roughly 10 to 15 minutes (it was hard to tell due to the concern of sinking and not what time it was) and passengers on lower levels reported that their windows were under water.

No announcements were made nor reasons given for the list.

It was our first and last cruise.

But earlier this year, 27 passengers were hurt on a Princess Cruises ship after a sudden list caused by the captain. In another case, a computer glitch on the Carnival Legend last July caused the ship to list 14 degrees to the side, an angle similar to the list on the Crown Princess. There were minor injuries, Miami-based Carnival Corp. said.

One reason for uncertainty about the number of such incidents is that no one keeps an official count of them. Cruise lines aren't required to report them, said Coast Guard spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson, except if they cause serious injuries or property damage.

Ships are designed to roll in the waves, but when a tilt endures for more than five or 10 seconds it becomes a list. It signifies that the ship is moving forward with the deck at a stable angle, rather than level.

When it happens abruptly, things go flying. That occurred July 13, 2005, on the 2,680-passenger Carnival Legend as it left Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands.

In the words of a passenger who left an account on an Internet message board, a hard left turn combined with a strong wind pushed the ship into a 14-degree list. "[It] felt like the ship was going to turn over; pool water and debris streamed past our window.

"Crew members said they had never experienced a list of that degree," said the account, on the Web site cruisejunkie .com, which is run by a Canadian professor who has written two books about cruising.

In a statement issued last July, Carnival blamed a computer malfunction that affected the propulsion system.

That is also suspected as the cause of the Crown Princess accident, although no firm conclusion has been made. Steering, including the autopilot on the bridge, is one subject of the investigation under way by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Jay Caulk, a Fort Lauderdale travel agent who has worked at several cruise lines, said autopilots have occasionally malfunctioned since they were introduced in the late 1970s. They have come to govern more steering functions as they have evolved.

In 2001, the Norwegian Sky listed dramatically off Alaska when the autopilot failed, injuring 78 passengers. The Coast Guard ordered the ship to sail without its autopilot engaged until the cause of the problem was found.

Although keeping an officer at the ship's controls would seem the best policy, human error also causes listing incidents. In February, a passenger on the Grand Princess had a heart attack and the captain decided to return to Galveston, Texas.

He turned hard at cruising speed. "It was a sharper turn than should have been undertaken," said Princess spokeswoman Julie Benson. Glassware, ornaments and TV sets went airborne, according an account in the Galveston County Daily News.

Twenty-seven passengers and 10 crew were treated for sprains, cuts and bruises, Benson said. Bad weather can also lead a ship to roll violently. Last October, while offshore waiting the passage of Hurricane Wilma, the Carnival ship Fascination tipped severely. According to a passenger account several people were injured.

Jennifer De La Cruz, a Carnival spokeswoman, said managers recall a weather incident on Fascination in the later part of last year, but do not recall any injuries.

International safety rules require crews to be able to deploy lifeboats when ships are listing up to 20 degrees. Unless the ship has a lot of water inside, it is unlikely to list further.

One question about the this week's Crown Princess mishap is why it caused so many more injuries than other recent listing incidents.

Ron Butcher, a former Coast Guard inspector who has recently published a book on cruise passenger safety, said the cause of the list may be different than other incidents, such as a mistake in keeping the ballast in the ship's holding tanks in proper alignment.

Butcher also said he wonders whether investigators may conclude the list on the ship was more acute than is currently thought.

"A 15-degree list, while serious, I don't see as consistent with the amount of damage that occurred," Butcher said.

The number of people reported to have been injured in an accident aboard the Crown Princess more than doubled Wednesday, underscoring the severity of the mishap.

Princess Cruises, owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp., said 240 people sustained injuries such as abrasions, bruises and fractures. Of those, 94 were taken to hospitals near Cape Canaveral for treatment and evaluation. All but five have been released, and even they were expected to fully recover, Princess said.


After departure from Port Canaveral at approximately 3:25 pm eastern time today, Crown Princess experienced an unexpected list to the starboard side as she began sailing north towards her final port of New York.

Initial reports are that a number of passengers did sustain serious injuries. There are also numerous reports of injuries such as cuts, bruises and fractures. We are currently assessing the full extent of passenger injuries, and have returned the ship to Port Canaveral to transfer the more seriously affected passengers to a medical facility ashore.

We deeply regret this incident, and are doing everything we can to make our passengers as comfortable as possible under these difficult circumstances.

We are also investigating the cause of the ship's sudden list, which is unknown at this time. We can confirm that the watertight integrity of the ship has not been compromised, and it is safe for passengers to remain onboard while the ship is alongside in Port Canaveral.

The cruise will be terminated in Port Canaveral, and arrangements are being made to return the passengers home. A full refund will be given to passengers, together with a full reimbursement of any additional expenses.

We will provide details about the next cruise after we are able to fully evaluate the situation.

Crown Princess is currently on a 9-day Western Caribbean sailing, roundtrip out of New York, with calls at Grand Turk, Ocho Rios and Grand Cayman. Port Canaveral was the last port of call before returning to New York.

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