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September 8, 2010 7:41 AM   Subscribe

On July 30, 2008, the Pacific Sun cruise liner, carrying 1732 passengers and 671 crew, was caught in a severe storm 400 miles off the coast of New Zealand, injuring 42 passengers as the ship was hit by 25ft waves and 50-knot winds. With some passengers now planning to sue P&O, internal CCTV footage has emerged which recorded what happened inside at the height of the storm.
posted by unSane (116 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
There's a better video
posted by the cuban at 7:45 AM on September 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Holy crap. Remind me never to go on a cruise.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:46 AM on September 8, 2010


Well, that's terrifying. Not for the squeamish, one women gets thrown into a column and looks knocked out.
posted by smackfu at 7:46 AM on September 8, 2010


In a video game or a movie, I'd be lolling. Here though....dang.
posted by TomMelee at 7:47 AM on September 8, 2010


I think we had a post on the Blue a few years ago of photos (videos?) of ships in storms. Does anyone else remember that?

There's this too, which blows my mind. Plus, just search on youtube for videos of the Interislander in the NZ Cook Strait--eek!

The power of the ocean is really amazing.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:50 AM on September 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Never been on a cruise ship but somehow I figured that stuff would be bolted down a little more than that.
posted by octothorpe at 7:50 AM on September 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


In a movie, the camera would be shaking and tilting like crazy. It looks fake when it is so solidly fixed, like a music video using tricks to dance on the ceiling.
posted by smackfu at 7:51 AM on September 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've never wanted to take a cruise before, but this looks awesome!
posted by Pastabagel at 7:53 AM on September 8, 2010 [20 favorites]


I don't really understand how it's the ship's fault that there were 25-foot waves? Unless it's over the fact that the furniture wasn't bolted down.
posted by Windigo at 7:54 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Totally mixed emotions watching this. Part of me earnestly feels sorry for the poor bastards, part of me is wondering why none of them didn't bolt for the bar to keep from getting hit by sliding banquet furniture. And part of me desires a Benny Hill soundtrack.
posted by ardgedee at 7:56 AM on September 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


Why are people suing? Because stuff wasn't bolted down? Or did the crew take wrong turn and end up in a storm they could have avoided?
posted by nomadicink at 7:56 AM on September 8, 2010


In a movie, the camera would be shaking and tilting like crazy. It looks fake when it is so solidly fixed, like a music video using tricks to dance on the ceiling.

Yeah, it's crazy the way the scene stays perfectly level relative to the camera while everything slides back and forth. It makes it look like something out of Alice in Wonderland where perhaps a character has shouted "Change places!" and all of the chairs and tables rush to comply in a madcap manner. It adds a level of surreality to the whole thing which makes it creepier because my first reaction is to laugh and then I feel really terrible about that.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:57 AM on September 8, 2010 [10 favorites]


I have a sudden urge to fly. I don't mind turbulence too much, so long as I'm strapped in. I don't think I'd find a cruise ship in heavy seas nearly as..OK.
posted by wierdo at 7:58 AM on September 8, 2010


Holy crap. Remind me never to go on a cruise.

Well, it was a freak storm which by definition is really rare. Hundreds of thousands of cruises have finished without mishap, after all. 25-foot waves don't hit ships very often.

By the same reasoning, a car might explode spontaneously in a freak accident. Doesn't mean you're going to swear off vehicular transport.
posted by WalterMitty at 7:59 AM on September 8, 2010


part of me is wondering why none of them didn't bolt for the bar to keep from getting hit by sliding banquet furniture.

because they didn't want to get hit by a shitload of flying glass?
posted by pyramid termite at 7:59 AM on September 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, aren't they supposed to make fast all the loose items? "Mr. Christian, secure that doughy tourist!"
posted by Mister_A at 8:01 AM on September 8, 2010 [8 favorites]


I don't really understand how it's the ship's fault that there were 25-foot waves? Unless it's over the fact that the furniture wasn't bolted down.

Maybe less the ship's fault and more the fault of the guy who was steering the ship -- I assume the stuff's not bolted down because the designers figured nobody would be crazy enough to take a cruise ship into those kinds of seas.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:01 AM on September 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I dunno, Comrade_robot, I would expect a cruise ship would always have provisions to lock everything down in case of heavy seas, because every cruise ship will hit heavy seas at some point. Also: Pacific Ocean - The World's Least Descriptively Named Ocean.
posted by Mister_A at 8:05 AM on September 8, 2010


You keep thinking someone has to be at fault to sue. The greedy injured don't care about fault. When you start with an all-you-can-eat-buffet mentality and combine it with lawyers, well...

Yes, my sympathy bone is broken. You might encounter waves at sea. Things might roll around on the boat. Duh. What a shock. Let's sue.
posted by umberto at 8:05 AM on September 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


With some passengers now planning to sue P&O

There are other options available.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:07 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would expect a cruise ship would always have provisions to lock everything down in case of heavy seas

It is probably just "stack the chairs and then run a chain through them".
posted by smackfu at 8:08 AM on September 8, 2010


umberto wrote: "Yes, my sympathy bone is broken. You might encounter waves at sea. Things might roll around on the boat. Duh. What a shock. Let's sue."

One would presume that a responsible crew would have some warning of the impending heavy seas, and could get everyone to a relatively safe place where the furniture won't crush them, aside from the true rogue wave phenomenon.
posted by wierdo at 8:09 AM on September 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


You keep thinking someone has to be at fault to sue. The greedy injured don't care about fault. When you start with an all-you-can-eat-buffet mentality and combine it with lawyers, well...

I think that this is a very uncharitable reading. At the very least, even if the company is completely not at fault (and I don't know that this is the case, knowing virtually nothing of the circumstances or the relevant law) if you have huge medical bills and feel desperate and trapped you'll start grasping at straws like people who start going to faith healers when they have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. I don't know what's going on here for sure and it sounds like you don't either, but the idea of the "greedy injured" does not seem like a helpful way to read this.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:09 AM on September 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


The power of the ocean is really amazing.
posted by Admiral Haddock


This image strikes me as both an actual, and a metaphorical, portrait of essential Life.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:10 AM on September 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Take Evasive Action!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:11 AM on September 8, 2010


Alternatively, it is absolutely the responsibility of the cruise line to keep their passengers informed about the dangers present on the ocean.

When I fly, the pilot frequently warns of turbulent air, and there is a "fasten seatbelt" sign that is often left on the whole flight. If someone is out of their seat, they are bearing the risk of violent turbulence.

In this situation, the passengers were seemingly just getting up from dinner. That first scene is in the bar area. Were passengers warned that a storm was eminent? Were the instructed on where to go to and what to do to prevent the sort of injury seen in that video?

Why weren't the tables and chairs fastened down?
posted by muddgirl at 8:13 AM on September 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


I have the same reaction as ardegee. On the one hand, how scary must it have been to be caught in that. On the other hand, this looks like the kind of thing Buster Keaton would have thought up and filmed had he lived today.
posted by LN at 8:14 AM on September 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Stacking and chaining for light things, but something more substantial for bigger things, like the forklift I saw skittering around in the cuban's video.
posted by Mister_A at 8:15 AM on September 8, 2010


Folks over in reddit thread said that the forklift is probably leaking battery acid. They had a lot of disdain for the safety measures on the boat, too.
posted by frecklefaerie at 8:15 AM on September 8, 2010


Nevermind the faceplant, that one guy came about 10 seconds from getting speared by a forklift like that German comedy safety film.
posted by haveanicesummer at 8:18 AM on September 8, 2010


Note the people in the next room visible in the upper left of that first segment. It's kinda surreal the way they're all seated there through the first waves while the carnage is breaking loose in the foreground.
posted by straw at 8:19 AM on September 8, 2010


You keep thinking someone has to be at fault to sue.

The first half of the video has a Buster Keaton kind of charm, but that second shot is abominable. That kind of heavy equipment completely unsecured? It would be difficult to contrive a more effective manslaughter machine.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:19 AM on September 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


It seems to me that the passengers can reasonably expect to be properly warned of such a storm and properly advised on how to best handle the rolling.

Perhaps they feel that the ship captain didn't do enough to protect the passengers. For example, did the Captain accurately assess the severity of the storm? Should he have? Could he have ordered passengers to safe areas (state rooms or perhaps theaters where passengers could sit in bolted down chairs). Did he?

In others words it's possible that the crew was negligent even though hitting a storm is a foreseeable problem. If this is the case, then a lawsuit would be perfectly in order.
posted by oddman at 8:19 AM on September 8, 2010


Octothorpe's comment reminds me of a story from the year I spent working on an ocean liner.

Some years ago now, a New York-based producer had a bright idea to revive the the out-of-town tryout for new musicals, but with a twist. Instead of Topeka or Boston or Philadelphia, though, this new musical would be mounted on a cruise ship before transferring to Broadway.

The problems with this idea, and with this particular group of producers and creators, were legion. Despite good intentions, it became clear in the first few days after we joined the ship and began rehearsing that no one had put enough thought into ... well, anything at all. The final straw for me was the night we first rehearsed on the set. It was a particularly rough night on the North Atlantic, and the ship was rolling from side to side. Standing upright was difficult, acting moreso. Dodging a rolling set-piece? See, not one person, from producer to designer to builder to stage manager, had thought that putting the large set-pieces on wheels - unlockable casters, at that - might not be the best idea ON AN OCEAN LINER. I have seen an actor dodge serious injury from a runaway chaise lounge, and it was only funny in retrospect.

On a side note, the Pacific Sun incident, specifically the behavior of the passengers in response to crew instructions, was used as a case study in our crew's safety training.
posted by minervous at 8:19 AM on September 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


Well, it was a freak storm which by definition is really rare.

A freak or rogue wave is much taller than the 25ft wave described in the article. From the Wikipedia article:

It is common for mid-ocean storm waves to reach 7 meters (23 ft) in height, and in extreme conditions such waves can reach heights of 15 meters (49 ft).

This article is low on details, but given what we know, it seems there was pretty clear case of negligence. If I was on a bus and the driver hit a turn at 35mph, and a gust of wind came through, you wouldn't blame any resulting accident completely on the wind.
posted by geoff. at 8:23 AM on September 8, 2010


To give you an idea of what the ship's going through, here's an outside view of the cruise ship Voyager in a storm.
posted by eye of newt at 8:24 AM on September 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


Legal and safety issues notwithstanding, it was kind of odd to view this from a fixed position. When this sort of thing is shown in movies (which I suppose was previously my only reference), the camera goes with the action for dramatic immersion.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:24 AM on September 8, 2010


That kind of heavy equipment completely unsecured?

My bet is that they use wheel locks, so it can't roll and seems safe enough, but with this kind of deck movement, it doesn't need wheels to move. You really need to chain everything movable to something fixed.
posted by smackfu at 8:25 AM on September 8, 2010


Like this seems really inexcusable, and sue-worthy:
Many of the worst injuries were caused when gambling machines crashed over on top of people.
posted by smackfu at 8:29 AM on September 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


That kind of heavy equipment completely unsecured? It would be difficult to contrive a more effective manslaughter machine.

Don't challenge me.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:30 AM on September 8, 2010 [16 favorites]


They are suing because they have a convenient excuse; the lawyers were probably on a helicopter out to the ship as soon as the skies cleared, and a lot of people will sign on because it requires no effort. And, if they are injured Americans, they are suing partly because they are incentivized to do so by our health care system.

That being said, I have to admit that I actually laughed out loud at this video. Yes I know how horrifying and traumatic it is, but it's just hilarious to watch.
posted by Xoebe at 8:30 AM on September 8, 2010


I disagree Xoebe—I believe they are suing because the crew did a terrible job of preparing the ship and its passengers for rough seas. Glad you had a good laugh though.
posted by Mister_A at 8:34 AM on September 8, 2010


Man, if only every YT linkpass frenzy would generate an explanatory MetaFilter post. This is beats SLYT all hollow.
posted by mwhybark at 8:35 AM on September 8, 2010


Additional video of the Pacific Sun incident:

1.
2.

Note the sea water coming in under the blast doors.
posted by stbalbach at 8:35 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


> nd, if they are injured Americans, they are suing partly because they are incentivized to do so by our health care system.

That being said, I have to admit that I actually laughed out loud at this video. Yes I know how horrifying and traumatic it is, but it's just hilarious to watch.


Ok, that's just a pile of wrong wrapped up in a few sentences.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:36 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


The really scary thing is that if this happens on a roll-on / roll-off ferry, and the main doors get breached, it's game over. Car deck fills with water, ship goes down.
posted by smackfu at 8:39 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fucking gravity, how does it fucking work?
posted by orthogonality at 8:40 AM on September 8, 2010


I have been on a cruise ship, only my second cruise ever, when a storm abruptly changed direction and, rather than sliding alongside the waves, which huge cruise ships are able to do with no problem, we hit a 20-foot wave head-on. We felt the ship rise at a ridiculous angle and then seemed to go down forever, the acute angle throwing us off balance and turning the level surface of the deck into a steep ramp.

The captain quickly adjusted course, so there was really only one back-and-forth movement, not several as seen here. We were in our cabin at the time and only became seriously alarmed when our own nightstand (which could be moved to turn two single beds into the queen bed we were sharing), slid across the cabin and against the bed, spilling out items onto as as we, too, fell onto the bed. Everything else was bolted down, and we didn't have a lot of stuff loaded up on the vanity or bureaus to fall down (in the bathroom, there are shelves with rails to keep items from falling off of them).

Still, the veering of the ship was frightening, and on the deck, we were told, water that is kept well below the fill line of the pool splashed out and emptied, people were skittering across the deck, and glass items and liquor in the stores on the lower decks of the ship fell and broke. Luckily, the stores were closed at the time.

Other than a few passengers who slipped in the water on the deck, no one was injured, in part because the captain acted quickly, the cruise director came on over the mic almost immediately to let everyone know what had happened and that everything was okay and we weren't sinking or anything, and yes, most items were either bolted down or stored away.

I don't like facetious lawsuits, and the weather is hard to predict at sea, but my first thought when I saw the video was to wonder why there were so many unsecured chairs, tables, etc. out in the middle of the floor. Bolted-down tables, at least, and fixed booths, would make more sense for the ship--if light chairs were the only things sliding across the deck, the danger to the passengers would have been much less.
posted by misha at 8:40 AM on September 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Somewhere else I read about this, there was a link to the website Events at Sea, which is sort of the same thing as The Aviation Herald: a catalog of everything that goes wrong along the way. The main difference between the two is the amount of norovirus cataloged (and that there seems to be much more gossip involved in water travel).
posted by jocelmeow at 8:43 AM on September 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


I lived on NCL ships for 1.5 years and, luckily, only had one rough sea day and no rogue waves/ballast giving out and suddenly putting the ship on it's side/fires - but it does happen - though freakishly rarely.

I also went through gobs of safety training while on the ships. Most of it is focused on putting out fires (with the one hilarious highlight of the pirate lecture), because that is the most common and dangerous thing that can happen to you on a ship. This was actually a relatively small cruiseship and maybe didn't have the ballast equipment that the freakin' huge ships they're putting out now have, but seriously, this sort of thing RARELY HAPPENS on cruiseships. They're too concerned with selling passengers overpriced drinks to risk a bad itinerary. I chalk this up to freak of nature, not crappy company.
posted by ashtabula to opelika at 8:44 AM on September 8, 2010


Piling on the wrong here. I'm afraid I L-ed OL too, especially towards the end when you see a guy ride past and disappear stage right, clinging to some massive piece of machinery. It just looks so bizarre, with that stationary camera.
I've got the immense bow of a cruise ship parked just 50 feet to my right just now - the 'Carnival Glory - and it's amazing to think that such massive things can be tossed around like toys by the sae
posted by Flashman at 8:46 AM on September 8, 2010


I struggled with the urge to laugh until I saw that woman in black connect with that column at an incredible speed, and then just sag to the floor. Instantly not funny anymore.
posted by hermitosis at 8:47 AM on September 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Some might be interested in the accident report.
posted by wierdo at 8:53 AM on September 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


The article makes the point that the ship turned side on to the storm. Which isn't a particularly good move, but may have been necessary.

What should have been dealt with before it did, and may be the root cause of the legal action, is the fact that there are clearly still passengers wandering around in an area with a whole lot of loose shit when the rolling starts.

If I was one of those passengers, I hadn't been told to get to my room and strap myself down, and I was injured, I'd be taking that offer of 25% off my next cruise as a pretty grave insult.
posted by Ahab at 8:54 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not only was that ship not designed to handle rough seas but basic precautions were either ignored or poorly implemented. This from comments on the incident in Ships Nostalgia, the world's greatest online community for people worldwide with an interest in ships and shipping.
posted by Huplescat at 8:56 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, my sympathy bone is broken. You might encounter waves at sea. Things might roll around on the boat. Duh. What a shock. Let's sue.

Businesses can be held liable for customers' injuries in some cases, so they pay for insurance. Just like if you drive a car and one of the passengers or someone else gets injured in an accident you could be liable, so you pay for car insurance. Cruise ships make a ton of money and if they are worried about freak accidents injuring passengers they can use a small amount of that on insurance premiums. So in effect, every cruise ship passenger indirectly pays for insurance when they buy a ticket. If passengers feel like they are entitled to be reimbursed for medical costs resulting from an accident on the ship, then they have to sue because the insurance company and cruise operators are not going to just hand it over to them. There are cases where people fake or otherwise contrive injury claims against businesses but clearly that is not happening here.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:02 AM on September 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was very disappointed to not not have seen Ernest Borgnine, Gene Hackman, and Red Buttons go flying by on the screen.
posted by scblackman at 9:03 AM on September 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Also the idea of liability is largely what drives businesses to be safe in the first place. If passengers never sued over major accidents at sea, then the cruise industry would not have a big incentive to spend money to prevent those kinds of accidents.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:04 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you buy a bookcase or dresser from IKEA, it will come with a strap to secure it to the wall so it will never come tumbling down on you. Not crazy to expect the same from a ocean-going vessel.
posted by smackfu at 9:07 AM on September 8, 2010


So that's the context. Saw it on blort and thought it was pretty amazing, too. Thanks.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:08 AM on September 8, 2010


A supposedly fun thing that none of those people will do again.
posted by atrazine at 9:10 AM on September 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


If I was one of those passengers, I hadn't been told to get to my room and strap myself down, and I was injured, I'd be taking that offer of 25% off my next cruise as a pretty grave insult.

According to the accident report, the passengers were actually supposed to report to the common areas for emergencies, and were not told to go to their rooms until afterwards:

Many of the injuries sustained by the passengers and crew were caused by falls and contact with unsecured furnishings and loose objects in the busy public rooms, including those designated as passenger emergency muster stations. Following the accident, the moving furniture and debris made many of the public rooms unusable, and the master instructed the passengers to return to their cabins for their own safety.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:16 AM on September 8, 2010


Well, the idea that the company couldn't expect a severe storm like this to hit is undermined by the fact that the same ship was damaged last year, in a severe storm in the same area, during which passengers were severely shaken. The company really has no excuse for not having this ship adequately prepared for severe weather.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:19 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why weren't the tables and chairs fastened down?

On shipping, fishing, military and other working ships they sure as hell bolt or lash down everything, and you don't leave anything laying around that you wouldn't mind having thrown at your head.

I don't care how big the ship is. Assuming that any ship is bigger then the ocean is pure hubris and foolishness.

The sea is a dynamic, unstable place. Even with small waves and fair seas the ocean experiences constructive and destructive interference just like sound waves leading for the potential for freakishly large peaks and troughs - usually right next to each other. See: rogue waves.

So why don't they bolt down everything on cruise ships like they do on commercial ships?

Because it doesn't exactly help sell tickets or the general idea that "Oh, we're just a big floating resort hotel. It's perfectly safe. You have nothing to worry about. What Titanic? Never heard of it."

Bolting the furniture down would be an admission that even their hulking behemoths are just as vulnerable to the sea as any other big ship. To admit this would raise too many questions, which would lead to having to train and educate the passengers more about the sea and safety at sea - which if they were truthful about it would cause many people to buy many less tickets.

Because cruise ships aren't simply floating hotels. I don't care how many swimming pools, buffets, theaters, rock climbing walls or other features the boat has. The ocean will always be larger, more powerful and more chaotic.

Simply put I don't think most major cruise lines really care about your safety. They just want a captive audience and maximum profits, and many operate with legal impunity by having their boats registered in Caribbean ports, even if they primarily operate to and from the US.

I've been on smaller boats in 10-20 foot swells - which is nothing. It's terrifying. I can't imagine what 30-60 foot swells is like. I grew up on and in the ocean. A lot of my dad's buddies were captains and pilots. We'd go deep sea fishing pretty regularly when his buddies would borrow 30-60 foot sport fishing boats or powercruisers.

When I was really young both my dad and his buddies told me something that always stuck with me because I've never seen these guys get deadly serious about anything before. These are the same guys that would be drinking beer like water while landing sharks and billfish on the transom, the same guys that would "waterski" the boat wake on regular surfboards and improvised tow ropes, long before anyone had ever heard of wakeboarding. These weren't serious guys.

That serious message, paraphrased: "Never go on a cruise ship. It's not worth it." "Why?" "Rogue waves, high seas, no real legal protections, sea law is not land law, etc. Oh, and pirates, too. Which is why we carry guns on board."

Are cruise ships statistically safe? *shrug* Yeah, probably. But when things go wrong on a boat - they go spectacularly wrong in a hurry. There's not much you can do about it. It's not like a hotel fire or an earthquake or a hurricane - you're in the middle of nowhere on the open ocean packed into a tin can full of panicked people.

I'm pretty adventurous. I wouldn't say no to a nice trip on a smaller boat in capable hands. There's no way in hell you'd get me on a cruise ship with a few thousand blissfully ignorant passengers and the lightly trained staff they have on those ships. No way. If I really wanted a resort with endless buffets and gambling I'd rather go to Las Vegas, and I hate that place.
posted by loquacious at 9:32 AM on September 8, 2010 [25 favorites]


Reminds me of Zeger Reyers' Rotating Kitchen.
posted by Kabanos at 9:35 AM on September 8, 2010


I think they also don't bolt down a lot of the furniture in those common areas is that they want to be able to use the space for different activities. Dance hall one night, cafeteria the next morning kind of thing.

All the same, cruise ships kind of disgust me. They're like floating American Chinese buffet restaurants with bad showtunes and limited port time.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:37 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've never gone on a cruise ship because I'm all too aware of their (anti-)environmental practices, but that's an interesting account, loquacious.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:38 AM on September 8, 2010


But when things go wrong on a boat - they go spectacularly wrong in a hurry. There's not much you can do about it

Kind of like a plane.
posted by smackfu at 9:40 AM on September 8, 2010


All the same, cruise ships kind of disgust me. They're like floating American Chinese buffet restaurants with bad showtunes and limited port time.

That, too, seasoned by norovirus and MRSA, like some kind of big fat floating petri dish full of sugar.

I've never gone on a cruise ship because I'm all too aware of their (anti-)environmental practices,

And that, too, but my horse was already getting a little too tall.

Kind of like a plane.

I think I'd rather take my chances on a plane. It'd be interesting to compare the accident/injury rates between a plane and a cruise ship, though, especially if you included food poisoning or infectious diseases.
posted by loquacious at 9:48 AM on September 8, 2010


This right here is one of the top three reasons why I don't miss being in the Coast Guard.

From the look of things, they may have been turning so that the waves would start hitting them from behind, which is the best way to handle it. Tends to make a ship roll with it much more gently. At least, that was my experience, but my ship was 110 feet long... so we bobbed like a cork in pretty much everything, but when we went with the direction of the waves it was at least smoother.

The problem with bolting everything down is that it'd make reconfiguring the furniture much more difficult. On a military ship, furniture is by and large bolted down, yes. But on a cruise ship? They probably have to rearrange all the time to accommodate whatever size tour group wants to eat together, move stuff around to facilitate the evening's entertainment, etc. The idea is that you avoid this sort of weather altogether.

I have a hard time accepting this "freak" storm thing, because swells don't generally go from 2 - 25 feet in a heartbeat. The bridge crew really dropped the ball here.

It's important to note that we don't have audio, though. We don't know if there WAS a call for emergency measures. At first view, I was actually surprised that there weren't more people in the dining room, but then I figured everyone else was sensibly riding it out in their cabins & these were just the stupid/stubborn people. On that level, I really don't have much sympathy for their lawsuits.

The forklift that breaks free is some scary, scary shit, though.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:51 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


All the same, cruise ships kind of disgust me. They're like floating American Chinese buffet restaurants with bad showtunes and limited port time.

Yeah, I've agreed with Mrs. Fleebnork that we do not wish to spend our vacation in a floating shopping mall.

We liked the idea of the now-defunct Windjammer cruises, but apparently they folded because of money problems and a bunch of timesharers got screwed out of their money.
posted by Fleebnork at 9:56 AM on September 8, 2010


One thought that arises is that when you look at these ships, they have so much superstructure high above the water line that they look top-heavy, something that would accentuate the tendency to roll with waves. However, as detailed here, that's not the case:
There is a misconception in some cruising circles that modern cruise ships are top heavy, which probably stems from the fact that they simply look top heavy compared to the ocean liners of the past, which had lower more balanced profiles. In contrast, new ships are very tall with up to fifteen decks and many look more like office blocks than ships.

There is also a myth that modern cruise ships have poor sea keeping abilities. The reality is that today's cruise ships are in fact very stable. They have all of their heavy plant such as engines, generators, tons of fuel, water and provision stored in the lowest decks, deep within the hull. In addition, ships like the QE2 and the 'Voyager' class have the uppermost decks constructed of lightweight Aluminum. Therefore their center of gravity is much lower than it actually appears to the naked eye; hence they are in fact very stable. I understand from several maritime engineering sources that modern cruise ships can actually recover safely from a list of as much as 40-50 degrees.

As for sea-keeping qualities, although many modern cruise ships have a shallow draft and were never designed for the weekly rigors of the North Atlantic or winter crossings; they do have very good sea-keeping qualities. In addition, there shallow drafts allow them to get into ports that the old ships could have never have achieved.

A fact that I find fascinating is that the original 1934 'Queen Mary', which was of course purely designed for crossing the North Atlantic, was recorded as listing by 45 degrees in an Atlantic storm! Even if it had been possible to walk down a passenger corridor at that moment, you would need one foot on the floor and one on the wall. In contrast the 'Crown Princess' reportedly listed about 15-18 degrees.
posted by beagle at 10:07 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Many of the worst injuries were caused when gambling machines crashed over on top of people.

Pacific Sun Cruise Lines: The loosest slots on the high seas!
posted by notswedish at 10:09 AM on September 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


It's important to note that we don't have audio, though. We don't know if there WAS a call for emergency measures.

I'm imagining Strauss' An der schönen blauen Donau (On the Beautiful Blue Danube).
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:11 AM on September 8, 2010


Car deck fills with water, ship goes down.

Like this horrifying account of the MS Estonia.
posted by ikahime at 10:13 AM on September 8, 2010 [8 favorites]


Interesting note from the report linked above:
A number of items that were, in theory, permanently fixed broke free of their securing arrangements. These included such items as a grand piano, a bank of gaming machines in the casino, and heavy office equipment such as photocopiers, many of which were being used by passengers to steady themselves against the motion.
So I guess that complicates the negligence case a bit.
posted by smackfu at 10:20 AM on September 8, 2010


On shipping, fishing, military and other working ships they sure as hell bolt or lash down everything, and you don't leave anything laying around that you wouldn't mind having thrown at your head.

No. Watch youtube videos of heavy seas and rogue waves clobbering big cargo ships. The galley and cabins and bridge are pretty much just like you see on a cruise ship, with stuff flying about everywhere.

Are cruise ships statistically safe? *shrug* Yeah, probably. But when things go wrong on a boat - they go spectacularly wrong in a hurry. There's not much you can do about it. It's not like a hotel fire or an earthquake or a hurricane - you're in the middle of nowhere on the open ocean packed into a tin can full of panicked people.

It's a spectacularly safe mode of travel since the end of the 2nd World War. And unlike a real tin can full of panicked people, like on a jumbo jet, you can at least get on board a lifeboat.

Cruise ships are designed to counteract most heavy seas - they're massively advanced systems that generally do a pretty good job of mitigating most heavy seas. There are conditions that will overwhelm these systems, but it's vanishingly rare, and there are very few fatalities when it does happen.

There are a number of risks involved with cruise ships, but dangerously high seas aren't really one of them. I'd worry more about the environmental impact, exploitative employment practices, dodgy shore excursions, and getting sick from being in close proximity to so many other people.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:22 AM on September 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


All the same, cruise ships kind of disgust me. They're like floating American Chinese buffet restaurants with bad showtunes and limited port time.

That, too, seasoned by norovirus and MRSA, like some kind of big fat floating petri dish full of sugar.


Sounds exactly like a giant floating American Chinese buffet to me!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:25 AM on September 8, 2010


No. Watch youtube videos of heavy seas and rogue waves clobbering big cargo ships. The galley and cabins and bridge are pretty much just like you see on a cruise ship, with stuff flying about everywhere.

Cargo ships don't have wide open galleys or dining rooms full of dozens and dozens of unfixed tables, unfixed glassware and hundreds of people freely roaming about in their holds. Sure, it's not practical to bolt down everything, but every bridge on every commercial ship I've seen has every last piece of furniture larger then a breadbox bolted down.

There are a number of risks involved with cruise ships, but dangerously high seas aren't really one of them. I'd worry more about the environmental impact, exploitative employment practices, dodgy shore excursions, and getting sick from being in close proximity to so many other people.

I emphatically agree with this. Cruise ships are gross polluters that dump sewage and trash in international waters and they usually burn "bunker fuel".

But we're talking about high seas, rogue waves and people getting tossed around like drowning rats which is much more exciting then a Norovirus outbreak or illicit trash dumping.
posted by loquacious at 10:35 AM on September 8, 2010


> Like this horrifying account of the MS Estonia.

I'll take the plane crash, thank you. *Shudder*
posted by Burhanistan at 10:43 AM on September 8, 2010


I watched this video last night, and the first thing that came to mind was Victor Hugo's short story, A Fight With A Cannon.

"A cannon that breaks its moorings suddenly becomes some strange, supernatural beast. It is a machine transformed into a monster. That shortmass on wheels moves like a billiard-ball, rolls with the rolling of the ship, plunges with the pitching goes, comes, stops, seems to meditate, starts on its course again, shoots like an arrow from one end of the vessel to the other, whirls around, slips away, dodges, rears, bangs, crashes, kills, exterminates..."

Anyway, there's a lot of horrifying description of smashing cannon rampage, and at the end they shoot the guy who neglected to secure the cannon, even though he totally risks his life to catch it, and thus keeps it from completely destroying the ship.
posted by redsparkler at 10:47 AM on September 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


What are they suing P&O for? Too much FUN?!? That looks great!
posted by coolxcool=rad at 10:49 AM on September 8, 2010


octothorpe: "Never been on a cruise ship but somehow I figured that stuff would be bolted down a little more than that."

The space in the centre looks like a dance floor. It's probably a multipurpose space that has seating throughout the day and dancing/open floor space at night.
posted by Mitheral at 11:04 AM on September 8, 2010


It's weirding me out how this video is doing the rounds everywhere as if it were something new. I could swear I saw it at least a year ago. Maybe I'm thinking of a very similar one.
posted by Decani at 11:08 AM on September 8, 2010


Reminds me of this video that was freaking people out about taking Newfounland ferries a few years ago - and it is, in reality, another New Zealand ferry. Ugh.
posted by Dasein at 11:45 AM on September 8, 2010


FTA:
P&O say they will defend themselves in court against Lisa Dolan and explained that the event occurred during freak weather and have since taken the necessary safety precautions on-board the Pacific Sun.
Isn't "having since taken the necessary safety precautions" an implicit admission of guilt?
posted by brokkr at 12:01 PM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


It probably won't help the cruise line's case that there were two techs on board to deal with known problems in safety-related equipment (stabilizers and satellite comms).
posted by tommasz at 12:01 PM on September 8, 2010


The accident report that was linked above has a lot of interesting photos. My favorite is the one where the cabinet holding the satellite communications system fell over

It also seems like the tables were fixed in most of the ship, just not in the bar area from the video: "Both the Burgundy and the Bordeaux main passenger restaurants on deck 8 were busy providing dinner when the accident occurred. ... Many passengers fell back from their chairs as the ship rolled, but most were able to hold on to the large secured dining tables."
posted by smackfu at 12:31 PM on September 8, 2010


Yeah, according one account: The ship's stablisers were inoperative - one was worn out and the other was rendered useless in the slow speeds that the ship was reduced to....
posted by Huplescat at 12:33 PM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another cruise ship sinking: The MTS Oceanos. It seems the captain and crew abandoned ship without telling the passengers nor securing the lower decks portholes.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:46 PM on September 8, 2010


tommasz, I just skimmed the accident report and indeed, the port stabilizer was not operational at all, and the starboard only partly operational. Stabilizers are apparently not required on cruise ships and the stabilizers had been broken for at least 4 years prior to the accident.

The accident report states that with almost no moonlight and low visibility, the captain was navigating blind through the night. (Radar doesn't track waves)

The captain sent an email instructing the crew to stow or secure all items which may come loose in heavy seas.


Which once again, begs the question, why the hell weren't all the passengers in their cabins?

I wonder how often these weather conditions occur and no one really thinks anything of it. I also wonder how much pressure the captain is under to keep intrusions into the passengers cruise experience to a minimum. I once worked on a very small cruise ship (boat, really) and we went out in weather that anyone who worked on the boat knew wasn't pleasant. We did whatever the corporate office wanted, unless the captain thought the passengers' safety was at risk. We went out on some very uncomfortable cruises that probably lost us money due to bad publicity and loss of future business.
posted by UrbanEye at 12:46 PM on September 8, 2010


Imagine you have the job of designing the interior furniture for a passenger ship. You know that large objects should be secured in case of rough weather but just how secure should the anchor design be for an object of a particular weight and shape? I would normally expect something like an ISO standard to be available to answer these questions. Part of the set of standards that a vessel should comply with so as to be declared seaworthy. If the Pacific Sun failed in either design or practice to comply with a safety standard then that would be a smoking gun as far as passengeer litigation cases were concerned. Does something like this exist?
posted by rongorongo at 1:04 PM on September 8, 2010


Are cruise ships statistically safe? *shrug* Yeah, probably.

Pesky facts. Cruise ships are hugely safe but you don't care because of something you were told anecdotally?
posted by Justinian at 1:14 PM on September 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would normally expect something like an ISO standard to be available to answer these questions.

I've seen a few shows on Discovery on cruise ships and they often do an entire interior redesign in one week, to minimize the downtime of non-paying passengers. Wouldn't be surprised if a few steps get missed.
posted by smackfu at 1:16 PM on September 8, 2010


There might be ISO standards, or even OSHA ones, but they don't matter because,

many operate with legal impunity by having their boats registered in Caribbean ports
posted by nomisxid at 2:11 PM on September 8, 2010


Cruise ships are hugely safe but you don't care because of something you were told anecdotally?

What, are you selling cruise tickets?

Did you miss the part that I was being told this anecdote while on a boat in the open Pacific while intentionally fishing for sharks - as told by a licensed commercial captain who was well experienced at piloting small boats all over the Pacific? His bread and butter seemed to be shuttling craft around for rich people who would rather fly to their vacation destination, so their boat is there waiting for them on arrival. Anyway.

When someone that experienced (with a possibly insane disregard for his own life) gets all serious and scared about something - I'm inclined to listen.

I acknowledge that it's statistically safe - but it's one of those things where I'm perfectly willing to look at the actual risk-to-reward ratio.

Risk? Violently drowning at sea and or possibly dying in a fire. Chance of rescue and escape involves - if you're lucky - and understocked, bare minimum SOLAS-rated life raft. A life raft that is probably overloaded with people who don't have experience of being at sea or survival scenarios in general. I've been on rafts and inflatables in small swells. It sucks. I certainly wouldn't want to do it on a raft crammed to the gunwales with panicked, hungry and the typically clueless sort that seem to be an average cruise ship patron. That sounds like so much hell I don't even know where to begin.

I'd rather throw my lot in with Captain Bligh in an open skiff after a certain mutiny. At least he knows the ocean and how to pilot a ship.

Reward? Wishing you were violently drowning at sea while crammed like sardines into a floating five dollar Chinese buffet with slot machines and overpriced drinks.

I'll pass, thanks. Not only do I not like cruise ships for the environmental costs or the actual dollar costs, and not only am I very much not tempted by whatever entertainment they have - I don't like the kinds of risks they present, either. These things aren't mutually exclusive.
posted by loquacious at 2:40 PM on September 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


The interior shots in the PDF accident report are like something from the set-decorators of the Brady Bunch.
posted by docpops at 2:40 PM on September 8, 2010


One point that was made that I think I can comment somewhat knowledgeably on: this ship was in the Mediterranean, but as far as things being worse on a cruise ship than a plane and being out in the middle of nowhere, that really isn't so in several ways. First, cruise ships sail from the same several ports (Miami, Tampa, Cape Canaveral, Ft Lauderdale, Jacksonville just in Florida, for instance), and they follow established itineraries. On any given cruise, you will see, before you and behind you, at least one other ship every day leaving from or going to the same port you are. So while you can't transfer passengers from a plane that is going down, you can from one cruise ship to another. And every cruise is required by law to hold a mandatory life jacket drill at the beginning, with muster stations and the correct lifeboat assignments and procedures detailed, so at least there are enough lifeboats and life jackets for everyone aboard, as well as lifeboats that are stocked with provisions (not just rafts but totally enclosed lifeboats designed to stay afloat in rough seas).

Now, does safety come secondary to profit? To some extent, I would imagine so. Cruising is a hugely profitable venture, which is why Disney got into the mix and why bigger and bigger ships are coming out every year. And some day that will catch up to the cruise lines, I'm sure, not to mention the environmental issues, which the cruise lines are not doing enough to police on their own (although the use of cell phones and passenger filming has really helped to pinpoint the worst offenders in spite of them, as has the ability for witnesses to report violations online). But although they definitely hedge their bets with foreign registries, I don't think you can say they have "legal impunity":

Each ship is subject to the vessel inspection laws of the country in which it is registered. However, as a condition of permitting the vessels to take on passengers at U.S. ports, the U.S. Coast Guard requires the ships to meet the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (referred to as SOLAS.) via
posted by misha at 2:44 PM on September 8, 2010


Have you looked at a cruise ship lately? They definitely aren't counting on rafts for life boat purposes.

a licensed commercial captain who was well experienced at piloting small boats

Why would he be an expert about cruise ships then? I'd take his word on his small craft experiences, but it sounds like he had no more actual knowledge about the risks of large modern craft than you or I do, at least the way you tell it, he sounds more like a curmudgeon who's real beef was being on a large ship he wasn't in control of, not any actual considered weighing of the risks.

I agree the reward side of the average cruise ship seems lacking.
posted by nomisxid at 2:49 PM on September 8, 2010


The entire Dateline episode about the sinking of the Oceanos is available to watch online. Really interesting stuff.
posted by danny the boy at 3:21 PM on September 8, 2010


There might be ISO standards, or even OSHA ones, but they don't matter because, 'many operate with legal impunity by having their boats registered in Caribbean ports'

I am guessing that there are two sets of potentially applicable standards: those relating to the engineering of the ship and those related to best practice for securing of items in rough conditions. The Pacific Sun was built at Malmö, Sweden in 1986 and has apparently had an extensive refit since then. I am guessing that her ship builders and re-fitters will have had to comply with the extensive list of standards relating to ship construction to get the work signed off.

In terms of registration she has been registered in London since 2004.
posted by rongorongo at 3:34 PM on September 8, 2010


loquacious: " Not only do I not like cruise ships for the environmental costs or the actual dollar costs, and not only am I very much not tempted by whatever entertainment they have - I don't like the kinds of risks they present, either. These things aren't mutually exclusive."

Does anyone have any numbers on cruise ship safety? 'Cause I'm really starting to wonder how the risks and environmental damage of a weeks cruise compare to those same people driving their cars to work and living their lives as normal during the next week or going on a camping vacation to see gramma three (western) states over the week before.
posted by Mitheral at 3:38 PM on September 8, 2010


Honestly, a lot of the logic seems to be: cruise ships suck, this cruise ship was dangerous, therefore I'm not taking a cruise because they are dangerous.
posted by smackfu at 4:04 PM on September 8, 2010


Attny for the plaintiff: In the aforelinked video posted by stbalbach, can you see the large, rolling, iron pipe sections, weighing over 1,000 lbs?

Defense Expert Witness: Yes. Replacement parts are on-board at all times for the safety of the ship, in any emergency.

Attny for the plaintiff: Does ship maintenance require the ready and regular replacement of 1,000 lb iron pipe sections at sea?

Defense Expert Witness: Well, as according to their responsible attention, they were ready in the unlikely event.

Attny for the plaintiff: So you believe they anticipated the unlikely event that such major structural elements might be needed in the face of disaster?

Defense Expert Witness: Yes.

Attny for the plaintiff: Were there any maritime engineers or shipbuilders aboard?

Defense Expert Witness: I don't remember.

Attny for the plaintiff: Is it a matter of convenience, or a matter of easy access, that these massive elements are stored on shelves like pancake mix?

Defense Expert Witness: I don't recall.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:10 PM on September 8, 2010


I heartily dislike modern mega cruise ships, mainly because they are arranged like floating holiday resorts or casinos not ships. Seeing this, I understand now that my dislike is not just an aesthetic prejudice.

Sure, engineering marvels like stabilizers make these ships a lot more stable than those past, but this can't excuse such utter disrespect for the high seas. Technology is great, but technology does occasionally break down as in this case, and when that happens and the interior of your ship would be more suitable for the Nevada desert than the middle of the ocean, then tough shit.

Of course, the cruise lines just follow the demand, and the passengers demanding such comforts as slot machines and slippery ballroom floors are as much to blame for driving this development as the lines themselves. But if I ever go on a cruise, it'll be only on a shipshape ship, not a casinoshape one.
posted by Skeptic at 4:13 PM on September 8, 2010


I don’t know if it’s the rule or the exception, but this cruise ship is wallowing like a pig in not so heavy seas with force 8 winds.
posted by Huplescat at 4:39 PM on September 8, 2010


I watched this video last night, and the first thing that came to mind was Victor Hugo's short story, A Fight With A Cannon.

If I'm not mistaken, it's an extract of chapters 3, 4 and 5 or Ninety-three.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 5:09 PM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's been two years since this happened, so it's not likely this is a case of helicopter lawyering. I misread the date this occurred, and that was my mistake.

I did laugh, though. Is that a moral failure? Should I be ashamed? Did I choose to laugh? Hmm?
posted by Xoebe at 5:48 PM on September 8, 2010


...like a pig in not so heavy seas with force 8 winds.

Totally. That's like what, a fresh gale, on Beaufort.com?
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:00 PM on September 8, 2010


Have you looked at a cruise ship lately? They definitely aren't counting on rafts for life boat purposes. [insert closeup of lifeboats on the Norwegian Sky]

I dunno, I count 20 liferafts in this shot. The Norwegian Sky can carry upwards of 3200 people, according to Wikipedia. Lifeboats are only allowed to carry a maximum of 150 people (it's in the LSA Code, which is an international standard). The Norwegian Sky appears to have 16 lifeboats on board, giving a lifeboat capacity of 2400 people. As things have indeed progressed beyond the standards of the Titanic, that means rafts for the rest, plus spare capacity (the required quantity of spare capacity on passenger ships is somewhere in the LSA Code too, you are welcome to look it up for yourself). Or they could be hiding more lifeboats somewhere, it's not impossible.
posted by Lebannen at 6:35 PM on September 8, 2010


this shot, even.
posted by Lebannen at 6:36 PM on September 8, 2010


You can also see the rafts really clearly in the hi-rez promo shots.

Here is the SOLAS regulation for lifeboat coverage. If I'm reading it correctly, you need at least 75% of the capacity in life boats, and you also need at least 25% of the capacity in liferafts.
posted by smackfu at 7:18 PM on September 8, 2010


(I would think that the crew is going in the liferafts though.)
posted by smackfu at 7:19 PM on September 8, 2010


Two words: Yakety Sax.
posted by asconfusedasnigel at 8:35 PM on September 8, 2010


Wow. Reinforces my belief that if man was meant to travel the high seas, he's have...um...flippers and gills?
posted by davidmsc at 6:28 AM on September 9, 2010


Oh, someone please tell me the piano player kept playing throughout that.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:26 PM on September 11, 2010


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