Articles Posted in Maritime Law

Last year, the cruise industry’s biggest story was the Costa Concordia’s grounding in Tuscany after it struck a rock in the seabed, which caused the ship to partially sink. This year the cruise industry has already experienced another unfortunate disaster with the engine room fire aboard the Carnival Triumph. Thousands of passengers and crewmembers were left stranded without power for four days, in conditions many described as unlivable. This week, at the annual Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM) conference, executives from the major cruise lines met to discuss the state of the cruise industry in general, and the effects of these incidents in particular. Despite a weak year relative to historical averages, executives said that 2012 was on par with industry expectations for most cruise lines, and many of the larger cruise lines expressed excitement about the new opportunities for expansion that are opening up in emerging markets such as East Asia and Brazil. (The European market struggled more than others due to the Concordia incident as well as the European sovereign-debt crisis).

The cruise line industry has maintained its stance that cruising is still one of the safest ways to vacation, and in an effort to reassure passengers unnerved by recent events, Carnival announced that it would be performing a thorough review of its entire fleet to help prevent any similar accidents or incidents in the future. Nevertheless, the Triumph fiasco has prompted many, both in and outside the industry, to demand greater safety regulation of the cruise ship industry. (Cruise line executives, of course, insist that the cruise ship industry is adequately regulated)

Horror stories of accidents, crimes, disappearances, and illnesses occurring on cruise ships are admittedly nothing new, dating back to the infamous maiden-voyage of the Titanic. And while it is true that the percentage of passengers who experience a serious injury or fatality is comparatively small relative to the total number of those who cruise, the frequency and severity of these episodes appears to be increasing. If you or any of your loved ones have suffered an accident or become ill aboard a cruise ship, you may be entitled to compensation. For a free consultation, contact the Law Office of David H. Pollack at 305-372-5900 or visit our website at www.davidpollacklaw.com.

The Supreme Court last week held that a Riviera Beach, FL resident’s floating home was a house, not a ‘vessel’, and therefore the marina where he had docked it could not seize his home under federal maritime law. The owner of the home, Fane Lozman, is a self-made millionaire who had been residing in the City of Riviera Beach Marina where he had indefinitely moored his 60-by-12 foot houseboat. The houseboat had been towed from another marina following Hurricane Wilma’s passing in the summer of 2005. Lozman had resided in Riviera Beach for a little more than a year before his relationship with city became rocky. The city had plans for a luxury development in the marina, but Lozman fought against it and ultimately succeeded in halting the plans. The city council wanted to clear the path for their development, and in 2007 passed new regulations for the marina, which required proof of insurance and registration, as well as new docking fees for the marina. In March, 2008, Lozman received a letter from the city advising him he would be evicted unless he brought his home in compliance with the new regulations and paid outstanding fees to the Marina also from the new regulations. In April 2009 the city arrested the houseboat and filed a claim in admiralty on his home, the boat was subsequently auctioned off and demolished. Lozman dismissed the admiralty claim, but the district court ruled in favor of the city, declaring that his home was indeed a ‘vessel’ and could be arrested under federal maritime law.

On appeal, the case finally reached the Supreme Court in 2012. The Supreme Court announced its ruling on January 15 ending the lengthy legal battle. The central question in the case was whether Lozman’s house could be considered a’vessel’ under federal maritime jurisdiction. Lozman argued that the house, which had no self-propulsion, energy production/storage, or rudder, was not a ‘vessel’ because it’s purpose and was not to transport goods or people. The City argued that the houseboat was indeed a vessel because it was capable of moving on water. The Supreme Court sided with Lozman

Lozman was seeking compensation for his house, which he valued at around $50,000, as well as reimbursement for legal and other related fees that totaled up to nearly $300,000. The ruling is expected to have significant legal ramifications for boat owners and others in the maritime. Across the country marinas, vessel owners, marine bankers, and other marine affiliated businesses have been reviewing their operations in light of the ruling. Among the issues the ruling is likely to affect are: