Sunday, September 2, 2012

Cruise News: New Evidence Shows Princess Cruises Did Not Fail to Rescue Adrift Fishermen

It isn't uncommon for cruise ships to deviate from their schedules routes to perform rescues at sea, so when Princess Cruises’ Star Princess was accused of failing to come to the aid of a small fishing vessel in distress earlier this year, it came as a surprise to most industry watchers. However, recently discovered video footage of a rescue at sea of a small boat adrift for nearly a month in the Pacific Ocean seems to conclusively confirm that the adrift boat, the Fifty Cent, was not the small boat spotted and photographed by three Princess passengers several weeks earlier. The story, which broke last April, received extensive press coverage with Princess and the ship’s captain widely criticized for not coming to the rescue of the men onboard, two of whom subsequently died.

Princess has been sued six times by the survivor and relatives of fishermen on the adrift boat. The lawsuits claim the cruise ship Star Princess passed within several miles of the Fifty Cent, but failed to rescue them despite three cruise ship passengers spotting them and reporting they saw a boat that might be in distress. The ship’s bridge staff did not see signs of distress and therefore did not stop or notify the ship’s captain.

The Princess passengers, a group of bird watchers with sophisticated telescopic camera equipment, photographed the small boat they had spotted. Their photos depict a small white boat similar to Panga boats used by local fishermen in Central America. In contrast, the video footage of the Fifty Cent’s rescue shows a markedly different boat.

Princess had the newly discovered video and the original bird watchers’ photos analyzed by Michael Snyder, a retired photo analyst and photogrammetry expert from NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Mr. Snyder concluded that “the small boat photographed by the passengers onboard Star Princess is clearly not the small boat called Fifty Cent that Adrian Vasquez was found adrift on.”

The graphic below compares the Fifty Cent and the boat photographed by Princess passengers.

Princess began searching for photographs or video of the Fifty Cent after hearing recorded statements by plaintiff Adrian Vasquez that were inconsistent with his allegation that Star Princess had passed him by, and which were also inconsistent with the bird watchers’ reported sighting. The captain of the fishing boat that rescued Vasquez has provided a sworn statement confirming that Vasquez gave a detailed account of his ordeal at the time he was rescued, but never mentioned any cruise ship passing him by.

Further supporting the fact that Star Princess did not cross paths with the Fifty Cent is a drift analysis which charted the movement of the two vessels taking into account ocean current, wind and wave data. Conducted by Weather Routing, Inc., a private meteorological consulting firm, the analysis concluded "that it is not likely the boat sighted by the guest passengers was the same boat rescued on March 23rd and identified as the Fifty Cent."

“While this remains a tragic story, we are gratified to have scientific confirmation that Star Princess was never in the vicinity of the adrift boat and that the boat photographed by our passengers was not the adrift Fifty Cent,” said Alan Buckelew, president and CEO of Princess Cruises. “Nevertheless, we have used this as a valuable learning opportunity and have strengthened our bridge reporting procedures to ensure that all messages of concern from passengers or crew are carefully evaluated by our senior bridge officers.”

According to Princess, the ship’s captain, Edward Perrin, had been devastated by allegations his ship might have ignored a vessel in distress. Ironically, Captain Perrin was praised last month by Canadian authorities after his ship diverted to act as a wind block assisting Canadian authorities in a dramatic helicopter rescue of two sailors from a boat that was floundering in stormy conditions off the coast of British Columbia. Princess ships have come to the aid of persons or ships in distress more than 30 times in the past decade and it is fairly common for Princess ships to divert to render aid when they receive distress calls.

Princess Cruises has demanded the lawsuits be immediately dismissed and has offered to waive its right to seek recovery of legal costs,citing sympathy for the victims of the Fifty Cent’s ordeal. Video footage of Adrian Vasquez aboard the fishing boat that rescued him, and his boat Fifty Cent can be seen below.

Image and video courtesy of Princess Cruises

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Still doesn't explain why the bridge team didn't respond to the sighting by the passengers, birdwatchers or not. I've often wondered how, as one of the masses, you get the immediate attention of the bridge. The hotel staff seems programmed to smile and nod and move on. Granted the rantings of 3000+ semi sober 'guests' doesn't carry the weight of one good lookout. Problem being, the navigation staff has no lookouts.