Cruise Ship Liability

December 17, 2019 | By Colin | Filed in: Musings and Ideas for Discussion, Thought Leadership.

Cruise Ship Liability

Cruise Ship Liability. The recent disaster in New Zealand is close to my heart being that N.Z is my place of birth.

Now, at the outset, I must say I have not researched what I am about to say in any great depth, but have just skimmed a few Google news alerts and a few FB posts.

So this article is probably more in the realm of uninformed comment. But you are going to get it anyway.

The latest comment I noted was that Jacinda Ardern (N.Z, PM) said that the tour ships are liable.

I am not a lawyer and I have no idea of the laws of liability in this area in NZ, but my application of the common sense principle suggests that as a cruise line is, at the very best, a third party in these transactions, it should not have a direct line of attribution to any event on that island which contained the volcano.

Here’s wOvation Of The Seashat I understand.

A cruise line,

in an effort to differentiate itself from other lines offering similar pieces of excitement for its patrons, contracts with another party to provide some excursions off the ship. Something that is a unique selling proposition. (USP)

Live and Active Volcano

Now, this party (the Island Tour Company) then contracts with a passenger to provide a trip to a LIVE and ACTIVE volcano. This is a huge risk as there has been no warning in the past when and if there would be any events occurring with this volcano. But that is what makes it even more exciting and what means the Island Touring Company can charge fees up to $500 NZ for the excursion. And makes it an amount participants are willing to part with for the experience.

Social Media Proof

Of course, they expect to live and be able to share the photographs of them in this unpredictable and dangerous place. Shows what kind of people they are. Danger is what they were willing to pay a premium for. Of course, they didn’t believe it would ever be that dangerous. They probably signed a waiver (which they didn’t believe – their issue), which amongst other things promises that IF anything happens they won’t sue the Island Touring company.

Let’s Look At This.

The touring company told them it COULD be dangerous, deadly kind of dangerous, they signed something, they paid their money. “Yeah. Yeah. What could go wrong?” And they went on the guided tour.

The island blew up

The island blew up. Many of the 40 or so people on the tour at the time were immediately vapourised or massively injured. Several are still missing.

The tour company has, hopefully, Public Liability Insurance even if nothing else. I know this won’t bring back their sadly departed family/friends, but at least participants may be compensated for their loss in some meaningful financial manner. By the insurance company. Unless there were clauses they didn’t read. And that is entirely possible.

The Liability list

  1. The tour company Public Liability Insurance underwriter/other insurance policy underwriters
    • Insurance company responsibility for everything covered by policies signed when tour company set-up
  1. The Tour Company/client waiver
    • tour company indemnified against all losses including financial, and injuries up to and including death or failing to find remains
  1. Tour Company itself
    • Only moral responsibility, if any, for any loss of money, life or for injury – due to above
  1. Cruise line itself
    • No responsibility at all as transactions were ‘at arm’s length’
      • and cruise line also would have had public liability insurance to cover such eventualities, and perhaps, if prudent, blanket waivers for off-ship excursions as well
  1. The Country – New Zealand
    • Only moral responsibility, if any, for any loss of money, life or for injury.

Where Does This Leave Us?

I believe complete responsibility lies with the thrillseekers, and no-where else.

Does this make them the victims here of not only the loss of family, friends and relatives, but also financial loss, pain and suffering and ongoing psychological trauma?


Well, yes it does. You want to take risks, and I reckon good on you for so doing – I might have been tempted myself had I been on the cruise and the excursion cost was a LOT lower - but it doesn’t reduce that fact that it was extremely dangerous, unpredictable (except that IF an event did occur the likely result was going to be predictable AND catastrophic), and don’t forget FUN. By GOD it would have been fun. And, to be fair, nothing major had actually happened there for a few years.

The visitors to the Island were victims. But they were willing victims, who were informed of all the risks, and still wanted to make the trip.

I reckon, that there is a time when we all need to take responsibility for our own actions and stop blaming the rest of the world if things don't work out as we hoped.

Cruise Like A Pro


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