USCG Orders Casino Boat Out of U.S. Waters

Thursday, October 07, 2004
Marine Safety Office Jacksonville issued a Captain of the Port (COTP) Order the owners of the La Cruise casino boat requiring the vessel to leave the port of Jacksonville and all other U.S. waterways within 72 hours or face civil penalties of $32,500 for everyday of non-compliance. The order was given based on the vessel's poor safety record accumulated between July 2001 and August 2004. During that period, the casino boat has had numerous mishaps and casualties; it failed to meet required safety standards for manning, training and procedures and ignored specific COTP orders to move their vessel during two hurricanes. While each of these instances alone did not represent a direct or significant threat to the safety of the vessel or those on board, as a whole, they are an indication of major failings in the ship's safety management system, and was the determinant factor in the Coast Guard finding the vessel's safety management system ineffective and requiring the vessel to depart U.S. waters. The Coast Guard cannot allow the vessel to continue to assume the responsibility of the safety of its passengers until its safety management failings are addressed. "The guiding principle of all of our efforts is safety of life at sea, and that principle will not be compromised," said Capt. David L. Lersch, Captain of the Port. "The recent history of the La Cruise indicates a fundamental weakness in their ability to ensure the safety of their passengers and crew to the greatest degree possible. It would be irresponsible for us to allow them to continue to assume the responsibility for passengers under these conditions." Before the La Cruise casino boat can return and operate in any U.S. port, it must operate for three months without a safety detention or major casualty in waters other than those of the United States and show proof of an external audit conducted by the flag State, which shall be completed after a three-month casualty-free period. Additionally, prior to resuming passenger operations in the U.S., the company must provide a bond or other surety for past civil penalties issued in the amount of $227,500. La Cruise Inc. has the option to appeal this order in writing to the Seventh Coast Guard District within 30 days of being issued. The Coast Guard's marine safety mission is to protect life and property at sea. This mission is accomplished through aggressive inspection and compliance programs designed to prevent casualties before they happen and to mitigate damage, deaths and injuries when incidents do occur. The Coast Guard regularly examines all passenger vessels and crews that operate in U.S. ports to ensure that they maintain the highest levels of safety as outlined in U.S. and international regulations. Efforts are always made to work with ship owners and operators to ensure the safety of the vessel, its crew and its passengers; but to be effective the Coast Guard maintains the authority to take regulatory action, both civil and criminal, against those vessels and companies that are unable to meet the required safety standards.
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