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Cruise Concerns

August 27, 1995

It is commendable that The Times published an article illustrating some of the risks of travel and the hardships incurred when a vacation is disrupted by ship casualty, as happened due to grounding of the "Star Princess" on June 23 in Alaska ("Shoring Up After Mishaps at Sea," July 2).

The account primarily addresses compensation for such an accident and glosses over the [issue of] safety, which passengers have a right to expect from any maritime venture.

The comment that "these are extremely rare and unfortunate incidents" by Michael P. Smith of Majesty Cruise Line ignores recent history. In addition to the incidents referred to, several other casualties on passenger vessels, not well covered by the media, raise concern.

On Aug. 9, 1994, the Nieuw Amsterdam of Holland America Line averted a catastrophe when it grounded on a rocky island in fog at Ketchikan, Alaska. In 1991, a cruise ship caught fire, burned and sank off South Africa as the captain and crew abandoned ship, leaving the passengers to be rescued by South African military and coast guard. Other less serious accidents have occurred.

Immense public pressure has caused oil and freight interests to be more responsible for safe operation and environmental [security] since the grounding of the Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989. Cruise operators should be held to the same accountability for the safe passage of human life.

CHARLES W. VIEBROCK

Novato

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