Panel Finds that Cruise Engineer Was Fired for Exposing Safety Violations

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A cruise ship engineer was recently awarded $45,000, after it was found that he had been fired from his job after expressing safety concerns.

In 2014 an employee for Wartsila New Zealand Limited, a company working for Princess Cruises, expressed his concerns relating to the safety of a ship on which he worked.

According to NZHerald.co.nz, engineer Stuart Hurst became concerned "When the Sea Princess departed from Brisbane on 16 February 2014, a diesel generator failed. A large explosion occurred and various critical alarms were activated. This resulted in one of the engines having to be shut down."

According to a ruling by New Zealand’s Employment Relations Authority (ERA), this incident prompted Hurst to “express his frustrations and concerns through various emails, including a response to a senior staff member of boat-owner Princess Cruises”. In the series of emails Hurst informed officials with Princess, Wartsila New Zealand Limited, and Wartsila Australia of his concerns.

As a result of the series of emails Wurst was fired, presumably due to the fact that he had shared the information with the company’s clients. Peter van Keulen of the ERA told the paper that he was not satisfied that the actual content of the allegations made by Mr. Hurst had ever been investigated, calling into question the companies’ response to a very serious situation.

We have often blogged about the fact that, every year, cruise ship engine room fires put passengers and crew in danger. It is important that cruise lines and their subcontractors put safety first, and do not allow such disputes to prevent much needed safety checks and repairs from occurring.

On February 10, 2013, the Carnival Triumph, a ship owned and operated by Carnival Corporation which also owns Princess Cruises, was set adrift for 4 days after an engine room fire caused the ship to lose propulsion (the ability to move) and to lose all power. That in turn made the central toilet system back up and overflow. Sewage was seeping out onto carpets in cabins and hallways and even down walls.  The lack of air conditioning, lack of fresh food, and presence of sewage made the cabins uninhabitable. Passeners slept out in the open on the Lido deck. This was the infamous "poop cruise". 
 
The Carnival Triumph lost power when it was right off Cozumel and Progresso Mexico.  Carnival made the decision to have the ship towed to Mobile, Alabama, 4 days away, rather than tow the ship a few hours back to Mexico and incur the expense of flying everyone from Mexico back to Galveston, Texas where the ship left from.