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THINKING ALOUD (Business&Law) BUSINESS MODEL: Laissez Faire management in Cruise Travel

Updated on January 1, 2017

Also, now as a result of that show being on, the cruise industry is just growing all over the place. Princess Cruises, who I now represent, is the fastest growing cruise line in the world.

— Gavin MacLeod
Picture seems to tell a story on the state of maintenance and repair.
Picture seems to tell a story on the state of maintenance and repair. | Source
Fire-damaged cruise ship
Fire-damaged cruise ship | Source

CRUISE ORDEAL: Engine-room fire

A February 2013 saga documented live on cable news

… a mega cruise ship on third day of a four-day cruise.. when an engine-room fire knocked out power and plumbing for most of the ship.

….thick smoke forced the evacuation of passengers from the lower decks in the ship’s rear, leaving them to sleep on deck under sheets, passengers said. They also complained to relatives and media by mobile phone that toilets and drainpipes overflowed, soaking many cabins in raw sewage.

…”The stench was awful,” said Ms R.Chandler, who spent her birthday on the ship. “A lot of people were crying and freaking out”.

..”Just imagine the filth,” said Mr Combs, “People were doing crazy things and going to the bathroom in sinks and showers. It was inhuman.

…With only one working elevator, it took several hours to get the more than 4,200 people off the ship...after five days adrift …with overflowing toilets and stench-filled cabins.

Cruise ordeal finally over. “I’m just so blessed to be home, said passenger K Jenkins, crying. “I don’t want to hear the word “cruise’ ever again.

Chén Róng’s Little English-Chinese Dictionary

  • turn a blind eye = shì ruò wú dǔ

  • tip of the iceberg =qí yú bèi yǐn cáng

  • false sense of security =xū jiǎ de ān quán gǎn

  • rest on your laurel = mǎn zú, bù zài nǔ lì

  • infinitesimal = wēi hū qí wēi

Ferry Cruise

Writer: Chén Róng

The South Korean passenger ferry that sunk with over 400 people on board in April this year was not an accident; but a deliberate act of human inconsideration and selfishness. Yes, it happened in Korea. But the unhappy event can happen on anyone's shores; it can happen in many parts of the world, especially the fast developing emerging Asian countries opening up to the tourist industry. Many of us might have experienced the risks ourselves when we were on group tours to destinations often inundated with travellers at certain times of the year. We might consider ourselves fortunate because there were moments that the situations were beyond our control and we had no choice but to go along with risk taking.

We all should be mindful of the risks involved when enjoying our cruise on ferries; and this article hopes to highlight the common causes for such accidents especially at tourist hot-spots.


At certain times of each year, many Asian holiday destinations are jammed pack with tourists on guided tours; and it is not uncommon to see tour guides leading a pack of between 30 and 50 holiday makers each. These guided tours are almost always on tight schedules -- rushing from one scenic spot to another -- and often sight-seeing involves water passage by local ferries. These water crafts may take between 50 and 100 passengers each as the safe number for a seaworthy journey. All passengers are to be properly seated, with life jackets supplied in sufficient quantity for all, including children. But this is often never the case.

Ferries are almost always over-loaded. But no one cares -- and in most instances, the local port inspectors are rarely found anywhere near the water craft with the exception of one or two boatmen who may be seemingly doing a head count. No, you know they are not! The tour guides seem to have the final say because they will never allow any member of the group be left behind at the quay-side. Overloading is hence inevitable. Moreover, every tour guide seems to think that the group he/she leads takes priority over all others. Boatmen seldom pick quarrels with these tour guides. Besides, more head counts translate to higher revenue per trip. Life is cheap when financial hardship in poor countries is a reality and people there take on risks that we in the developed world generally do not. But when in Rome, most of us tourists will do as the Romans do, so the saying goes. We either take chances or risk being left behind in a foreign land. The writer has had such an experience some years ago when travelling to an Asian country with his wife. It was the last ferry home. There was no accommodation on the island. There was no choice. The ferry was obviously overloaded.

The commercial reality is: when ferries and other shipping crafts worked to near the 100% mark, owners will work these vessels even hard by deferring maintenance and repair works for longer periods thus risking lives and properties at sea.


The ferry industry is subject to regulations in terms of safety, environmental impact and security by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). IMO is a United Nations body responsible for establishing regulations for international shipping that includes ferries. However, ferries operating within the boundaries of a country are subject to rules of that country alone.

That is where the problem lies.

Local regulations might be lax; or, if these are written comprehensively, there is little or no implementation of rules.

Ferry owners may be allowed to buy over decades -old vessels refurbished to add excessive capacity, then loaded with more passengers and cargo and then certified by a classification society that may not have international recognition. Such approved remodelling done under opaque rules is disaster about to happen. What is more, if human greed is part of the equation, it becomes corruption of the worst kind - risking of human lives. With coast guards and port authority turning a blind-eye to false reporting on weight and passenger numbers, who is in charge on preventing large-scale disasters? The answer: no one.

Whereas ferries plying international waters are subject to IMO regulations and there are rules generally cover vessel design, construction, repair, operations, manning, training, environmental impact, security and regular inspections throughout a ferry's working life. Inspections include vessel stability, propulsion and other machinery -- mechanical & electrical; life-saving appliances and fire prevention and firefighting equipment; and not least, navigation and communications systems.

Internationally, Singapore and UK are well known for their high standards in ferry regulations and implementation.


Passenger safety may be a hot topic whenever a disastrous event takes place and awkward questions asked. But there are legal and diplomatic difficulties for IMO’s attempts at extending its discretion into domestic waters of poor countries.

There is light in a dark tunnel.

IMO and Interferry have formed a partnership to work with ferry owners all over the world to help improve on the level of ferry safety and save lives. Who is Interferry?

Interferry is the one and only shipping association representing the ferry industry world-wide. It facilitates networking among its members by exchanging information, regulatory matters and technical data on the ferry industry. Interferry stimulates industry cooperation and advancement by providing a forum for people to share experiences and learn from others

Tourists travelling on ferries in poor countries should not rest on their laurels thinking that all is safe with IMO/Interferry involvement. For these poorer countries have to take the initiative in asking for assistance. And the developed world has to come forward quickly with the resources to make the difference -- terminal construction, renewal of decrepit and unsafe ferries, ticketing systems, crowd control and preventive measures.

It will not be easy. One consolation for the discerning ferry passenger is: there is a membership list at Interferry. Those who are members will likely take proactive steps to make their ferries safe. It pays to check the members list before travelling to those lesser developed countries. There are currently 225 members from 38 countries.


With safety in mind, holidaying on cruise ships can be a happy event for all
With safety in mind, holidaying on cruise ships can be a happy event for all | Source

Cruising in China

WRITER: Chén Róng

One major challenge facing the development of cruising in China may be the unparalleled supply of software (service level) and hardware (ships & terminals) , the latter of which does not seem to bother a big country flushed with money. Similarly with many of the country's mammoth hotels, the quality of their maintenance and repairs are doing a disservice to their glistering facets and internal decors. Room doors with defective sensors on hotel room doors; ineffective toilet flushing system, light bulbs blown out and not replaced, etc, are prevalent, as the writer discovered in his travels.

Nevertheless, it is hard to fault a huge country which has to be up and running fast enough to feed a population surpassing its billion-mark. It takes time for people to be trained and gain the necessary skills; and getting the trainers with the needed skill-sets is another challenge by itself. It is a rough patch that needs urgent attention.

In the cruising industry, the major obstacles to growth are the lack of major home-ports and other ports-of-call to offer destinations and itineraries that can be reached in a competitive way. China has done well in the construction of at least five terminals and cruise infrastructures, including those in Shanghai, Tianjin and Xiamen. Critics said more efforts should be put into catering to tastes of foreign visitors vis-à-vis local Chinese tourists. The writer has no experience and in-depth knowledge to offer his views. But cruise infrastructure should be constructed and maintained with the convenience and safety of passengers in mind; and this aspect may not necessarily be met because of other constraints.

Cruise-travellers themselves should stay alert as to their own safety when they are at port terminals, not just in China itself, but at other Asian destinations for a number of reasons. The attached photo by Reuters seems to tell a story on the state of maintenance and safety within the cruise industry. The damaged wire rope that secured a cruise ship to the mooring buoy may be in danger of snapping and the risk of bodily harm to people around seems rear. Cruise passengers should never stand within the whipping radius of mooring ropes, especially one that needs an immediate replacement.

Some terminals are not just meant for cruise ships -- they also accommodate ferries and yachts. With other crafts in mind, the terminal will have to make the necessary concessions in terms of space and comfort for cruise passengers. There are other terminals for turnarounds and not just transit of cruise passengers and that spells space constraints. At the land-side, there may be insufficient space to accommodate transport options for disembarking passengers -- designated space and queuing area for taxis, private cars and bays for vans and coaches. Passengers who have children and old people for company must stay alert. There will be security issues unless proper preventive processes are in place for terminals not totally dedicated for cruise passengers, and where their convenience and safety may be compromised.

All is not lost, nevertheless as China is fast moving into better gateway services and cruise terminal operations through joint ventures and partnerships with established foreign cruise operators such as Florida-based Royal Caribbean International. In the long run, China will become a major force to be reckoned with in the cruise industry.

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The writer makes no warranty of any kind with respect to the subject matter included herein or the completeness or accuracy of this article which is merely an expression of his own opinion. The writer is not responsible for any actions (or lack thereof) taken as a result of relying on or in any way using information contained in this article and in no event shall be liable for any damages resulting from reliance on or use of this information. Without limiting the above the writer shall have no responsibility for any act or omission on his part. Readers should take specific advice from qualified professionals when dealing with specific situations.

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Hubpages do not support words written in the Chinese Language. Readers can get a free online English-Chinese translation from GOOGLE TRANSLATE OR

I have also included ChénRóng’s Little English-Chinese Dictionary for a more precise translation of select English phrases from the article.

Cruise Travel Casualty Risks

WRITER: Chén Róng

Seven out of ten fires in 2012 were residential blazes! That was the message the Singapore Defence Force tried hard to drive home at the height of the lunar festive celebrations as the Year of the Water Snake came slithering in on the 10th of February. On such a happy occasion people are unlikely to be in the mood for party spoilers. Similarly, on February 15thCable News Network (CNN) splashed the headlines “Spate of fires poses problems for cruise industry”, and detailing a catalogue of engine fires over the past months. Holiday makers loathe such hullabaloos; and many of my Chinese friends, having caught up with such vacation fad, would smash such talks to smithereens – why single out cruise ships? Hot-air balloons caught fire and crashed too!

Indeed, so was the state of the art, Boeing 787 Dreamliner; it had a string of embarrassing problems, including a battery fire. In all fairness, CNN was simply living up to its social responsibility as an international broadcaster. Thinking aloud, I consider it prudent that holiday makers should not turn a blind eye to such casualty risks. Going on a cruise should be a very safe vacation if holiday makers understand the risks and take steps to mitigate unpleasant events. Cruise passengers may be exposed to dangers particularly the greater risk of engine fires and the lesser risk of piracy.

  • Main casualty risks of accidents and piracy

Engine fire resulting from a ship losing its propulsive power can be hazardous; it is just a “tip of the iceberg” problem of problems – collapse of sanitation system and probable diseases; grounding of vessel cannot be ruled out; instability in severe weather conditions, and evacuation of thousands of passengers at sea, many of them are elderly retirees out for a jolly good time. If a cruise vessel were to be in distress, taking care of some 3,000 passengers or more that have to disembark would be an impossible undertaking. Despite the potential inconvenience for the port of refuge, it is horrific to imagine that refuge may be denied to a cruise ship in distress. However, if the need for assistance is further compounded by an outbreak of an infectious illness on board, it is quite conceivable that actual entry into a port of refuge could be irrevocably refused. The vessel might be directed to another safe place instead and be placed in quarantine, causing the passengers further unjust punishments and distress.

Our impressions of pirates of yesteryear are influenced by movies. Unfortunately, this misplaced notion may give us a false sense of security; probably thinking that pirates with outdated weaponry would never be able to assail a modern mega cruise ship. In truth, the modern pirate is very different from his historical counterpart. Today’s Somali pirates use modern technologies and publicly available information to strategically plan each attack on ships on their way to Europe from Africa. They have with them global positioning systems, automatic weapons, antitank missiles and speed boats to make their missions almost fail-safe.

For now pirate attacks remains a perennial problem. It is true today’s cruise ships are using a new sonic defence system; a blasting an ear-splitting noise to ward off attacks by pirates. Cruise ships can also rev up their engines in racing ahead of their attackers. Such tactical plays are useful when it comes to warding off pirates who tried to board ship and rob; or kidnap passengers for ransom. There is now a new breed of pirates with a political agenda.

It has been reported that in some instances the attackers actually fired rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns at cruise liners with intention to damage the vessel and hurt passengers rather than seize the ship as is more usually the case with pirate attacks off Yemen coastal region. The aim was to cause serious bodily harm to passengers of certain nationalities; the targets were carefully identified. In other words, attacks were the work of terrorists in the guise of pirates. Thus, passengers are faced with this twin problem: pirates and terrorists; and the choice of venue may not necessarily reduce the risks of such attacks. At present, venues nearer to Somali and Africa are probably the higher risk areas. One way to find out if certain routes or seaports are safe is through enquiries with insurance companies. Some insurance policies specifically exclude coverage on cruise trip routes that are set in a close proximity to the shores and waters of countries threatened by terrorist attacks. Potential passengers should take note of this policy exclusion if they have not already sought clarification prior to purchase cruise insurance policy.

  • Cause and Effect

The entire system of regulatory rules on security and safety standards is hard to explain and not easily comprehensible to people not in the shipping as well as, the cruise business. The modern day cruise ships are like floating mini-cities. They are ‘citizens’ of their place of ‘birth’ (registration) and when they are in international waters, these cruise ships are subjected to the laws of the countries whose flags they fly. But when they go places, the many countries that host these cruise ships apply international security and safety standards known as Port State Controls. These standards are the brainchild of The United Nations’ International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The trouble with this system is: application and supervision of rules by Port States are being reduced to subjective standards. It is like bringing up children: parents cannot expect educational institutions to be responsible for inculcating values in their children; socially responsible kids who grow up with compassion for others’ well-being are products of good parenting. But like all humans, some are awful parents that bring up irresponsible children. Some Open Registries are like such less-than-shining parents who leave children to their own devices. The many hosting countries (ports of call) are like educational institutions that see young people come and go through the academic years; and these educators will do whatever little they can to include civic-minded educational practices in curricular contexts. In such a short time, there is little these institutions could do for these young people. Similarly, hosting countries cannot be expected to bear the work burdens of Open Registries. Hope I have not stretched too far for an analogy.

- Open Registries and the Rule of Law

Open Registries are also called Flags of Convenience. We all know that marriages of convenience is a one contracted for reasons other than that of relationship, family, or love; marriages are often contracted to exploit legal loopholes of various sorts. Unfortunately some Open Registries do have almost similar standards of convenience; the ships in international waters are the territory of the flag (of convenience) states which are responsible for maintaining the rule of law. Flag states are the guardian of standards and enforcer of regulations. Unfortunately, some of these open registries are only looking at registration business as being a cash cow. The issue of transparency of ownership is a hot security problem when ship owners use these open registries to hide their identity; owners who have no real connection to the flag state. The owner may be a Liberian ‘shell’ company (XYZ Monrovia) for purpose of registering a ship with an open registry; no details of beneficial owners are needed. Beneficial owners may have its business operation in Hong Kong and the registered office in Bahamas. The ship manned by Filipino crew. What happens if a passenger is assaulted during a cruise? He/she cannot be certain of what will happen next. The perpetrator may be a foreign national, and because you may be in international waters when the assault occurs, the passenger faces a host of legal uncertainty pertaining to jurisdictional issues when the victim disembarks at the next port and report the crime. The better option is always to stay out of harm’s way;stay safe by exercising situational awareness—assessing and understanding one’s surroundings at all times.

- Port States as enforcers of IMO standards

Technical and regulatory standards are set by IMO. These guidelines are not laws and there is no consequence if the cruise lines ignore these recommendations. Passengers have no way to know whether these cruise ships are well maintained safely. There is no global central agency with ‘real teeth’ to oversee compliance. It is true that some port state authorities where cruise ships made their calls have established information maritime exchanges to record inspections and deficiencies found aboard ships, such exemplary practices are rare. There is a limit to what these Port States can do; and in the event of an accident they play only a secondary support role by lending their expertise to investigations which are done by the Open Registries. In such a laissez-faire environment; in the absence of a central database, how is a potential passenger to effective check records on safety, sanitation maintenance and state of health of the cruise liner? Can Open Registries be expected to raise ‘red flags’ on those errant ships found to have nightmarish conditions – overflowing toilets, foul odours and pictures of passengers sleeping on deck; conditions that can be avoided with better maintenance standards?

  • Mitigating factors

Under the general rule of liability, a negligent party is obliged to pay full compensation to those who suffer from his negligence. Unfortunately, this rule does not apply to cruise passengers. The liability of a cruise ship towards its passengers is based on the terms of the contract of carriage, as well as the mandatory legal provisions (The Athens Convention); and the cruise ship owner is legally allowed to limit his liability as a matter of public policy considerations – matters we will not discuss at this juncture.

Generally speaking, the terms of carriage as appear on every passenger’s ticket should cover:

- Liability for personal injuries and deaths of passengers, including medical bills. It will also cover incidental expenses arising as a result of a casualty including the cost of getting the passengers to their destination or returning to the port of embarkation as well as costs of maintenance of the passenger.

- Liability for the loss or damage to any personal effects of the passenger. However, this item is usually is limited in the passage ticket to a set dollar amount.

As said, cruise ship owners can limit their liabilities under law. Thinking of filing suit? Don’t count on it even if passengers can file suit within the one-year statutory limitation. Courts routinely uphold the terms of passage contracts for reason of the Athens Convention. There will also be other legal hurdles; one ship one company to limit liability is commonly practised. Compounding the difficulty is: the owner may have a place of business in Hong Kong and the company that owns the ship is in Greece; and the cruise ship flies the Liberian flag. Although the ticket may be bought in London, the ship used a passage contract calling for litigation in Greece. An English court will dismiss any lawsuit filed in London in favour of litigation in Athens.

Under the circumstances, passengers should get themselves adequately covered under Cruise Insurance as the better option. Cruise insurance policies guarantee medical help and travel assistance beyond the standard services offered by cruise liners. Do not rest on your laurels thinking that all is fine; passengers are advised to read the fine prints of their policies. Travellers with specific pre-existing medical conditions (not declared) can also be the reason they may be insured, but not covered. If you go for the rock-climbing wall, an ice-skating rink, and the pool with artificial wave for surfing – watch it; you may not be covered under policy terms. Recently, those victims that perished when the hot air balloon caught fire and crashed in Egypt– they were not covered under their travel insurance policies; a double whammy for the families. Another caveat – if a passenger were to delay evacuation from an on-board fire; risking life and limb to shoot with his smartphone camera for posting online, don’t count on his insurance to indemnify him for third-degree burns. His brazen act might actually be captured and documented on Facebook!

It is advisable that travellers choose a suitable policy only after having purchased their cruise trips and other flight arrangements. Travellers might actually need additional insurance for time spent outside the ship when visiting places. Different countries can cause problems to those with limited coverage especially when it comes down to medical assistance. Check it out with qualified insurance agents as part of the travel plan.

  • Cruise industry in a state of flux

The business model is a matrix that is not unusual in the cruise line industry. It is true that some open registries have tried to change the image by raising standards; and continuing to label them as Flags of Convenience is probably unfair as well as, detrimental to genuine efforts of the few good ones. From a business perspective, a single well regulated open register will have its plus points. But such a global organisation is still not a reality for now. Nevertheless, self-regulated Open Registries with the needed attributes can be a boon to travellers; qualities that can bring about a continuous improvement in the safety, security, environment protection and welfare of seafarers employed in a global cruise industry. Unlike a factory, a cruise ship does not have an obvious place of residence for tax purposes. The Greek owner operating a cruise ship may fly the Panamanian flag and owned by a one-ship Liberian tax-free company. He may have an agency establishment in London for marketing purposes. This corporate structure enables the Greek owner to gain access to European or USA public finance, or South Korean shipbuilding expertise with Hong Kong ship managers, while employing cost-effective yet well-trained Filipino crews. All in all, a well-managed cruise ship company can provide the most competitive cruise packages without sacrificing safety features and excellent services, as well as top class facilities to travellers. Cruise passengers are effectively travelling in a ‘Lexus for the price of a Toyota’; a quotable quote.

So much for wishful thoughts; ever larger cruise ships - larger than aircraft carriers - do raise concerns in safe tourism. These megaships are like sardine cans packed with as many as 6,000 passengers and crew; they are susceptible to horrific accidents that can put thousands at risk for their lives. Elderly retirees should avoid these giant cruise ships as people coming-of-age could fall ill, other than just running the risks of on-board fires. Older people are more susceptible to risks of tripping over uneven surfaces in dimly lighted corridors or falling over door coamings. Crowds at embarkation and disembarkation; queues at restaurants and airports would tire them out readily. Until such time as a Central Agency is established to regulate and, if needed, humiliate offending cruise operators through publishing their names and list their offences, passengers should more circumspect about their cruise holidays and heedful of potential consequences.

Bon Voyage to all sailing on world cruises.

---------------------- END………………………………………..

Commemorative Stamps of China's Yangtze River & its Three Gorges Dam
Commemorative Stamps of China's Yangtze River & its Three Gorges Dam | Source
Commemorative Stamps of Three Gorges Dam
Commemorative Stamps of Three Gorges Dam | Source

Cruising on China’s Yangtze River

Writer: Chén Róng

Picturesque descriptions of Baltic treasures and Scandinavian splendours cruises you must have heard them all! It is a worthy subject, but dull rendition if it comes from me.

Probably because I understand the history, language and culture, my most memorable cruise is sailing China’s Yangtze River, the longest river in Asia. In just eight short days, one gets a great insight of the country’s cultural heritage – spectacular scenery, cultural treasures and religious and historical sites on this 4,000 mile long waterway. It was spring time and the weather was cool and comfortable. Seasickness was out of the question on a luxurious ship, the biggest now operated by President/Victoria Cruise Fleets with built-in stabilizers minimizing rocking motions.

The Yangtze is the historical divider between northern and southern China; sort of a natural barrier against invaders in its historical past and waterway for transport and commerce to present day. Sailing in and out of the ship locks of the Three Gorges Dam - the largest dam in the world – was a real eye-opener.

The Yangtze multi-lingual cruise is one of those venues in China one can find the biggest gathering of Europeans and Americans enjoying their spring and autumn holiday in the country.

NOTES: On November 4th, 1994, The Ministry of Post and Communications of China issued a set of commemorative stamps of the Three Gorges on Yangtze River.


She did not see the coaming at all. A 10 cm-high obstruction at every entrance door was an unusual feature.
She fell on the coaming not because it was an unusual danger; but she was just not looking where she was going. The ship complied with all statutory regulations and fully classed by a recognized international classification society.
The ship breached its duty of care by failing to adequately warn her; or to paint it so that it was easily seen.
The risk of tripping was so obvious a reasonable response should not include more signage or different paint colour. The ship was entitled to take into account what would be obvious to passengers.
The ship should have made frequent announcements about risk of falling over coamings.
It is unreasonable to expect a cruise operator to frequently broadcast warnings about coamings during a river cruise.
Claim that no passenger ever tripped was considered unreliable by district court.
Some 10,000 boarded the ship over a 12-year period. No one tripped.
The dissenting judge: There are circumstances when a degree of inadvertence or carelessness may have to be reasonably foreseen and taken into account in defining the extent of a passenger’s duty of care.
Majority Judges: She should have known about coamings from the moment she boarded. She would actually have crossed over the same coaming that she tripped on a little while later. She ought to have taken reasonable care for her own safety. Some 10,000 boarded the ship; and this is the only case brought against it.
No, history does not have to repeat itself!
No, history does not have to repeat itself! | Source

TRIPPING on board a Cruise Ship

WRITER: Chén Róng

Cruise passengers be forewarned. There may be danger lurking in every corner!

This true story happened on a cruise ship sailing on Derwent River in Tasmania. While walking through a door from the aft deck into the main cabin of a cruise ship, a passenger tripped on the door coaming and fell heavily on her left knee. She lost her legal case against the cruise ship in the Australian appeal. An award of A$300,000 for damages was set aside by the appeal court.

As readers, you are not the person in trouble and, therefore, you should be able to look at what has happened in an unbiased manner. A reasonable evaluation of what has taken place may be a good lesson in history. Here is a table of the arguments for and against the passenger injured.

The Titanic II

WRITER: Chén Róng

No, history does not have to repeat itself! The unfortunate maritime disaster may be a thing of a past era. But yes, history looks like it is about to repeat itself: a replica Titanic II would be a ship where dreams will come true when complete with an array of new safety features – thanks to ever evolving technology.

Its owner, flamboyant Australian tycoon Clive Palmer, wants to have real fun with his new toy. There will be class segregation as there will be no mingling between classes; these passengers will be dressed in period costumes appropriate to their class of tickets. If all goes well, the cruise ship will soon be sailing from its place of birth – China for England, and from there along the original, ill-fated route to New York.

The Australian tycoon told the media that he was not superstitious. But people generally are a superstitious lot – for good or bad - and the Chinese are no exception. Surely, Mr Palmer would want to sail off with a plethora of Chinese passengers now and in the future! So, it pays to conduct a due diligence exercise by getting marketers to go round counting how many people in China are already experiencing eye-twitching; such involuntary muscle movement connects to a number of superstitions with the Chinese. A twitching of the left eye may spell the arrival of good fortune; probably with Titanic II bringing in lots of fun and dreams about to come true. Conversely, if the right eye twits, it foretells bad luck.

Actually, there is a lot more to eye twitching superstitions in the Chinese culture – this short write-up is just the tip of the Iceberg!

Hope this tongue-in-cheek suggestion will bring more cheers to Mr Palmer and his marketing campaign.

Bon Voyage.

Chén Róng’s Little English-Chinese Dictionary

  • Oriental Star = dōng fāng zhī xīng
  • Inclement weather = jí duān è liè tiān qì
  • lax regulations = jiān guǎn sōng xiè
  • convective weather = liú tiān qì

Violent Weather blamed for Yangtze Ferry Disaster

The cruise ship Oriental Star capsized. Heavy rains and ferocious winds were the cause of its sinking. Almost all but a dozen people survived. The accident took place in Hubei Province, China in 2015. It ignited accusations that lax regulations were the primary cause of the accident.

This article will not exaggerate or fuel greater animosity or pain from the general public. Certainly, converting an existing ship into a ferry may have made it more susceptible to capsizing. But it was not the cause.

An investigation which was overseen by the Chinese central government concluded that the sinking of the Oriental Star arose because of sudden and rarely seen severe convective weather. Such a condition brought with it strong winds and heavy rains. That was primarily the cause of the grave disaster.

In fairness, ships must meet the standards of international classification societies and the Oriental Star was constructed in line with regulatory requirements. No ship-owner would build ships far in excess of class and regulatory requirement for their intended purposes because it will cost too much to construct and operate them. If inclement weather conditions go beyond their norms, these are unforeseen circumstances outside human control and responsibility. Such events should rightly fall within the legal term, an Act of God.

We cannot totally avoid such disaster but we can limit the chances of these happenings falling on ourselves. Holiday-makers must choose a month or season when the weather is cool and comfortable, Choice should never be made because cruise prices are cheapest during this off-peak period. Spring and autumn are generally the better seasons for making cruises on the Yangtze River. The months of April, May, September and October are therefore the ideal time and so price are high. Winter cruises command the lowest prices and mind you, unforeseen weather conditions can make your trip most unpleasant. You are also risking your life to unforeseen weather conditions outside human expectation and control.

Holiday is supposedly a happy event and it is certainly not a time for penny pinching.


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