If a cruise ship comes across a refugee vessel, it has a legal obligation to offer assistance. If it causes personal injury or property damage to its passengers, the cruise line also has an obligation to compensate them.
According to Newsweek, a cruise ship almost had the two obligations come into conflict recently when it had to swerve to avoid a collision with a suspected refugee craft. The maneuver caused a swimming pool to overflow and the water to spill over several decks.
The ship had recently departed from a Caribbean island privately owned by the cruise line. It was navigating the Straits of Florida on its way to Cozumel, Mexico. When the crew spotted a raft and suspected it to be a refugee vessel, the ship made a hard turn to avoid a collision and to render aid if necessary.
This hard turn caused the pool on Deck 15 to overflow. Water spilled down several floors all the way down to Deck 8, alarming multiple passengers, but there was no report of injuries or serious damage. Crew members worked quickly to minimize the effects by cleaning up the spilled water and drying out the deck. The cruise ship proceeded to its next destination without any delays.
Cruise ships have a legal obligation to render aid to any refugee craft they come across. Refugees are people who have fled violence or persecution in their country of origin. Whether a cruise ship renders aid could mean the difference between life and death to them.
A cruise line is also responsible for the safety of its passengers. Had there been any injuries or damage to personal property from the spillage, the passengers would have had valid claims for compensation.