Delayed At Dock
Honduran Cruise Ship Workers’ Lawyers detain Costa Cruises cruise ship in Litigation

May 1st, 2006
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private] On April 19, a 3,400 passenger ship “Costa Magica” owned by Italian Costa Cruises was detained at the Roatan dock based on a letter of a Puerto Cortez judge Ernesto Uvero Gutierres acting on a lawsuit by 16 companies’ Honduran ex workers.

In the early morning hours lawyer Jorge Fiallos, representing Puerto Cortez’s based Law Firm of Gernan Ayala, presented a letter to Ramon Garcia, Roatan’s Port captain ordering to retain the “Costa Magica” “until further instructions.” According to Ayala the Judge Gutierrez presented a similar letter to a judge in Roatan.

Acting on the judge’s order, Garcia refused to sign the ship’s ZARPE form, allowing the ship to leave Roatan for its destination in Fort Lauderdale. “He [Garcia] should have contacted the legal department of the merchant marine before” said Elmer Cruz, owner of Agencia Naviera del Caribe, who represents the Costa Cruises.

The law firm of Gernan Ayala represents 16 Honduran plaintiffs suing Costa Cruises and a company, Catering Cruise Line Services, responsible for hiring its employees, for compensation due to on the job injuries and inadequate compensation. According to lawyer Gernan Ayala, the Hondurans taking action against Costa Cruises and Catering Cruise Line Services have suffered on the job injuries and some of them “can’t even move.”

“Costa Magica” passengers took part in the shore excursions and boarded the “Costa Magica,” before the boats scheduled noon departure. Its captain Capt. Giusepper Russo remained on shore working out a solution to the crisis. Vera Sophia Rubi, Director of Honduran National Marine, lawyers representing the Italian Embassy, Minister of Tourism and Congressman Jerry Hynds all took part in the conversations.

At 3:30pm and three-and-a-half hours late, “Costa Magica” left Roatan for Florida. Ayala said that pending a lawsuit, both Catering Cruise Line Services and Costa Cruises agreed in writing to pay a $700,000 guarantee deposit to the Puerto Cortez judge. “Costa Cruises” had no comment on the incident due to pending litigation procedures.

This is a second Costa Cruises cruise ship that has come to Roatan in the last several months. The Costa Allegre harbored in Roatan several months before. “They didn’t retain that ship, because it came in on a Sunday,” said Garcia.

Ayala said that before attempting to embargo the “Costa Magica” he tried contacting the two sued companies in the US, but received no response. “I’ve embargoed ships from all over the world: American, Italian, and German. Honduran law allows this,” said Ayala who has 25 years experience in representing maritime lawsuit cases.

In February 2005 “El Opera” cruise ship of the Mediterranean Cruises was served by a similar lawsuit by Gernan Ayala while docking on Roatan and the Italian company paid $48,000 in settlement for a Honduran employee grievance. “We have action in the US against other companies in the cruise ship industry, including Carnival,” said Ayala.

Some believe that if a cruise ship was embargoed on Roatan and its passengers were prevented from continuing to their scheduled destination, the incident could damage Roatan’s reputation as a cruise ship destination. Still, cruise ship companies with pending lawsuits against them are always at risk of having their boat embargoed.
Costa Magica is scheduled for another visit to Roatan on December 20. [/private]

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