Risk Management: Cruise Ship Precautions for Jet Ski Tour

By Doyice Cotten

In a case involving a collision between two jet skis during a jet ski tour provided by Royal Caribbean Cruises (Royal), Royal listed the risk management steps taken in an effort to prevent injuries ( In re Royal Caribbean Cruises, LTD, 2013).  The tour consisted of a number of jet skiers in a single file follow-the-leader type tour. Providers of all sport businesses would do well to study these steps and adapt them to their sport business. The risk management steps taken were:

  1. All participants were required to complete a liability waiver when they signed up for the tour.
  2. Prior to the tour, all participants were required to go through an orientation which consisted of:
    1. *They watched an instructional video
    2. *They listened to a verbal orientation
    3. *They observed a demonstration of a mock-up jet ski.
    4. *They were instructed regarding safety rules such as (1) being told not to pass other jet skiers and (2) to maintain a distance of 100 yards from the jet ski in front of them.
    5. *The orientation was conducted by tour guides who were employees of Royal
  3. One of the duties of the tour guides was to make certain everyone in the tour was competent to operate their jet ski.
  4. While one tour guide led the group, the other remained at the starting point and started each participant once the preceding jet skier was 100 yards away. The second tour guide then trailed the group.

With these risk management policies in place, Royal seemed to have instituted an adequate risk management program. However, as the tour was commencing, one jet skier was having trouble with the jet ski – forcing others to slow down. One skier did not slow down and collided with another while less than 100 years from the starting point. Evidence showed that the starter tour guide had allowed the offending skier to begin while another skier was too close. More importantly, however, evidence showed that the offending skier was quite intoxicated and that the tour guides should have realized this by her strange actions, inappropriate comments, and her inability to control her jet ski.

This is a case in which actions (or inaction) by an employee cancels out good risk management policies. Whether the guides were poorly trained, poorly supervised, or just uncaring is unknown.

Ironically, the waiver was unenforceable because cruise ships are governed by Admiralty Law which holds that they may not protect themselves from their own liability for injury or death caused by the negligence of the owner, employees, or agents (46 U.S.C. § 30509).

(a) Prohibition.—

(1) In general.— The owner, master, manager, or agent of a vessel transporting passengers between ports in the United States, or between a port in the United States and a port in a foreign country, may not include in a regulation or contract a provision limiting—

(A) the liability of the owner, master, or agent for personal injury or death caused by the negligence or fault of the owner or the owner’s employees or agents; or

(B) the right of a claimant for personal injury or death to a trial by court of competent jurisdiction.

(2) Voidness.— A provision described in paragraph (1) is void.

 The case was remanded for trial to determine if Royal negligently failed to provide a competent operator of the jet ski.


  1. 1.      It is important to develop sound risk management policies.
  2. 2.      Nevertheless, sound policies rely upon competent, well-trained, reliable personnel to carry out those policies.
  3. 3.      Know the waiver law in your jurisdiction. Here, Royal was relying on a waiver for liability protection when it should have known that Admiralty Law prohibits such waivers by cruise lines.

 Photo Credit: Thanks to GaryKA at http://www.flickr.com/photos/hatchet59/2632520063/sizes/s/.