Improper training and bad steering by the second officer on a Princess Cruises ship caused the vessel to tilt suddenly in 2006, injuring almost 300 people, the National Transportation Safety Board determined Thursday.
The NTSB said the Crown Princess' captain and crew failed to realize how fast they were going in shallow water, which threw the ship off course. The second officer disengaged autopilot to correct it, then steered the wrong way, the board determined.
"The errors of the captain and staff captain in operating the integrated navigation system resulted from inadequate training," the board said in a synopsis of the accident.
Princess Cruises apologized to passengers Thursday and said it has already made changes requiring further navigation training for crews and better oversight for deck officers.
"We want to assure our passengers, or those who may be thinking about traveling with Princess, that the highest priority for our company is the safety and well-being of our passengers and crew," the Santa Clarita, California-based company said in a statement.
The Crown Princess was headed from Port Canaveral in Florida to New York City to close a 10-day Caribbean trip on July 18, 2006, when it suddenly tilted up to 24 degrees, hurling passengers and objects about the boat.
The captain was not on the bridge at the time, and should have been, the NTSB determined.
The ship had been in service about a month, and the board said there was nothing wrong with it mechanically. Weather and sea conditions were also uninvolved.
Princess Cruises faces a class-action lawsuit in Los Angeles from about 35 passengers who claim severe injury and distress. Dan Rose, an attorney with Kreindler and Kreindler, which represents the class, said the report was not surprising.
"Since the beginning of our investigation we knew that there had been some obvious misconduct by the crew," Rose said. "What is troubling is the lack of training that this crew was given, and the lack of supervision that the captain provided."
As a result of the investigation, the NTSB will recommend enhanced training on navigation systems for International Maritime Organization certification and members of the Cruise Line International Association.