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Mike Myers
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Rogue Waves: Cruise Lines Claim "Act of God" to Avoid Responsibility

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The term "Rogue Wave" was thrown around a lot last week after waves smashed into the Louis Majesty, breaking glass and window frames. However, real "rogue" waves are actually very rare.

According to a wired.com article:

To officially be rogue, the wave’s height must be more than double the “significant wave height” of the area, which is calculated by averaging the height of the tallest third of all the nearby waves.

The wave measured 26 feet tall and shattered plate-glass windows at the bow of the vessel. Still, it wasn’t very tall compared to some of the waves oceanographer Libe Washburn of UC Santa Barbara has seen.

“I was surprised it was really that damaged by a 26-foot-high wave,” Washburn said. “Twenty-six feet isn’t that big.”

Most large waves that hit cruise ships are entirely foreseeable. They are not acts of God and can be avoided with careful planning and attention to sea conditions. The Louis Majesty was facing heavy weather when it was his by these large waves. According to reports, winds were gusting to 60 mph. Should the sea captain have warned passengers of the severe weather? Did he? Were waves that size foreseeable in those weather conditions? Could maneuvers have been made to lessen the blow? Should the blown out windows have been higher and stronger to be expected to withstand the force of a wave?

There are lots of questions surrounding this particular incident, but we do know other cruise ships were in the area. It’s my experience that claiming "rogue wave" to excuse inattention on the bridge is part of many cruise lines’ playbooks. Louis Cruise Lines owns the Louis Majesty. I hope they aren’t crying wolf as well.