(SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE) The scenes flashing across cable news and YouTube are familiar – refugee tent cities set up on the lido deck, hotel-like accommodations ankle-deep in human sewage and leisure travelers enduring conditions that anywhere else would prompt assistance from the Red Cross.

The cruise ship Carnival Triumph limped into port at Mobile, Ala., Thursday night, four days after losing propulsion and power to run even basic systems. The vacation disaster echoed the Carnival Splendor’s stranding 27 months ago off the coast of Baja and Carnival-owned Costa Allegra going adrift a year ago off Somalia.

If they had been airplanes, U.S. officials might have grounded an entire fleet. But the cruise ship industry is largely unregulated. Companies purposefully register their ships in just about any country other than the United States to avoid U.S. oversight, taxes and labor laws.

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