Cruise Ship Safety

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Cruise Ship Safety

Cruise-ship safety has been dominating the headlines. What have we learned in terms of safety on the high seas?

The details behind the tragic accident of the Costa Concordia are still unfolding, but here’s what we know. Many passengers complained that there had not yet been a lifeboat drill, also known as a muster drill. Was this an act of negligence on the part of the ship’s officers? Not necessarily. Under an international covenant called Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), cruise lines are required to hold those drills within 24 hours of leaving the first port of embarkation. This incident occurred 40 miles, less than 3 hours, after leaving the harbor.

Another potential life-threatening issue during an emergency at sea? Language barriers. When a cruise line boasts that its crew comes  from 37 different countries that can be a recipe for disaster. In the event of an actual emergency, how can they talk to the passengers if they can’t even talk to each other?

Were there enough lifeboats to service all 4,000 passengers and crew aboard? The answer is a qualified yes. Modern cruise ships use a combination of lifeboats and special canister rafts. Those are then propelled off a ship and then open up into large rescue rafts.

Now let’s look at the real numbers. We’ve seen three major incidents in about 30 years, which is a remarkably good safety record, considering the number of ships at sea and the total number of passengers on these ships at any one time.

What does the industry need do to make cruising safer? They need to improve crew training and provide language training for crew members to communicate effectively with passengers. Muster drills should take place while the ship is still tied to the dock. And last, but certainly not least, they need to know how to combat worst kind of disaster on a ship — fire at sea — with better firefighting training for crew.