Passenger Ship Technology

Costa Concordia accident highlights importance of safety conference

Taken from: Passenger Ship Technology news desk, 20 January 2012

Riviera Maritime Media’s 2012 Passenger Ship Safety Conference, held in association with Viking Life-Saving Equipment, proved to be particularly topical with the tragic Costa Concordia accident dominating the news. Issues arising from this incident were under the microscope during the two day event on 19-20 January in London, but not to the exclusion of other, equally important discussions.

A total of 90 delegates gathered for seven sessions which explored safety regulations, the human element, lifesaving appliances, a lifeboat versus marine evacuation system (MES) panel debate, the energy efficiency design index (EEDI) and Marpol standards, LNG-fuelled vessels and security.

Furthermore, during the first day the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the European Cruise Council (ECC) and the Passenger Shipping Association jointly organised a global media briefing to defend the passenger shipping industry’s safety record. CLIA’s president and chief executive officer, Christine Duffy, emphasised that safety is the industry’s top priority and called on IMO to review safety regulations in light of the Costa Concordia incident.

In the opening session of the main conference, session chairman Robert Ashdown, technical director of the ECC pointed out that, “Conferences like this demonstrate that there is no complacency in the industry. We are always evaluating safety, even when there are no incidences.” Nigel Lingard, formerly of Fred Olsen Cruises, said that the cruise industry differs from other transport as it “tries to fulfil dreams”. He pointed out that passengers assume they are safe on board ships and that safety measures should not be detrimental to a passenger’s experience.

Mikko Matilla, Deltamarin’s sales director, briefed the conference on the Solas 2009 damage stability rules. “These probabilistic damage stability standards were introduced to replace prescriptive rules. This risk-based approach allows designers more flexibility and a better understanding of survivability but the number of damage cases is much larger than it used to be.” Lloyd’s Register’s lead specialist for new construction in its passenger ship support centre, Paul Nichols, described how the new safe return to port (SRTP) rules also give scope to designers. However, he cautioned, “SRTP’s three regulations occupy a page and a quarter but the interpretations run to 19 pages.”

It was interesting to note that neither Mr Matilla nor Mr Nichols believed that Costa Concordia would have survived had it been built to the Solas 2009 or SRTP rules. The industry may need to focus on the human element to avoid this type of accident happening in the future. The session concentrating on this included a presentation by Richard Evenhand, managing director of V.Ships Leisure UK, who said, “Current circumstances have put routine training into sharp focus.” He warned against crew complacency and advocated that a safety culture must be pushed back to the centre of ship operations.

Dr Andrzej Jasionowski, director, research and product development for Safety at Sea told the conference that a ship could capsize in just two minutes following a flooding incident, so mustering should commence immediately. “The decision to stay on board should only be taken if the extent of the flooding is accurately known. Otherwise, always abandon ship,” he said.

The International Life-Saving Appliance Manufacturers’ Association (ILAMA) technical committee chairman, Harry Klaverstijn questioned whether 2019 was a realistic deadline for manufacturers to meet the requirements of forthcoming IMO regulations relating to lifeboat on-load release hooks. Manufacturers must perform a design review and performance test on all existing hooks, and modify or replace the hooks if they do not meet the standards. Mr Klaverstijn estimated there could be up to 90,000 re-hooking jobs. “The only way we can complete these in time is if manufacturers, owners, class societies and administrations co-operate with each other,” he said.

ILAMA’s permanent representative to IMO, Jim Booth, brought to light the issue of counterfeit lifesaving appliances. Often manufacturers are sent defective products which owners assume are genuine, but when manufacturers test them they find they are copies. Mr Booth said, “Theft of technical property is rife. Manufacturers have traced the counterfeiters but in each case, the country of origin protects them.”

There was a lively debate on whether to choose lifeboats or MESs as evacuation equipment. “Lifeboats represent safety and confidence to passengers,” said Peter Reinke, naval architect in Fassmer’s lifeboat research and development department. “Lifeboats are an active system with their own propulsion. Liferafts have to wait to be towed away from a dangerous zone.” Survitec’s Marin-Ark sales manager, Richard McCormick, countered this point by announcing that his company is developing self-propelled MESs – a hybrid lifeboat/MES. “MESs are simple to operate and there is minimum risk of crew injuries,” he said. “MESs ensure a vessel evacuation takes place within IMO’s 30-minute stipulation – lifeboats don’t come close to that.” Viking Life-Saving Equipment’s director of global sales and marketing, Niels Fraende, also supported MESs, saying, “They are tested to operate in up to 3m significant wave height.” Davit supplier, Navalimpianti-Tecnimpianti’s quality department manager, Piero Padroni, made the point that it is easier for disabled people to board lifeboats than MES chutes. However, Tony Harris, consultant for Liferaft Systems Australia reported that the Australian manufacturer has never had any problems getting any person in any condition through one of their chutes.

Day two opened with DNV’s Hilde Smedal-Thunes and Alexandros Toutountzis reporting that the number of non-compliant findings in ship surveys has increased in the DNV fleet over the past few years. As passenger ship owners are increasingly refurbishing their ships rather than shouldering a newbuild investment, Mr Toutountzis advised that revitalisation projects need to be pre-approved to ensure a vessel stays compliant with IMO standards.

Royal Caribbean Cruises’ director of maritime safety and compliance, Chris van Raalten, stressed that it was imperative not to have a knee-jerk reaction in light of the Costa Concordia accident. He felt it was important to focus on assessing the impact of cultural differences between crew of different nationalities. Independent maritime consultant Tom Allan commented that crew speak a ‘different language’ to passengers and that hotel staff working on board passenger ships could take a pre-training course before boarding to educate them in maritime terms.

Columbia Shipmanagement’s fleet manager, Olaf Groeger, believes that new emissions reduction measures, such as the energy efficiency design index (EEDI), will lead to more environmental awareness, but that the challenge of meeting new regulations can only be overcome with extensive crew training. Ronny Kristiansen, technical director at shipbuilding group, Fiskerstrand BLRT told the conference that using LNG-fuelled vessels to mitigate environmental impact is safe, as long as crew are trained in the bunkering procedure. His company has just built the largest LNG-powered ferry in the world, Fjord1’s Boknafjord.

The conference closed with a session on security. Chairman Mike Deegan, operations director of All Leisure Holidays reported that his company employed armed guards to ward off pirates when transiting waters off the coast of Somalia. Peter Cook, director of the Security Association for the Maritime Industry warned that although no large passenger ships have been successfully boarded by pirates, the piracy threat is not going to go away. “No ship with an armed security team has been hijacked by pirates,” he said.

On the subject of crime at sea, Maria Pittordis, Hill Dickinson’s Business Group Leader for marine, trade and energy advocated developing a global approach to investigating onboard crimes and cited the US Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act 2010 as a standard to aspire to. CLIA technical and regulatory executive vice president, Michael Crye’s presentation described how the association worked with lawmakers in the US Congress on the legislation. “Much of CLIA’s fleet already feature 107cm railings, peepholes in all cabins, onboard video surveillance systems, and employ medical personnel who meet guidelines established by the American College of Emergency Physicians. The new law will make these and other new provisions consistent across the fleet.”

Brittany Ferries’ UK managing director, Steve Warner, reported that French and UK border controls are sometimes entirely dissimilar, which makes it difficult for the French-flagged owner to maintain the best passenger and freight experience while fulfilling its duty of care.

As with all Riviera events, networking opportunities were plentiful, including lunches and refreshment breaks. The event will once again take place in 2013, with details appearing at

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