Cruise ship experts back proactive response to Costa Concordia incidentTaken from: Passenger Ship Technology news desk, 19 January 2012
In the wake of the Costa Concordia accident, leading voices in the cruise ship industry came together to maintain that although it has a good safety record, it is always looking to improve. A media briefing was held on 19 January to enhance understanding of cruise ship operational practices, jointly organised by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the European Cruise Council and the Passenger Shipping Association during Riviera Maritime Media’s Passenger Ship Safety Conference in London.
CLIA’s president and chief executive officer, Christine Duffy, paid tribute to those who worked tirelessly to evacuate Costa Concordia and emphasised that safety is the cruise industry’s number one priority. The rest of the panel comprised Capt Bill Wright, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines’ senior vice president of marine operations, Richard Evenhand, managing director of shipmanagement and training company, V. Ships Leisure, Vice Admiral Sir Alan Massey, chief executive of the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Tom Allan, independent maritime consultant and regulations expert, and Richard Johnson, technical director of the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Ltd.
Ms Duffy called on IMO to look at the eventual Costa Concordia accident report which will be drawn up by the Italian administration and how any recommendations from this can be implemented. Additionally, Capt Wright commented that the timing of evacuation drills may now be reviewed. IMO rules state that these should be carried out within 24 hours of embarkation. Capt Wright said, “In the vast majority of cases, drills occur prior to departure. Occasionally this may be delayed slightly to fit in with an itinerary.”
On deploying lifeboats in extreme heel or list conditions, Mr Allan explained, “IMO requires that lifeboats can launch in up to 20 degrees of heel. It may be possible to launch in more extreme angles, but that decision would have to be taken by a ship’s master.” He also disputed that larger vessels are more difficult to evacuate. “Size does not make any difference – stability standards are the same. In fact, larger ships have a better platform to organise evacuations and more flexibility to include more safety initiatives than a smaller ship.” Vice Admiral Massey concurred, saying, “Safety standards have kept pace with the growth of cruise ship size.”
The issue of training came under the spotlight, with Capt Wright commenting, “This is a highly regulated industry and to become a master involves a four year university education and a long process of working through the ranks.” Mr Evenhand added, “Seafarers have to meet competence requirements and certification processes, which are then backed up with familiarisation training when they join a vessel.” He also responded to questions that crew may face language barriers when communicating with passengers: “Part of the crew selection process includes ensuring they have the language ability for the vessel they are operating.”
“Emergency response training is conducted every week,” said Captain Wright. “Every crew member has a specific role in emergency situations. Part of this is bringing lifejackets to muster stations. Passengers do not have to go back to their cabins if they are in a public space when an incident occurs. They should assemble at a muster station, where the crew will provide them with lifejackets.”
Ms Duffy concluded, “The cruise ship industry implements stringent safety standards and we will continue to do so.”