In the aftermath of the Costa Concordia tragedy, the cruise industry is addressing questions about cruise
ship safety and doing its best to ensure the peace of mind of cruise enthusiasts and future cruisers around the world.

What happened aboard the Concordia is extraordinarily rare, especially since the cruise industry has been hailed as the safest form of commercial transportation. Within days of the incident, Costa issued a statement saying in part, “While the investigation is ongoing, preliminary indications are that there may have been significant human error on the part of the ship’s Master, Captain Francesco Schettino, which resulted in these grave consequences.” Costa has also stated, “The route of the vessel appears to have been too close to the shore, and the Captain’s judgment in handling the emergency appears to have not followed standard Costa procedures.”

Current safety regulations
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), is the world’s largest cruise association, and its mission is to promote policies and practices that foster a safe and secure cruise environment. CLIA is composed of 26 of the world’s major cruise lines. Safety is CLIA’s number one priority with CLIA members committed to the safe operation of all cruise vessels in their fleets.

The cruise industry maintains an excellent safety record. In 1996, the U.S. Coast Guard conducted a comprehensive safety study that concluded the cruise industry is the safest form of commercial transportation.

Last year alone, over 19 million passengers enjoyed safe cruise experiences around the world.
Additionally, Michael Crye, CLIA’s executive vice president of technical and regulatory affairs, recently pointed out that from 2005 to 2011, the cruise passenger shipping industry carried nearly 100 million passengers, but only suffered 16 deaths due to marine casualties during that period of time.

The cruise industry complies with all International Maritime Organization (IMO) standards governing the operation of cruise vessels worldwide. These regulations are closely monitored by both flag and port states. These internationally mandated standards — treaties adopted by the United States government — govern the design, construction and operation of ocean-going vessels and are codified in the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention and its amendments.

Other IMO safety standards which have been adopted internationally include: Convention on the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW), which deals with crew training as it relates to safety, The International Convention in Load Lines, and the IMO’s International Safety Management (ISM) Code, which relates to mandatory codes of practice.

Coast Guard inspections
The cruise industry cooperates with the U.S. Coast Guard and other maritime nations to ensure the safe passage of passengers. To ensure compliance with SOLAS, the Coast Guard examines each new cruise vessel when it first enters service at a U.S. port. Thereafter, these vessels are subject to quarterly Coast Guard inspections. The examinations emphasize structural fire safety and proper life-saving equipment. Additionally, the Coast Guard witnesses fire and abandon ship drills conducted by the ships’ crew and operational tests are made on key equipment such as steering systems, fire pumps and bilge pumps. The Coast Guard also closely examines the vessels and their operation for compliance with both international and U.S. environmental laws and regulations. The Coast Guard maintains the authority to require correction of any deficiencies before allowing a ship to take on passengers at any U.S. port.

Tomorrow, Part 2, “Where Do We Go From Here?”

Until next time,
Bon Voyage

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