When A Cruise Ship Crashes, How Much Does Cleanup Cost?

European Commission DG ECHO, Flickr

When a crash or accident happens, there are the immediate, often horrendous, effects, like death. But in the face of destruction, there are the long term effects that many of us never give a second thought to. Like the removal of wreckage.

Such is the case with Costa Concordia, the cruise ship that capsized off the coast of Italy in early 2012, killing 32 people. Since then, the boat has remained grounded, partially submerged in the waters near the Tuscan island of Giglio, and a constant visual reminder of the travel tragedy. Certainly not “out of sight, out of mind.”

But next month, the boat will rise from the seas, to remove the wreckage and start the restoration process of the surrounding waters.

At 114,500 tons, removing the Concordia is no small feat, and will require cables attached to hydraulic pumps that will help lift the wreckage from the seabed and onto an underwater platform. From there, repairs will be made to the submerged sized, and eventually giant steel boxes on the sides of the ship will be pumped full of air, in theory floating the top to the top of the water. A detailed example of how all of this works can be found on the restoration project’s website.

Overall the salvage work is coming in at $400 million, which some might say is a small price to pay for the horror and pain caused by the accident.

Nat Geo presents five cruise ship disasters that changed travel

Cruise ship disasters can have a lasting effect on the industryOver the past week, the Costa Concordia story has been a prominent one amongst both the mainstream media and travel outlets alike. The sinking of a cruise ship is not a common occurrence and ranks amongst the worst travel nightmares imaginable. While questions about exactly what happened aboard that ship remain, it is clear that the accident will likely have far reaching consequences and bring change to the cruise industry.

With that in mind, our friends over at National Geographic have put together an interesting article, along with some very compelling images, of 5 cruise ship disasters that changed travel. Each of the entries on the list, and the Costa Concordia is not among them, left an indelible mark on how cruise ships operate today. For example, not surprisingly, the Titanic earns a place on Nat Geo’s roll call of infamy thanks to the fact that when it went down, there were only enough lifeboats for about half the passengers on board. As a result, 1500 people perished, and cruise ships were later mandated to begin carring enough lifeboats for everyone.

The four other entries on the list had a similar impact on the industry, although not all of them resulted in such a massive loss of life. It is an interesting study of how a disaster at sea can make a lasting change for the better, and end up making travel by ship a lot safer in the process.

Haiti: the rocky road to recovery

HaitiHaiti was hit by a massive earthquake a little over two years ago, flattening homes, school buildings, and businesses; pretty much transforming the entire city of Port Au Prince into rubble. Relief efforts came and continue by non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) as nearly $5 billion in aid was promised and is being spent. But while there are ongoing success stories, half a million people are still living in camps they took refuge in right after the earthquake and they are not happy about it.

“The humanitarian response was so appreciated that few could have predicted two years later the long and deep thread of anger toward NGOs that now runs through Haitian society,” wrote Marjorie Valbrun, a Haitian-American journalist in the Sacramento Bee.

It was the topic of special television broadcasts. Cruise lines delivered supplies. Aid poured in. But was the worst natural disaster in the history of the Western Hemisphere, killing 316,000 people, and much work remains to be done.

Haiti’s crippling bureaucracy alone makes rebuilding a slow process and cause for anger by displaced Haitians but even foreign aid workers are easy targets for resentment.

“Aid workers live in nice houses, ride in air-conditioned SUVs and frequent trendy nightclubs while Haitians live in tents or shacks.” says Barbara Shelly who visited Haiti with a church group last summer and witnessed some of the hostility.

Haitian perception is that aid money is making others rich while they suffer. There is good reason to believe they may be right. Shelly’s research revealed that U.S. for-profit companies received more than 80 percent of the Haiti contracts awarded and less than 3 percent of the funds went to Haitian companies.

“Even before the quake, Haitians had a healthy suspicion of foreigners coming in “to help” or to “keep the peace,” which usually meant imposing military rule,” said Shelly.

On the success-story side, there have been some good, solid efforts to aid Haiti too recently.

Last weekend, a gala dinner organized by Cinema for Peace to benefit Haiti, tapped long-time humanitarian Sean Penn, founder of the J/P Haitian Relief Organization and newly-appointed ambassador at large of Haiti along with Indy band Arcade Fire and others to raise more money.

Arcade Fire, led by Win Butler and his Haitian wife, Régine Chassagne, have been donating a few dollars from every concert ticket to Haitian relief efforts reports the New York Times.

“We’re just a stupid indie rock band from Montreal, and just from that initiative, we’ve been able to raise millions of dollars,” Butler said. “It’s really a mistake to think of Haiti as a place where an earthquake happened to it.”

“The earthquake really revealed what was happening there,”said Butler …which pretty much nails it.

Haiti was in trouble before the earthquake. But ongoing efforts by long-time supporters of Haiti seem to be making a difference and look to be a key factor in long-term recovery.

  • The American Red Cross is helping people rebuild their homes and lives and is improving communities with health, water and sanitation projects.
  • World Vision is helping the country respond to new emergencies including hurricanes and the cholera outbreak.
  • Royal Caribbean continues to employ Haitian workers at it’s private destination of Labadee in Haiti, has built a school for children and continues to bring supplies when ships come calling.

That’s three organizations making a difference but probably not the answer for those who choose to give. At that gala dinner, Arcade Fire’s Butler called on the crowd to collaborate in offering help.

“Everyone just talk to each other,” he said, “and try to magnify each others’ efforts.”

That might very well be a key to Haiti’s long-term recovery. It sure can’t hurt.



Volunteer to Teach English in Haiti

Flickr photo by newbeatphoto

SkyMall Monday: Top 5 products for hurricane season

gadling skymall monday cowboy rain boots Here on the East Coast, Hurricane Irene made for quite the weekend. First, we braved the hordes of crazy people in the supermarket (no one needs that much peanut butter), then the torrential rains and, more than anything, the constant barrage of media hype. Thankfully, we’re all safe and accounted for here at SkyMall Monday headquarters. However, we’re now well aware that hurricane season is underway and still has weeks to go. That’s why it’s time to make sure that you’re prepared. By now, you should have flashlights and batteries (and to the people who needed to buy them this weekend, why didn’t you own them already?), but there are plenty of other items that you should own to ensure that you’re prepared for the next month or so of tropical weather. Here are the top five SkyMall products you need for hurricane season.5. Monet Rain Boots (pictured above)

When the weather is bad, it doesn’t matter how ugly you look so long as you stay dry. Since it doesn’t matter, you might as well be the ugliest.

4. Make Your Own Truffle Kit

There’s a good chance that your local chocolatier will be closed during storms so they can hoard their confections for their own family. Fear not, however, as you can easily whip up some emergency truffles. Disaster has never been so decadent.

3. The Spectator Umbrella

Let’s go right to the product description:

When not providing rain protection, it can be converted into a seat cane with a comfortable 13″ wide leather strap seat by simply spreading the handles.

You want to stay dry as you brave the storm, but you also want to relax once you get to the shelter and using the cots that they provide just sounds unsanitary.

gadling skymall monday women's waterproof rain cape2. Women’s Waterproof Rain Cape

Over the river (which is flooding over its banks) and through the woods (which is full of fallen trees), to grandmother’s house you go (because she’s outside of the evacuation zone and still has electricity). Ponchos are so last year and jackets are cliche. This hurricane season, it’s all about capes. Just look out for the big, bad wolf (or, you know, downed power lines).

1. Testosterole Sexual Enhancer

You’re going to be spending a lot of time inside the house with no TV, internet or electronic entertainment options. Eventually, you’ll want to have some fun with what’s underneath that cape. [Note: I would have posted the product description but it's painfully long and includes the word "secretion," which makes me very uncomfortable.]

Stay safe out there, kids.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

Exploring Joplin, Missouri, Recovering From Disaster

The most terrifying thing about touring the disaster zone caused by the May 22 EF-5 tornado here is the randomness of the devastation, the sight of a vacant lot where a house once stood, literally across the street from a home still whole. The destruction that the storm wrought is already disappearing from view as the Corps of Engineers and contractors raze what’s left of damaged structures. The empty lots, the clean slabs, the bare earth, these vacant holes in the cityscape were made so by backhoes and clean-up teams, not the winds and flying debris.

I downloaded an aerial image file for Google Earth, collected by aircraft on May 24, that shows in sickening detail the tornado’s random walk through the city. Much, but not all, of the clean up has been done: A white van tossed against a fence on 24th Street, seen in the imagery, was still sitting there on August 1.

Traveling the American Road – Joplin, Missouri


By July 22, the city had issued roughly 1,700 building permits for reconstruction, as it simultaneously builds a mobile home park for storm survivors along Highway 171, north of downtown. Christened Jeff Taylor Field for a Kansas City-area police officer who died after suffering wounds during storm cleanup efforts, it will soon have nearly 500 homes. Many are already in place, and contractors continue working in the hot dust, grading sites and hooking up utilities in the 108-degree heat. Whether any much-needed shade trees will be part of the temporary development remains in doubt.

To orient myself to the destruction, I spoke with Lindsey Henry, a Texas native who moved to Joplin to report on the disaster for KOAM and KFJX and live with her extended family. She’s in the tornado zone every day, she says, looking for stories, watching the recovery and likely breathing in asbestos dust and toxic fumes from the wreckage. It’s a little-discussed aspect of the clean-up efforts, she points out, as is the tent city that’s popped up south of town, drawing people not affected by the tornado to the area to take advantage of services for victims.

Visitors to Joplin, volunteers or otherwise, often head to St. Mary’s, a church that was destroyed but for its 20-foot-high iron cross, now standing watch over the colossal field of debris. At dusk, a crew of demolition workers struck up a conversation. They’re from Kansas City, in town to rip down the shells of buildings here. They were surprisingly dispassionate about the work, even the job of tearing down the church.

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As we chatted, a woman came up to fill them in about her brother, who was working a job site nearby. Two thugs, she said, had assaulted him in order to steal scrap from the wreckage. The police have picked up a suspect, but she warned the workers to watch for more crimes and be on the lookout for a white crew-cab pickup.

More than two months after the storm ruined 30 percent of the city, Joplin is making surprisingly fast progress. Barren landscapes persist, but with a cleanup of 3 million cubic yards of debris almost complete, the city is looking forward to what’s next. What, on this clean slate of a downtown, can be built to bring Joplin back stronger than before?

One local start-up has an answer. Rebuild Joplin is an ultra-light collective that sprung up after the storm to connect locals to the resources they’d need to rebuild. Started in less than 36 hours, it was so slick, so effective, so exactly what was needed in the wake of the large-scale destruction, FEMA interviewed co-founders Garen McMillian and Mark Kinsley to see if it was part of a scam. The agency was instead pleasantly surprised.

“This is helping Joplin maximize all the resources that are out there,” Garen says. “If you can minimize duplication–you have a lot of people trying to do the same things out there–if we can keep the communication lines open so everybody’s aware of what’s already being done and they’re not reinventing the wheel, then that’s that much more energy that can be expended toward something concrete for Joplin.”

The idea is simple: A website that aggregates information and connects people in need of services to the already extant agencies and people who can provide them. In the wake of a large-scale disaster, the site was optimized for mobile devices, which was the only way many survivors had to access the web. As the needs of storm victims evolve away from basics–Joplin has more donated water, food and clothing than it has places to store it–the site’s mission continues to adapt to meet more challenging needs.

“Here we are today with much more complicated needs,” Mark says. “Once you have a place to live and have clothes and some food, where do you go from there? We’re having to adjust what we do a bit, while staying on mission. Now the needs are really complicated, sophisticated needs, and we’re trying to adapt to that. It’s really easy for people to hand someone a canned good–and it feels good–but what do you do when somebody needs help with tax preparation information that relates to your FEMA application? It’s a different skill set and we’re having to adjust and adapt.”