Grounding Of Costa Concordia Brings New Rules For Cruise Travel

Costa ConcordiaAfter the grounding of Costa Concordia in January, the governing organizations of the cruise industry ordered an Operational Safety Review both in response to the troubling Concordia grounding and as part of the industry’s continuous efforts to review and improve safety measures. Now, the review is complete and has resulted in three new policies that promise to address safety concerns.

These three new policies, which go beyond international regulatory requirements, address safety issues related to passage planning, personnel access to the bridge and lifejackets. Each of these three policies will be reported to the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (IMO) for consideration at their next session in May.

“As highlighted by these wide-ranging policies, we continue to take proactive measures to improve the safety of passengers and crew across the globe,” said Christine Duffy, president and CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) in a Wall Street Journal statement.

The three policies answer questions asked about specific topics concerning the Costa Concordia grounding:

Passage Planning – The topic of “passage planning” came up concerning reports that the captain of Costa Concordia had chosen to take the ship off course as a salute, a show of respect, for a retired captain that lived ashore.

Under the new policy each passage plan is to be thoroughly briefed to all bridge team members well in advance of its implementation and it is to be drafted by a designated officer and approved by the master.

Personnel Access To The Bridge – At one point in the investigation of the Costa Concordia grounding, it was believed that unauthorized personnel were on the navigational bridge at the time of the incident.

To minimize unnecessary disruptions and distractions on the bridge, the new policy states that bridge access is to be limited to those with operational functions during any period of restricted maneuvering or when increased vigilance is required.

Lifejackets – Although there were plenty of lifejackets on board Costa Concordia, the nature of the accident caused some passengers and crew members to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and not have one.

Under the new rule, in addition to the statutory requirement of carriage of lifejackets for each person onboard, cruise lines have adopted a policy of carrying additional adult lifejackets.

The number of additional adult lifejackets to be provided must not be less than the total number of persons berthed within the ship’s most populated main vertical fire zone. This ensures that the number of lifejackets carried is far in excess of the number of persons actually onboard the ship.

These three rules are in addition to a new emergency drill policy requiring mandatory muster for embarking passengers prior to departure from port. That new policy was released previously and also consistent with the industry’s announcement January 27 of a complete safety review in response to the Concordia grounding and as part of the industry’s continuous efforts to review and improve safety measures.

The Cruise Lines International Association, European Cruise Council, and the Passenger Shipping Association put forward the new policy with the support of their member cruise lines.

Under the new muster policy:

  • A mandatory muster of all embarking passengers will happen prior to departure from port.
  • Late arriving passengers will be promptly provided with individual or group safety briefings that meet the requirements for musters applicable under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).
  • The policy is designed to help ensure that any mandatory musters or briefings are conducted for the benefit of all newly embarked passengers at the earliest practical opportunity.

The Cruise Industry Operational Safety Review also included a comprehensive assessment of the critical human factors and operational aspects of maritime safety. The industry’s efforts also are consistent with the framework and spirit of the International Safety Management Code.

“We look forward to working collaboratively to identify any additional operational issues that will achieve our longstanding goal of continuous improvement and innovation in shipboard operations and safety,” added Duffy.

[Flickr photo by darkroom productions]

Cruising after the Concordia grounding: what you need to know

ConcordiaWhen Costa Concordia ran aground off the coast of Italy, the world watched as what seemed to be a lazy traveler’s easy road to adventure had thousands scrambling for their lives. Forget the bingo, shuffleboard and buffets; all of the sudden what was thought to be impossible unfolded before our eyes. The Concordia grounding was a clear example of just how wrong things can go when we travel, highlighting the importance of safety but yielding very few lessons. Odds are, it will be business-as-usual for the cruise industry soon with a few minor but important tweaks.

“We were having dinner when I heard a huge bang and suddenly it felt as if the ship was being ripped apart,” Concordia passenger Agata Martisi told the Telegraph. “I turned to my husband and said, ‘My God, that sounds like we’re on the Titanic!’”

Not since the disastrous sinking of the RMS Titanic, a hundred years ago in April, had the world turned its attention to maritime matters in such a serious way. A great many lessons were learned from Titanic, giving birth to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), an international maritime safety treaty that imposed strict regulations on seagoing vessels. Those lessons are in force today, making a cruise one of the safest travel options available. But that knowledge was probably of little comfort to those 4,000+ passengers and crew on the Concordia who saw their vacation/workplace/lives come to an abrupt end on Friday, the 13th of January.”The captain of the Costa Cruises ship that partially sank on Friday after hitting rocks off the coast of Italy had diverted the vessel onto a route not authorized by the company,” reported USA Today, quoting Costa chairman and CEO Pier Luigi Foschi.

Accounts of events leading up to the grounding, including blame and how the ship’s evacuation was handled, vary. But one element of the story seems clear: the chaotic reality of actually abandoning the ship was far from the well-organized, methodical process consistent with safety training that millions of cruise travelers have received over the years.

“The accident is a reminder of the importance of safety procedures and a wake-up call for the 16 million or so passengers who embark annually, some of whom may have become complacent about those nettlesome safety drills,” said the Los Angeles Times.

That appropriate training was viewed by passengers very much like the safety talk given by airlines before the beginning of every flight — something the line is obligated to do but will probably never come into play. Rarely do passengers offer their full attention. We can only imagine what those who did not pay any attention at all were doing when the delayed “abandon ship” order was given on Concordia. Recently released video suggests that the chaos was not only among passengers though as we see here:




As always, paying attention during a safety drill is a good idea that will go a long way to getting us off a ship in a timely manner if the need should arise and if the abandon ship order is given.

Another good idea would be one that travel agents have recommended for years, to memorize the deck plans of the ship, or at least be somewhat familiar with them before boarding. In the past, the idea was based on the belief that it would keep passengers from bumping into walls, trying to find their way around the gigantic ships for the first day or two, adding to more quality time on the ship. In the future it may mean the difference between getting off the ship in an emergency, or not.

“In a situation that is similar to the Titanic tragedy, crewmembers of the cruise ship, Costa Concordia, repeated many of the same mistakes as the workers on the Titanic did years ago,” reported CruiseLineJobs. “Primarily, when it became obvious that the Concordia was sinking and the passengers were seeking escape, chaos ensued, and as one passenger of this shipwreck stated, ‘It was every man for himself.’ According to one official from Italy there was no clear leadership for the rescue effort.”

As anticipated, and as appropriate, the global cruise industry recently announced a new emergency drill policy requiring mandatory muster for embarking passengers prior to departure from port. The new policy is consistent with the industry’s announcement of a complete safety review in response to the Concordia grounding and as part of the industry’s continuous efforts to review and improve safety measures.

The Cruise Lines International Association, European Cruise Council, and the Passenger Shipping Association put forward the new policy with the support of their member cruise lines.

In a joint statement, the cruise ship associations said: “The formal policy is designed to help ensure that any mandatory musters or briefings are conducted for the benefit of all newly embarked passengers at the earliest practical opportunity,” reports the Telegraph.

Under the new muster policy:

  • A mandatory muster of all embarking passengers will happen prior to departure from port.
  • Late arriving passengers will be promptly provided with individual or group safety briefings that meet the requirements for musters applicable under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).
  • The policy is designed to help ensure that any mandatory musters or briefings are conducted for the benefit of all newly embarked passengers at the earliest practical opportunity.

This is probably nothing new to American cruise travelers sailing from North America where safety drills are customarily done before departure anyway. Though by international law, ships were only required to do safety drills within the first 24 hours. This change addresses the situation that may have contributed to what was reported as “panic” and “miscommunication” on board Costa Concordia for over 500 passengers who had just boarded that fateful day and had not received a safety briefing.

And that’s probably about all that will come of the legacy of Costa Concordia. History will probably write it as a near miss or a shot across the bow with a call for more safety, but documented facts indicate that cruising is already extremely safe. Safety measures in place before the grounding of Concordia were thought to have all possible contingencies addressed. But just as airline crashes, also rare, teach caution airlines to reexamine safety protocols, so has the grounding of the Costa Concordia served to remind cruise lines just how horribly wrong things can go.



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[Flickr photo via EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection]