Costa Concordia Grounding Brings More Safety Rules, Awareness

When the Costa Concordia was grounded off the coast of Italy last January, a call went out to take a focused look at cruise ship safety. Since then, a number of in-depth television specials have been aired, several accounts of the tragic event have been published and maritime experts have come up with specific suggestions. While there can be no guarantee of another event of such magnitude happening ever again, what looks to be a unified cruise industry has taken steps to minimize the chance.

“The cruise industry continues to work on a global level to improve the safety of passengers and crew, which is our number one priority,” said Christine Duffy, president and CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) in Travel Pulse.

Quick reality check: nice thought but no real meat there.

CLIA is a trade organization, not a governing body with legal authority granted by a nation or group of nations to impose or enforce anything. Most of their time is spent lobbying on behalf of the cruise industry, developing and implementing training and certification programs for travel agents and generally promoting the cruise industry.

There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, they do a good job doing what they do. But while new cruise industry policies address safety concerns brought up by the Costa Concordia grounding, travelers would do well to keep their eyes and ears open and be alert when traveling via cruise ship with the same diligence they might apply when traveling in the air or on land.

Still, the cruise industry has adopted every bit of the renewed sense of urgency about safety that we might expect.

“Since January of this year, and in keeping with our efforts to continuously improve operational excellence, the global cruise industry has voluntarily adopted seven wide-ranging safety policies,” added Duffy. “We remain fully committed to exploring further enhancements in a number of areas that will add to the industry’s excellent safety record.”

Previously, implemented policies for increased safety included a passage plan, much like an aircraft flight plan, to address the notion that the captain of Costa Concordia had gone off course on a whim. Access to a ship’s bridge was to be tightened up too, believing unauthorized people may have been hanging around the command center of Costa Concordia at the time of the tragic event. Cruise lines also decided to carry extra life jackets because some passengers on Costa Concordia were in the wrong place at the wrong time when they were needed.

Recently, a rule was added to actually fill lifeboats with people on a periodic basis, just to be sure the crew knew what to expect and do in case of a real emergency.

The meat of the new cruise ship policy:

“To facilitate training for lifeboat operations, CLIA oceangoing members have adopted a policy that at least one lifeboat on each ship is to be filled with crew members equal in number to its certified number of occupants at least every six months. Under this policy, for safety considerations, the loading of lifeboats for training purposes is to be performed only while the boat is waterborne and the boat should be lowered and raised with only the lifeboat crew on board.”

Standardization of operational cruise industry policies among cruise lines is surely a good idea. Lessons learned from the Costa Concordia grounding are producing rules like these from CLIA that will probably save lives in the long run too. Still, smart travelers stay alert, know safety rules and protocols in place for any mode of travel they engage and act responsibly in case of emergency.

See the CLIA website for the full text of their Life Boat Loading for Training Purposes Policy.

[Flickr photo by darkroom productions]