Maritime History Comes To Life With New Titanic

Maritime history buffs travel around the planet to see and experience places where ships and the brave crews aboard may have helped to forge a new land and explore the unknown. The naval and passenger ships of yesteryear were an integral part of making the world we know today. Now, taking a step back to the past with an eye on the future, an Australian billionaire is honoring the legacy of Titanic, the ill-fated ocean liner that sank in 1912 after hitting an iceberg, in a bold new way.

Last year, the 100-year anniversary of the sinking of Titanic was honored at namesake attractions, museums and events around the world. Adding to the slew of memorials, Australian billionaire Professor Clive Palmer will build a nearly exact replica of Titanic.

Australian billionaire Prof. Clive Palmer,

“This magnificent vessel is to be constructed in memory of the heroic people who served on the ship, the passengers who sadly shared their fate and all those that survived the tragedy,” said Professor Palmer in a Daily Echo report.

To be built in China’s CSC Jinling Shipyard, Titanic II will enter passenger service in 2016 sailing from Southampton, England, to New York City on a route similar to that of the original Titanic – minus the iceberg.Carrying 2,436 passengers, new Titanic II will cast a profile nearly identical to the original at 883 feet long (less than a foot longer than the original), 106 feet wide and have a maximum speed of 24 knots. At 55,800 tons, the new ship will be just 8,000 tons larger but have some important features that the former “unsinkable” version did not. Steam engines will be replaced by diesel electric pop propulsion units and, unlike the original, there will be plenty of lifeboats for all on board.

Staying with the “ship of dreams” motif, Palmer promises his new Blue Star Line will produce a vessel every bit as luxurious as the original White Star Line ship, with some important additions.

“Through the rebuilding of the ship I want to recognize the artists and artisans whose skill, creativity and dexterity has never to this day been fully acknowledged because of the ship’s limited service,” said Palmer.

Honoring the original design, the ship will offer staterooms and public spaces that will be nearly identical to the original Titanic – right down to having no televisions. Palmer is undecided on if the ship will have Internet access available but is adding an additional deck, air conditioning and modern toilets.

Titanic II will also feature a 400-seat theater, casino, shopping, business center, modern medical center and helicopter-landing pad.

Those sailing the new Titanic will have to choose between classes of accommodations, much like the original, or a package that allows them to sample all three classes in one voyage.

Along with nearly duplicate features of the original ship, including Turkish baths and a squash court, Titanic II is set to sail her first voyage in 2016 from Shanghai, China, to Southampton, and then on to New York.

[Photo credit- Blue Star Line]

Costa Concordia, A Year Later

Costa Concordia sailed aground off the coast of Italy one year ago this Sunday. Today, the ship sits off the coast of Italy where it ran aground on Friday, January 13, 2012, taking the lives of 32 passengers in the process. Ongoing work is underway to remove the grounded ship. Also ongoing is a renewed focus on safety that exceeds previous efforts, covers all major cruise lines and aims to convince many travelers that cruise travel is safe.

Those on board the Costa Concordia at the time initially said it was “like being on the Titanic.” The loss of life may not have been as great but parallels drawn between the Titanic and Concordia were undeniable.

Passengers in the wrong place at the wrong time were left without life jackets. Confusion about what to do and where to go reined over already-in-place safety procedures. Over-confident ship owners were forced to take another look at how they go about their business.

In the aftermath came rules requiring mandatory safety drills before ships leave port, including mandates that each ship carry extra life jackets and that crews practice loading lifeboats with people. New rules also call for cruise lines to file a voyage plan showing exactly where ships are going, much like a pilot’s flight plan.


Still, questions remain about the role ship’s Captain Francesco Schettino had in the event. Also of concern: progress on the removal of Costa Concordia from the coast of Italy and enduring environmental risks to marine life.

Costa Cruises, along with its salvage company, has launched a website with detailed information, plans and images relating to the Costa Concordia wreck-removal project. See more on this extensive engineering task via this video:

A ceremony is set for the island of Giglio on Sunday where sirens will go off at 9:42 p.m, marking the one-year anniversary of the Costa Concordia grounding.

[Photo Credit- Flickr User EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection]

The Titanic Chronicles: No Ship Is Unsinkable

At the time of her maiden and final voyage, RMS Titanic was the most advanced vessel of her day. Proud owner White Star Line thought her unsinkable and set out to show the world their new ship. Little did shipbuilders know that the grand ocean liner’s enduring legacy would not be a new record crossing the Atlantic but a warning to the future. A warning that, while well heeded, could not stop near-tragedies of modern day maritime history.

Titanic was designed to compete with Cunard Line’s Lusitania and Mauretania and focused on high-end luxury travel – very much as depicted in the movie “Titanic.”

Out of 840 staterooms, almost half were first-class accommodations. The ship was built for pleasure and beauty. It was filling that order, which would contribute to the loss of life just days after launching Titanic. The ship was designed to hold 32 lifeboats but only 20 were on board.

Cruise line management thought too many lifeboats would take away from the beauty of the ship. The 20 lifeboats on board Titanic could carry a total of 1,178 of the 3,547 passengers the ship might have if fully loaded. On that tragic night in 1912 when Titanic sank, the SS Californian was the closest ship to Titanic and many believe it could have easily rescued all on board. Unfortunately, the radio operator went to sleep not long before Titanic started broadcasting emergency distress messages.

After the Titanic sinking, ships were required to have enough lifeboats for everyone on the ship. Existing ships were refitted in a variety of ways and ship design changed to address safety issues.

The International Convention for the Safety of Life A Sea (SOLAS) is a treaty passed in 1914 in answer to the sinking of the Titanic. It addressed the lifeboat issue along with specifying emergency equipment and procedures including radio watches.

Today, advanced weather forecasting and navigational equipment on cruise ships take advantage of the great strides made possible by modern technology. GPS monitoring allows cruise lines to know where cruise ships are at all times. On-board video surveillance systems keep track of passengers and crew and are often called upon to solve cases of crime at sea.

Today, there are plenty of lifeboats for all passengers and crew. But the near-disaster of Costa Concordia, the ship that was grounded in Italy earlier this year, profess that simply having enough lifeboats may not be the answer. Laid on its side, many of the emergency craft were rendered useless and had it not been for quick-thinking crew members and sheer luck, the number of lives lost could have been far more.

[Flickr photo via scmikeburton]

‘Titanic’ Back At Box Office, Enhanced For Your Tragedy-Viewing Pleasure

April 15, 2012 marks the 100-year anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic, the supposedly unsinkable ocean liner. Today, “Titanic” the movie by James Cameron, is re-released and enhanced for 3D, Real D and iMax, all to make the memorable scenes more vividly spectacular.

“The story of the Titanic endures because it is the soaring story of courage and cowardice,” says an article in today’s Washington Times. “It is the story of the men and women that managed to endure, the selfless officers and crew, and the band of musicians who played almost to the end.”

After recent additions to maritime history including the near-disaster grounding of Costa Concordia, a tragedy in its own right, the re-release of Cameron’s masterpiece is timely and more relevant today than when it was when first released in 1997.

“Titanic’s story carries the sad realization of a number of ‘ifs’ to be endlessly debated,” continues the article. “If only she had had more lifeboats; if Captain Smith and J. Bruce Ismay, Managing Director of the White Star Line, had not pushed the engines to their utmost capacity; if their corporate arrogance hadn’t forced the speed to break some existing record.”

“If only she had collided with the iceberg head-on, there would have been a chance for more survivors, but the side cut made it a tragically different story.”

Bringing home the message of Titanic, it was a side cut in Costa Concordia flooding one too many of that ship’s water-tight compartments that sealed its fate too.

Here we have original footage of Titanic of 1912 before its departure to its final journey.

[Flickr photo via Artshooter]

Cruising after the Concordia grounding: what you need to know

When 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.

[Flickr photo via EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection]