Monday, March 12, 2012

CRUISE CONFERENCE

It seems that our first Post of the day was not misplaced.  Gathering at present on Miami Beach are the cruise industry companies for the Cruise Shipping Miami Conference.  It might be termed the Annual Confidence however with two back to back incidents in Costa Cruises of the Carnival Group both that Group and Confidence has taken a serious hit and this is reflected throughout the industry in spite of all the brilliant spin from the PR persons.  To this one could add in stomach virus though in fact that is usually brought on board by passengers whom though ill are determined to take their cruise regardless.  Then there are these cases of persons going overboard for various reasons. 


This year in addition is the 100th. Anniversary of the loss of RMS Titanic and incredibly one cruise line is having a "repeat the passage cruise" - how very sick is this - and further the ship being used is a British ship named after one of their Queen's homes.  This has got to be the lowest of the low marketing ploys and these people sink even lower in the eyes of NAUTICAL LOG which did not seem possible.  Of course the "repeat the passage cruise" will not be an exact repeat as this time they plan to complete the passage without sinking with the loss of the passengers and crew of the original voyage.  Quite unbelievable to this Ancient Mariner and how disgusting for the Officers and crew of the vessels involved to whom NAUTICAL LOG wishes safe passage.


There will be talk at the Conference of new markets, new building, reaching niche markets and finally safety which can be mostly lip service. Interviews by companies who specialise in those, polls of passengers and potential passengers receive widely different results, for example replies mentioned:
  • Accidents that could have been avoided such as MS Costa Concordia and possibly MS Costa Allegra
  • Relying on a cabin steward or waiter for their safety in an Emergency did not inspire confidence
  • Ships are now too large and safety suffers as a result
  • Better control of the norovirus at boarding point, passengers board sick so it spreads
  • Safety training of crewmembers which passengers have to rely on in Emergencies
  • Language problems with those crewmembers who guide them in Emergencies
  • Ports dropped because of political or criminal activity
Recently the Madam President of Argentina decreed that any vessel including passenger vessels was barred from calling at any Argentine Port if a call in the Falkland Islands had been made on that or any other voyage.  A high level of criminal activity in Mexico has made calling in its Ports fraught with danger which is particularly applicable to passengers ashore on excurisions or even just shopping.


River cruising has seen and is seeing a huge growth but the safety training of crews and equipment available to them is unknown and protocols unclear.  They travel close to the riverbank and the canal towpaths, so is that the escape route if something goes wrong?  They do not seem to have liferafts. Are there lifejackets available in river cruise vessels? Do they have a safety drill like must be conducted prior to departing in ocean cruise ships? 


When NAUTICAL LOG took a Rhine Cruise there was no Safety Drill or instructions about lifejackets.  When one asked the answer was, in the German language, that they would put the vessel against the riverbank or canal towpath in an Emergency and everyone could walk off safely.  Frankly that was no comfort to NAUTICAL LOG who was serving in the Canadian Coastguard at the time.


These are all issues which the Cruise Industry must address and no doubt will to keep their shareholders and guests ecstatic with joy with these floating resort cruise ships.  However it should be remembered that while called "guests" in the cruise industry they are legally passengers to which Maritime Laws apply dating from the 19th. and 20th. Centuries in spite of those disclaimers microscopically printed on the back of the passenger (not guest) ticket - bet they are never read.  The Carnival Group are learning about those as a result of the Costa Cruises accidents, one of which that of MS Costa Concordia was totally avoidable, they were already in violation of International Law as well as Italian National Maritime Law which was being ignored to give those "guests" the thrill of passing in close quarters to points of the Italian coastline.  Now of course since things went terribly wrong the passengers have considerable Rights and huge financial recompense available to them as a result under both International Maritime Law and Italian National Maritime Law with video documenting repeated violations of the "close quarters passage" Laws.

Good Watch.

In spite of the concern with regard to the MS Costa Allegra one issue which will receive the briefest of discussion is piracy.  At this Conference or indeed most Maritime Conferences the plight of some 300 of our fellow seafarers held hostage by pirates off the coast of Puntland, Somalia gets little if any attention.  They face mutilation or death every day with little hope of rescue or freedom in sight.

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