Monday, January 13, 2014

CRUISING TO SAFETY

 

 How time passes it is now two years since the disaster of the MS Costa Concordia.  The Cruise Industry has adopted new rules with regard to emergency drills, ship operations, life jackets and introduced a "Passenger Bill of Rights" all to counter the sagging public relations (PR) of the industry.  Oh and all these "new" rules might actually help the passengers in a real emergency something that could certainly use lots of improvement. 
 

All these rules have been in place since the 1920's and were enforced largely by the professionalism of European and American seafarers on the Liner Service across the Atlantic and elsewhere in the World.  National companies took pride in striving to be the best possible in looking after their passengers many of whom sailed with not just a particular Line but with a particular Master in that Line.

Those days have long gone and one might add so has a large part of that traditional professionalism passed on from the Masters to their Officers.  Now with multi-national crews and multi-national Officers it is necessary to have training programmes and multi-manuals.   This is necessary because many of these multi-national Officers are the first generation of their nations to go-to-sea as Officers and therefore have no traditions in place.

The company to which the Costa ship belonged has had a wretched two years with fires on board ship and many, many on board problems known within the industry but not actually published which in and of itself is quite surprising - well maybe not.  In certain areas such as South Florida the Cruise Industry is a huge employer, creates an enormous amount of employment in other industries creating capital supplying to these vessels making weekly calls at Florida Ports.  There is an understanding that too much publicity will kill that "golden egg" so problems are kept low profile.

When NAUTICAL LOG sailed in cruise ships they were nothing like the size that they are today, the growth in just a decade or so is amazing.  It used to be that the Safety Officer could get to know the ship very well and be able to remember the extra things needed in an emergency such as where a key valve was hidden in the back of a locker or under a stairwell.  Nowadays this is clearly impossible and indeed foolish to attempt when there are iPads® and similar handy-dandy gadgets to carry as one makes the "Rounds" of the ship which reveal all - just remember to keep the battery fully charged.

Instead of just a Safety Officer in these ships with 6000 persons on board one needs a Safety Team.  Also with the much shorter rotations on board the Safety Officer does not get to know the ship in detail so it is necessary for her or him to have that data instantly available.  With the use of computers this is not a difficult task but it takes time and that is what the crews today do not have much of. 

So all these "new" rules are actually the old rules from the 1920's on brought to the Cruise Industry's attention in the 2020's 100 years later - now there's food for thought. 

Lets see what they are shall we.

Safety recommendations:
  • Ships must hold emergency drills for embarking passengers before leaving port.
  • The nationality of all passengers must be recorded and made readily available to search and rescue workers if needed.
  • Ships ordered after 2013 must store lifejackets near muster stations or lifeboats.
  • Heavy items must be secured.
  • Crew members responsible for lifeboats must practice loading and moving the full vessels at least every six months.
  • Access to the Bridge must be limited at potentially dangerous times.
  • Bridge operating procedures must be consistent among brands owned by the same company.
  • Routes must be planned in advance and shared with all members of the Bridge Team.
  • The industry must standardize 12 keys points that passengers will learn during muster drills and emergency instruction.
NAUTICAL LOG would like to note it was with relief that passengers, a maritime law legal term, are so called and NOT the hotel style "guests" the Cruise Industry likes to use.


Passenger Bill of Rights:
  • The right to disembark a docked ship if essential needs are not able to be addressed on board.
  • The right to a full refund if a trip is canceled due to mechanical problems or a partial refund for trips that are cut short.
  • The right of passengers to get timely updates about itinerary changes if a mechanical failure or emergency disrupts a trip, as well as updates on attempts to deal with mechanical problems.
  • The right to transportation to the scheduled final port or a passengers home city if a cruise ends early because of mechanical issues.
  • The right to a place to stay if passengers must disembark and stay overnight at an unscheduled port.
  • The right to have full-time professional emergency medical attention on oceangoing ships until medical care on shore becomes available.
  • The right to a ship crew that is properly trained in emergency and evacuation procedures.
  • The right to emergency power if a main generator fails.
  • The right to have included on cruise lines websites a toll-free phone line that can be used for questions or information about any aspect of ship operations.
NAUTICAL LOG can see from just writing this information that the Cruise Industry has opened quite a can-of-worms for itself.  In many of the ports visited by cruise ships it is just not possible to provide some of these "rights" and the maritime lawyers are going to have a field day with any future incident.  On that "timely updates" issue the Purser/Hotel Manager/Cruise Director/ whomever had better be well trained in handling PR.  Passengers tend to ask a cleaner, steward or waiter and then go berserk when they do not get an answer to some complex shipboard problem.

Well there it is the latest PR from the Cruise Industry and NAUTICAL LOG must say in fairness it is really great and a huge relief to be retired able to view all this from the outside and ashore!!

Good Watch.

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