This morning NAUTICAL LOG received information and a Press Release covering a project of the University of Greenwich, Kent, England, website (www2.gre.ac.uk/). Named SAFEGUARD it is a study of how passengers react to an emergency aboard ship.
The University Fire Safety Engineering Group is researching evacuation on three types of passenger vessels. The SAFEGUARD Partners are using Royal Caribbean International, Colorline and Minoan Lines to conduct their research
Here at NAUTICAL LOG we were most interested in the exercise conducted in RCCL's MS Jewel of the Seas. Having served as a Safety Officer in Florida based cruise ships for many years we have become increasingly concerned with their complexity.( see our Post 'BIGGER IS BETTER - NOT'). The vessels have become overblown floating amusement parks carrying thousands of passengers, now known as guests, in typical amusement park style. They are manned by hundreds of crewmembers of many nationalities speaking many different languages, though the shipboard language is supposed to be English. This is spoken at many levels of competence depending on education and daily usage. In an emergency nervousness and fear can greatly effect a persons communication skills particularly if one is not using ones native language. How to arrange effective communication and evacuate all these people in an emergency is a nightmare for the Safety Officer and his/her Staff. The crew training alone is clearly very complex, costly and in spite of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) setting international standards, varies in competence from country to country. The reaction of so many different cultures responding to the shipboard emergency and performing their duties is frankly an unknown parameter in developing the vessels 'Evacuation Plan'.
With this background NAUTICAL LOG believes that the SAFEGUARD Project is long overdue and is greatly relieved that the three year study is underway. So how was it done?
Passengers response times to the alarm were measured by one hundred video cameras specially positioned by the Project Team. Passengers wore infra-red tracking tags throughout the exercise. These allowed the researchers to locate each person's exact movements and reconstruct the path's they took to the assembly points on board. The passengers had been told 24 hours ahead of time that the exercise would be conducted but not the exact time. So unlike the standard pre-departure required drill an unknown element of surprise was introduced. In addition to cameras and tags passenger questionnaires were filled in by the passengers.
Overall the exercise took nine months of planning and will take six months of assessment to obtain the results. This in itself should give Shipowners some serious thoughts about what it takes to develop and achieve passenger ship safety. The planning paid off as nearly all the passengers wore their tags and cooperated with the assembly drill, of course those who did not are themselves a useful percentage indication of how many 'problem' passengers their will be in any passenger vessel on any voyage. In conclusion NAUTICAL LOG would like to congratuate the SAFEGUARD Project Team and thank them for their most valuable contribution to 'Safety of Life at Sea' - well done.