Sunday, June 5, 2011

IS THAT THING A CRUISE SHIP - OR?


TSS Empress of Canada/Mardis Gras and MS Carnival Magic
 Coming from a very different generation of seafarers - one is tempted to say real seafarers - but that is not really fair to the capable ones out there at present.  NAUTICAL LOG looks at current maritime life, the current design and operation of ships with a jaundiced eye.


As you may know South Florida is a big cruise industry area with several Ports on both its East coast and West coast berthing these vessels each weekend.  The local newspapers regularly have articles indeed whole sections on the industry, its various companies and vessels.  So it is that 'The Miami Herald' in its Travel Section today had an article about the newest cruise vessels - at least that is what they call them but one has to wonder.  


Watch them transit Government Cut, complete the channel to the Miami Seabuoy and then turn to head either southwards or northeastwards to cross the Florida Strait towards the Bahamas.  These vessels list on the turns and hang over until the helm is eased, they head on the new course and slowly come upright.  On the larger turns this is particularly noticeable - so what you ask - well to a seafarer this indicates that these vessels are top heavy.  With a quite shallow draft of no more than 10 metres and 15 decks above sea level these are not ocean-going vessels in the style of the Trans-Atlantic and Trans-Pacific passenger liners such as the TSS Empress of Canada. These are fair weather vessels, remember the punishment to the MS Oasis of the Seas  www.ncl.com/ on its Atlantic crossing, even several lifeboats were damaged, remember also the subsequent cover up by South Florida Media.


That is just the beginning as these vessels are designed and marketed as Cruising Resorts and some of the playthings placed on board for the thousands of guests - as they are now called - are unrealistic indeed completely unsafe to fit on seagoing vessels.  Of course today marketing genii operate cruise lines and have no sea knowledge or when one talks to them any real interest in seamanship.  Explanations to and conversations with them are futile as they have attention spans measured in microseconds.  They are of course experts in marketing - themselves - martinis and where the hors d'ouveres are laid out - but darling I go to the gym every day!   It is all style and no substance just like the vessels themselves.  Here in South Florida the real seafarers are waiting for The Big One not a hurricane, our season just started on June 01, but the horrendous and tragic accident which not if but when is going to happen to one of these cruise ships. 


 With these floating resorts carrying thousands of persons, whose evacuation in an emergency is close to impossible without loss of lives in good calm weather, could be total in bad weather caused by an approaching hurricane or after its passing.  Adding into all this mix is the behaviour of the passengers themselves, there have been cases of near shipboard riots when something goes wrong because marketing has told their guests that things will not go wrong in their Resort.  Just recently there was the so called 'mutiny,' actually a rioting protest of the European socialist pattern, aboard the MSC Opera www.msccruises.com/ after a power failure.


The newest cruise vessel in that article today is Carnival Cruise Line MS Carnival Magic  www.carnival.com/ which carries 3,690 passengers, one might note that "The Miami Herald" did not mention the number of crew which operates this floating resort. There must be around 2000 of my fellow seafarers on board for a total persons of 5,690 or so.  It is in the gaudy, flashy, gambling cities Carnival style for as the company spokesperson said and we quote: "Our guests are not wealthy".  How they get maritime insurance for these vessels is beyond the understanding of NAUTICAL LOG perhaps someone out there knows, will comment and we shall learn.  Of course with a Panama Flag State, United States Law and Courts do not apply once one crosses that boarding gangway in a Florida Port, one is in Panama, the Bahamas or wherever the vessel in Registered and the Law of that Nation applies - you do know that right!!


There are waterslides which project high over the upper deck tens of metres in the air and out over the sides of the vessel.  There is also a high level walkway at funnel/stack height which serves no purpose whatsoever that NAUTICAL LOG can see other than to risk someones life for some apparent thrill.  All it needs is for a navigational emergency that requires a serious turn and perhaps a ships whistle blast to cause the loss of guests lives.  Such an incident took place off Port Everglades, FL within the last couple of years when a cruise ship listed violently during a turn after leaving the buoyed channel to head along the coast. 


As a former cruise ship Safety Officer NAUTICAL LOG has had to do risk assessments on both shipboard equipment and possible incidents that could occur thus is all too aware of what could and will at some time go wrong.  Readers can visit the cruise line websites for themselves and see what is available on board and make their own risk assessment.


Of course when one tries to point out some of these things to the cruise industry one is brushed aside as an out-of-date-old-fart who knows nothing about these wonderful modern floating resorts.  So be it NAUTICAL LOG will never be on board one of these vessels so no worries for us.  Have a nice cruise folks and


Good Watch.

Please remember the seafarers held captive by pirates off Somalia - lets us work with those few really trying to free them.

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