As the second day of the NTSB hosted cruise ship safety forum continued cruise line executives described what steps have been taken for safety. NTSB Chairperson Deborah Hersman asked how would this work in real life? It is a much needed question which past experiences by NAUTICAL LOG, a former cruise line Safety Officer and the industry itself in more recent times has shown not too well. The attempted abandon ship when the MS Costa Concordia was put on the rocks through careless navigation being a recent example with the loss of 32 persons both passengers and crew.
During the second day NTSB Deborah Hersman pointed out this evacuation did not even begin until the ship was listed. Most passengers managed to escape, some in lifeboats and life rafts some by jumping into the water and swimming ashore. She asked the question:
"Do we have the capability to evacuate, launch and rescue the number of people that can be on a cruise ship? The simulations are good but we had real-life scenario and things did not go as planned."
From the cruise line executives in reply there were the usual high-handed statements about safety and protecting the environment and that the responding team is under absolutely no commercial pressure whatsoever. This as anyone working at just about any level in a cruise ship or for a cruise line is absolute nonsense. There was further talk, and that is just about what it is in practice, about electronic system loudspeakers and video screens all over the ship and on the Bridge. If passengers do not pay attention to these and more importantly understand what is being shown and said then it is largely a waste of time. RCCL which operates the currently largest passenger carrying ships with some 5,400 yes that's 5,400 persons on board claims they are safer than the smaller cruise ships that NAUTICAL LOG was a Safety Officer in. Clearly that is not a realistic but commercial statement and there is not the slightest proof based on evidence, that this is true.
In the opinion of NAUTICAL LOG there is the capability in equipment to evacuate the number of persons on board the ship. However whether there is the capability to execute that capability is an unknown factor. As an example in the last cruise ship NAUTICAL LOG sailed in we had 35 nationalities in a crew of less than 550 speaking 8 languages and today the crews are 3x that number and more.
|NTSB Chairperson Deborah Hersman|
NTSB Chairperson Deborah Hersman wrapped up the first-ever NTSB forum on cruise ship safety by questioning whether the industry regulators and investigators are truly prepared to handle a massive catastrophe at sea in an era of megaships. She closed with remarking:
"As we have said about other industries the lack of a major accident is not an indication of safety."