Mall of America

Published on Monday, October 28, 2013

New York Times questions cruise industry safety procedures

A story in the New York Times yesterday raised disturbing questions about whether cruise ships have gotten too big to be safe.

Incidents aboard the Costa Concordia, the Carnival Triumph and the Grandeur of the Seas beg the question of whether megaships can handle emergencies at sea.

The biggest ship on the water, Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas, for example, holds 8,600 passengers and crew, as many people as a small town.

"Given the size of today's ships, any problem immediately becomes a very big problem," the Times quotes Michael Bruno, dean of the engineering school at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., and former chairman of the National Research Council's Marine Board, as saying. "I sometimes worry about the options that are available."

The Coast Guard report on the Splendor fire found a wide range of problems, including the fact that no fire drills had been conducted in the engine room for six months, emergency sprinklers were turned off by mistake, and the captain, believing the fire was contained, vented the engine room to clear out the smoke, reigniting the fire instead.

On the Costa Concordia, the captain failed to sound the general evacuation alarm for more than an hour after the hull was breached, making it impossible to lower some of the lifeboats.

The International Transport Workers' Federation has suggested that cruise lines need to limit the number of people aboard ships.

"The simple problem is they are building them too big and putting too many people aboard," the Times quotes Capt. William H. Doherty, a former safety manager for Norwegian Cruise Lines, and now director of maritime relations at the Nexus Consulting Group. "The magnitude of the problem is much bigger than the cruise industry wants to acknowledge."

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