Cruise accidents have been occurring since the first cruise ship set sail over 100 years ago. Though advancements in technology have certainly led to the creation of larger ships, the cruise industry appears to have fallen behind in terms of creating safer ships. Lack of safety and security onboard ships have led to accidents and crimes, some of which resulted in fatalities.
As experienced maritime lawyers, we recognize the importance of placing safety at the forefront, yet, cruise lines have failed to upgrade ships with the latest safety technology and have failed to take other measures to improve shipboard conditions for travelers and crew members. Inevitably, as long as there are ships in the sea, accidents are bound to happen. The world is never going to be 100 percent safe. However, taking all possible reasonable steps to reduce accident and crime probability is really all we can ask of any maritime industry, including the cruise industry.
So what exactly can cruise lines do to improve safety at sea? Quite a bit! Our firm can attest to three key steps cruise lines can take to create safer shipboard conditions:
Improve Ship Maintenance
Several cruise ship accidents result from mechanical failures. Issues with propulsion, broken fuel hoses and other malfunctioning equipment can lead a ship to lose power and get stranded in the middle of the ocean, or worse, succumb to a fire. Cruise lines should be dedicating more time and crew to ship inspections – and should perform more thorough inspections – before a vessel sets sail in order to prevent a mechanical mishap.
Install Up-to-date Safety Technology
If there’s any new technology that has been shown to significantly reduce accidents or crimes onboard ships, cruise lines should be jumping on it. For example, new infrared technology is available that can detect the moment someone falls overboard from a cruise ship. Overboard accidents account for a significant percentage of all cruise industry tragedies, and unfortunately, it can be hours or even days before a ship’s crew realizes someone is missing. Installing this system would drastically reduce the amount of time it takes for a search and rescue, yet, barely any cruise lines have equipped their ships with this technology.
Better Crew Training
Aside from the technology and equipment aspect, cruise lines should be working on improving safety training for crew members. As seen from previous accidents, like the Costa Concordia tragedy in 2012, cruise ship crew members are seriously undertrained when it comes to emergency protocols. There is no excuse for a ship’s crew to falter in this regard. Crew member training should be focused on providing a thorough education on emergency and evacuation procedures, including teaching crew members how to keep their cool in the event of an accident so passengers can also be put at ease. This is one of the easiest and least costly ways cruise lines can improve safety.
These three steps are just a starting point. If cruise lines were to undertake these three simple measures, we would surely see a drop in accidents and crimes on the high seas.