Report Shows Cruise Industry Has Yet to Fully Implement Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act Provisions – Part 2

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Life saver In Part 1 of our blog, we discussed how the GAO has reported that only 11 of the 15 provisions detailed in the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) of 2010 remain unaddressed. The cruise industry is currently working on a new policy to address three of the remaining provisions, which are related to technology. But the problem lies in the fact that these provisions should have already been implemented within the industry several years ago.

Accidents continue to befall the industry, leading to severe injuries, deaths and crimes on the high seas. The vast majority of these tragedies could have been avoided had the industry implemented greater safety protocols from the get go. Unfortunately, it took government intervention for cruise lines to actually work on new policies to reduce the accident and injury rate, but is this even good enough? With all that has already happened, can making a change now do anything to lessen  the pain and suffering of victims who have already been hurt by the industry’s negligence? Of course not!

It’s a start, but a bittersweet one. These policies should have been implemented over a century ago when the first cruise lines were built. One of the provisions that has yet to be implemented, the one we previously discussed in Part 1 regarding better training for emergency procedures, should have never been an issue.

Emergency protocols should always be top notch. There is no room for error when it comes to an evacuation, and whether new technologies are developed to improve procedures or not, it is up to each cruise line to ensure their crew know exactly what needs to be done in the wake of an emergency. This is an issue the Costa Concordia crew faced and we are quite sure it will be an issue that will unfortunately resurface in the future. Sadly, it takes a tragedy for the industry to wake itself up and do something to improve passenger safety.  Unfortuantely, the practical realities of the modern cruise ship industry, and in particular the high turnover rate of crewmembers on board means that it is nearly impossible for the shipping companies to ensure that each and every crewmember is properly trained in emergency policies and procedures.

But that’s just one of the remaining four provisions that remain to be addressed. The technology provisions include 1) better overboard detection systems 2) maintaining a video surveillance system to capture crimes on ships and 3) the ability of a ship to transmit warnings or be able to communicate with other ships or vessels in the surrounding waters.

Aside from overboard detection systems, which are fairly new, video surveillance and communication systems have been in place for years. Most cruise ships these days have over 500 video cameras working at all times to capture accidents and crimes, so why is it they don’t work?

Last week, our cruise ship accident attorneys discussed the ridiculously high number of overboard accidents that have occurred in the new year alone. Some, the ones that were allegedly ruled suicides, were captured on camera, but what about the others that were deemed “accidents”? Where were the surveillance cameras then? Do the rules only apply sometimes? When the cruise line deems convenient? Or, is it that the cameras are working, but showing the footage will reveal the line’s negligence in maintaining safety?

According to statistics, nearly 16 million people took a cruise vacation from a U.S. port in 2011. This means that millions of lives are placed at risk each year because the safety standards within the cruise industry are severely under par. The CVSSA was enacted in 2010 – that’s four years ago! Imagine all the safety upgrades that could have been made in four years, had the cruise industry actually taken things seriously.

What exactly has kept cruise lines from implementing all 15 of these safety provisions in four years? We don’t know, but we can only assume it’s because the industry prefers to spend  its time concentrating on ways to make ships bigger, but not necessarily safer.