New cruise safety policies announced for industry

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

New safety policies about lifejackets, guests on ship bridges and voyage planning were announced

By Hannah Sampson
MiamiHerald.com

In response to the fatal wreck of the Costa Concordia in January, the organization that represents the cruise industry announced a list of new safety policies Tuesday.

They include: having more lifejackets aboard ships than are required by law; limiting access to a ship’s bridge at potentially dangerous times; and requiring cruise ship routes to be planned in advance and shared with all members of the bridge team. All are effective immediately.

Two of those policies are directly related to errors believed to have led to the Concordia grounding and capsizing. Captain Francesco Schettino is accused of taking the ship on an unauthorized path too close to the Italian island of Giglio while he was reportedly distracted by guests on the bridge.

The Jan. 13 wreck killed 32 passengers and crew. Schettino is under house arrest and faces charges that include manslaughter and causing a shipwreck.

The new policies, announced Tuesday in Brussels by the Cruise Lines International Association and European Cruise Council, came about as a result of a safety review launched following the Concordia wreck.

“The cruise industry is highly regulated and it is this regulatory regime, complied with onboard by our professional and committed officers and crews, that has given the cruise industry a truly remarkable safety record,” said Manfredi Lefebvre, chair of the European Cruise Council and a member of CLIA’s executive committee, in a statement.” But as the Concordia incident demonstrates, there is no such thing as perfect safety. We do strive for a perfect commitment to safety.”

After the wreck, CLIA announced a new policy that requires emergency drills for all embarking passengers before a ship leaves port — which had not happened for passengers who boarded Concordia the day of the accident.

The group also recommended that reporting requirements be improved for shipboard casualties. The group represents 26 member lines, including the world’s largest.

Miami attorney Charles Lipcon, who specializes in maritime law, said the policies sound like a start for the industry.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough,” he said. More transparency about what caused the accident would be even better, he said. “It’s hard to come up with something that’s meaningful unless you have an understanding about what went wrong,” he said.

He added: “Certainly anything that helps with safety — and those proposals do — to me is a plus.”