Cruise Industry Adopts New Safety Standards After 2012 Cruise Ship Crash
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), a global trade organization representing cruise lines, has put ten new safety policies into place over the past year in response to the Contra Concordia crash off the coast of Italy last January. The United Nations’ maritime safety agency gave its approval to the new policies near the end of 2012, effectively giving them the force of international law. They include mandatory lifeboat training for crew members, restrictions on bridge access, and minimum requirements for life jackets. One of the new safety policies will directly affect cruise passengers, as it requires emergency drills for all passengers, known as “musters,” prior to the ship’s departure from port.
The Costa Concordia struck a boulder as it cruised near the shore of the island of Giglio, located off the coast of Tuscany in northern Italy, on January 13, 2012. The captain was allegedly trying to execute a display maneuver called a “salute” when the ship ran into a rock, causing it to founder and capsize. Thirty-two of the more than 4,200 people on board, including two Americans, died as a result. It took divers days to locate most of the bodies, and it took authorities weeks to complete positive identifications. Italian prosecutors charged the ship’s captain with multiple counts of manslaughter and other offenses, alleging that he caused the crash by taking the enormous ship dangerously close to the island. The first officer and several officials of Costa Cruises were also under investigation. Numerous civil lawsuits, including wrongful death claims by families of the victims and claims for injuries by both passengers and crew members, followed the criminal investigation.
CLIA undertook a comprehensive review of safety procedures, which it called the Cruise Industry Operational Safety Review, beginning in early 2012. The International Maritime Organization (IMO), a UN agency, approved the new policies in December 2012. New policies include:
- The “Bridge Access Policy,” which limits access to the bridge to necessary personnel;
- The “Excess Lifejackets Policy,” which requires that cruise ships carry a number of life jackets equal to the total number of people on the ship plus the total number of people berthed in the most crowded vertical fire zone; and
- The “Common Elements of Musters and Emergency Instructions Policy,” which establishes elements that must be included in all emergency instructions, such as lifejacket instructions and locations, emergency signals, and evacuation procedures.
The new policy that is most relevant to passengers is the “Passenger Muster Policy.” Passengers must participate in a muster before the ship leaves port, and passengers who arrive late must receive prompt safety briefings. This replaces an earlier policy requiring musters within twenty-four hours of a ship’s departure. The IMO, in addition to approving the ten new policies, also incorporated the passenger muster policy into the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), essentially making it a global mandate for cruise ships.
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Operational Safety Review Executive Summary (PDF file), Cruise Lines International Association, December 2012
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