Are cruises safe?
The answer is a qualified “yes.”
The cruise ship industry says that safety is its main concern. The Costa Concordia wreck will be thoroughly investigated. Emergency drills will be increased.
However, the Costa Concordia sinking revealed that the cruise industry has much to do.
First, crews must be trained to handle the worst ship emergencies, such as fire and shipwreck. At present, the majority of the crew are actually hotel workers, such as maids, busboys, waiters, and cooks. They receive scant safety training. They do not have the same safety culture as former navy sailors and merchant marines who know the perils of the sea. This culture and level of training must be imparted to the hotel staff.
Second, each major cruise ship needs a portion of its crew dedicated to ship safety and evacuation. That means that these employees stand ready for these emergencies, and they have no other duties. They should not be a waiters or maids pulled into service in an emergency.
The Costa Concordia was an extraordinary event due to extraordinary carelessness. Although shipwreck is rare, the cruise industry must do more to prevent furture disasters.
Mark E. Seitelman, 3/19/12, www.seitelman.com.