More Cruise Ship Safety Problems, This Time in China

In the U.S. we hear about cruise ship accidents, mishaps and injuries on a regular basis. The news media are quick to pick up stories about injured passengers, norovirus accounts, safety issues and countless other problems related to the cruise lines and their ports of call.

Quite often, those are singular accounts – a person goes overboard, a passenger is assaulted, etc.

Sadly, there is news out of China that indicates that many passengers of a cruise ship on the Yangtze River may have perished when their cruise ship capsized after ‘twister like conditions’ made travel difficult. There are reports that other issues may have impacted the vessel’s ability stay afloat.

Though the accident happened almost 48 hours ago, this is still a developing story…

cruise ship safety issues
Image from CNN Video

From CNN

Rescuers are struggling to find survivors more than a day and a half after a cruise ship carrying more than 450 people capsized in China’s Yangtze River.

More than 410 people, many in their 60s and 70s, remain unaccounted for Wednesday in China’s longest river, leaving their families waiting anxiously for news.

Full CNN Story: Rescuers struggle to find survivors from capsized cruise ship in China

From The New York Times

The New York Times in their article covering the cruise ship accident had some insightful information regarding the accident as well as issues concerning safety problems within China’s cruise ship industry.

Here are some points from their article: Read the article in full here at

Safety issues a concern

But most of the challenges facing passenger ships (including safety issues) in China’s waterways are economic, brought about by cutthroat competition in the passenger ship industry.

At the same time, inspectors have noticed an increasing number of problems among the ships. In 2013, the Nanjing Maritime Bureau found that six of 10 Yangtze cruise ferries had safety problems. In one case, the crew did not know how to put on life jackets and failed to tell passengers about safety precautions after they boarded. Also that year, a passenger ferry with 415 tourists caught fire, although it was towed to safety and no one was injured.

A survey of shipping companies on the Yangtze showed that 63 percent said they had difficulty hiring experienced, qualified sailors. Over half said they had to go to remote, impoverished regions to find crew members. The primary reason was low pay, with a captain earning just 7,000 renminbi a month, or about $1,100.

Domestic cruises and domestic ferry traffic are not subject to a wide range of international safety rules. “There is an urgent need to enhance the safety of ships carrying passengers on noninternational voyages in certain parts of the world,” said a joint statement by the conference attendees (from the International Maritime Organization conference, 2014).

Follow the Money

High-end cruises have become popular as China has seen the rise of a wealthy class of tourists. Large companies such as Carnival Group have moved personnel to China, now second only to the United States in the number of cruise passengers. In 2014, the number of tourists on cruises leapt 43 percent from the year before to 862,000, according to an industry report. Industry estimates say that by 2020, the Chinese cruise ship industry might grow to 4.5 million passengers and could have an economic impact of $8 billion.