Post updated Dec. 9, 2014.
Are cruise ships becoming too big, too large to operate safely?
That’s the question posed in this article at NBC News: Too Big To Sail? Cruise Ships Face Scrutiny (the original article came from The New York Times).
While we don’t know the answer to this question, the article presents challenges within the industry of balancing size of these new cruise ships with safety for the passengers and crew aboard the vessel.
As cruise ship injury lawyers who have been representing injured passengers and crew for over 25 years, the staff at Waks and Barnett, P.A. keep up to date with industry news and information as it may impact the cases of our clients.
Questions we might ask of the increasing large cruise ship designs:
- If an emergency occurs, can passengers be safely treated and/or evacuated from the vessel?
- Is there enough trained and experienced staff on board to deal with the large amounts of people – especially elderly passengers?
- With crew turnover rates so high, are proper safety procedures being taught enough and with enough frequency to new crew?
- Can food preparation be done correctly for so many people without someone getting sick?
- Can rooms, bathrooms, swimming pools and other areas be cleaned well enough to limit sickness and infection?
Some highlights from the article:
The Cruise Lines International Association said that last year its North American cruise line members carried about 17 million passengers, up from seven million in 2000. But the expansion in ship size is worrying safety experts, lawmakers and regulators, who are pushing for more accountability, saying the supersize craze is fraught with potential peril for passengers and crew.
Cruise operators point out that bigger ships have more fire safety equipment, and contend they are safer.
Experts point out that larger ships have larger challenges. For instance, they have fewer options in an emergency, said Michael Bruno, dean of the engineering school at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., and former chairman of the National Research Council’s Marine Board.
“Given the size of today’s ships, any problem immediately becomes a very big problem,” he said. “I sometimes worry about the options that are available.”
The risks of building bigger ships became apparent over a decade ago, as cruise companies pushed the limits of naval architecture. The head of the International Maritime Organization, the United Nations agency in charge of marine regulations, warned in 2000 of the growing hazards of building larger ships and called for a comprehensive review of safety rules, known as Safety of Life at Sea, or Solas. William O’Neil, the group’s secretary general at the time, said the industry could not “rely on luck holding indefinitely.”
One result was a set of new global regulations in 2010 called the Safe Return to Port rules. Those require new ships to have sufficient redundant systems, including power and steerage, to allow them to return to port even in the worst emergency. Only about 10 ships built since then comply with this new rule.
“The idea is that a ship is its own best lifeboat,” said John Hicks, the vice president for global passenger ships at Lloyds Register, the largest ship classification society. “The idea is to do everything to keep the crew and passengers on a vessel.”
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