Cruise com­pa­nies take new safety reg­u­la­tions on board

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Afloat - MERRY KIRK­WOOD

SAFETY is para­mount for trav­ellers, so a timely re­view of cruise in­dus­try pro­to­cols, which has led to new mus­ter­ing pro­ce­dures, should help ad­dress con­cerns since the Costa Con­cor­dia ac­ci­dent in Jan­uary.

The un­think­able hap­pened when this mod­ern liner struck rocks off the coast of Italy in ap­par­ently calm weather, leav­ing 25 dead and seven miss­ing. At the time of the dis­as­ter, there were about 3000 pas­sen­gers on board, in­clud­ing 23 Aus­tralians.

The na­ture of the event, still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, has led to var­i­ous re­views.

Last week in­ter­na­tional cruise in­dus­try mem­bers, in­clud­ing Aus­tralian rep­re­sen­ta­tives, met in Mi­ami for their an­nual con­fer­ence. Chris­tine Duffy, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Cruise Lines In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion, says, ‘‘Sim­ply put, safety is our high­est pri­or­ity.’’

The as­so­ci­a­tion is keen to main­tain some bal­ance in the wake of the tragedy, with fig­ures show­ing that be­fore the Con­cor­dia ac­ci­dent there were only 28 deaths on mem­ber lines be­tween 2002 and 2011, and 22 of the fa­tal­i­ties in­volved crew mem­bers. Dur­ing that pe­riod, about 223 mil­lion pas­sen­gers and crew cruised the world.

Since Fe­bru­ary, new pol­icy has been en­acted vol­un­tar­ily by cruise lines af­ter an op­er­a­tional re­view in re­sponse to the Con­cor­dia ac­ci­dent. Em­bark­ing pas­sen­gers must now take part in an emer­gency drill be­fore leav­ing port, rather than within 24 hours of board­ing, as has hith­erto been the case.

Some is­sues, such as po­ten­tial lan­guage bar­ri­ers in emer­gency sit­u­a­tions, still need to be prop­erly ad­dressed across the broader travel in­dus­try.

Safety is costly, time­con­sum­ing and not closely aligned to com­pany prof­its.

Rapid tech­no­log­i­cal changes in mod­ern trans­port — the con­struc­tion of larger, faster and flashier ships, air­craft and trains — can mean safety pro­to­cols are re­ac­tive rather than proac­tive as in­dus­try bod­ies strive to keep up with change.

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