Joe Ferentini, an expert in the travel industry, feels that the impact on the cruise industry from this disaster will not be any more than what we see in the airline industry when there is a plane crash. “The ratio of cruise ship disasters or mishaps to the overall number of cruise ships that sail without incident is quite small,” he says. “That same ratio holds true for the airline industry. Travelers still get on planes, and they will also board cruise ships. What makes this incident unique are the various media reports calling in to question the integrity of the Costa Concordia’s ship captain. Not all cruise ship captains are created equal, and the savvy traveler will realize this.” He thinks that there may be some buzz over better screening for ship captains, but no more so than there has been over airline pilots after a crash.
Ferentini believes that Costa and other cruise lines may suffer from this incident, at least in the short term. “Travelers who have never taken a cruise before or who were undecided as to their travel plans will probably shy away from Costa and perhaps the entire cruise industry in general,” he says. “But this is a small percentage of the cruising public. And this fact is far less important to Costa than its other main concerns right now, which are restitutions to passengers and families who lost loved ones.”
As far as additional regulations are concerned, Ferentini says there may be a push to ensure that safety drills are conducted before or soon after the ship leaves its home port. “The majority of cruise ships do this. As to why the Concordia’s drill was scheduled for the next day is questionable. I can only guess that the ship planned to sail close to land before arriving at its first scheduled port of call and that a safety drill was not deemed necessary. As we have seen, miraculously and despite the chaos, most passengers survived. There definitely needs to be regulation regarding the timing of these drills. In this case, maybe had there been one, all lives would have been saved,” he says.
JK Hossein, a port and maritime consultant, says that the incident of Costa Concordia is a scenario that happens when a ship voluntarily or involuntarily goes off track over a shallow patch or rock. “Modern cruise ships have all the gadgets to warn them of cross track errors and all the maneuverability to avoid dangers to navigation. The bridge team are trained and certified,” he says. “I think we might conclude the above mentioned advantages created the confidence for the stunt action. That’s how human judgment can use modern safety equipments to put the vessel in an unsafe situation where no other poorly equipped, substandard manned cargo ship can be put.”
Perhaps one precautionary measure for the industry is real time audit of the bridge maneuver, which is already being done by Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS) at designated sea areas by the port state authorities, reports Hossein. “It is possible to monitor ships and traffic over Internet throughout the world right from a head office. This practice does not hamper the master’s over riding authority, but merely monitors in real time safe execution of the planned voyage. Obviously, vessels depart from their planned routes for various valid reasons, the only difference is the knowledge that they are being monitored by a certified captain in real time,” he says.
Capitan Sergey Kolesov, a master mariner, says that any disaster at sea that creates such high volume of public interest affects future maritime legislation. “The International Maritime Organization and other government and inter-state bodies will have to adjust regulations related to safety at sea. Human behavior is a key factor in most of the emergencies at sea. This particular case brightly highlights the emerging lack of skilled seafarers,” Kolesov points out. “Standards of training are definitely decreasing in many countries, which results in serious gaps among professional seamen available for companies with perfect reputations and financial status. I expect tightening international standards on training and certification for officers and crew.”
Stephen Wohl, a travel industry advisor, says that the recent cruise ship disaster in Italy will take a bite out of the industry for now. “Like all disasters, everyone will be a little skiddish,” he says. “There is a great possibility of seeing tighter regulations and restrictions on board future cruises world-wide. I think we may see better disaster training for crews.”
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