A new safety policy for the cruise industry announced Thursday says that crew members on large oceangoing ships who are responsible for lifeboats must practice loading and maneuvering the full vessels at least every six months.
The policy was announced by the Cruise Lines International Association and European Cruise Council for their member lines and is effective right away.
A panel of safety experts recommended the practice, which goes beyond international requirements, as part of the industry’s operational safety review in response to the fatal Jan. 13 Costa Concordia shipwreck in Italy.
Mark Rosenker, one of the panelists and former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said the policy will help crew members be better prepared for emergency situations. The drills will include filling lifeboats to capacity with crew members and operating them in the water.
“What it does do is provide for real operational practice for crew members to watch the loading, manage the loading and then maneuver the vessel with the filled lifeboat,” Rosenker said. “So this, I think, is a significant improvement.”
David Peikin, director of public affairs for CLIA, said the association believes about 20 percent of the fleet already did such drills. CLIA represents 26 member lines, including the world’s largest. The ECC, with 30 cruise members, represents the interests of cruise operators in Europe.
Other safety policies put into place since the Concordia disaster include having more lifejackets aboard ships than are required by law; limiting access to a ship's bridge at potentially dangerous times; requiring cruise ship routes to be planned in advance and shared with all members of the bridge team and requiring emergency drills for all embarking passengers before a ship leaves port.