CRUISE INDUSTRY

Cruise ship safety takes center stage at NTSB forum

 

hsampson@MiamiHerald.com

The specter of cruise ship incidents from the past several years — and lessons learned from them — lingered over a forum Tuesday devoted to safety in the industry.

Organized by the National Transportation Safety Board, the forum at the agency’s Washington, D.C., headquarters touched on regulation of the global industry, accident investigations and fire safety. The event continues Wednesday.

In opening remarks, NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman said the agency had never held a hearing on a cruise ship incident because it has jurisdiction only stretching 12 miles from shore. But she asked whether the ways the industry is regulated and investigated now “truly provide for the most robust, independent and transparent investigation of these accidents.”

“More serious accidents and incidents can only be headed off by continually seeking safety improvements,” Hersman said. “The dead weight of complacency may be one of the few things that can darken this booming industry’s bright outlook.”

Dating to the deadly Star Princess fire in 2006 and including the more recent Costa Concordia shipwreck and disabling fires aboard the Carnival Splendor and Carnival Triumph, experts touched on some aspects of what went wrong and what is being done to avoid similar disasters.

At Holland America Line, for example, which like Carnival Cruise Lines is owned by Doral-based Carnival Corp., fire suppression systems are being upgraded and power cables are being rearranged to ensure redundancy of engine rooms. Cyril Tatar, who oversees the building of new ships for the brand, said several new safety measures are being tested to better prepare crews to respond to emergencies.

On the oversight side, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Joseph Servidio said the organization had recently announced plans to conduct spot inspections without notice on ships that have a history of significant issues during exams.

“If during any of our examinations we have any concerns about a ship’s safety, we will not permit it to embark passengers until all of our concerns have been addressed,” Servidio said.

Still, concerns remained about the role of the U.S. in overseeing cruise ships, the vast majority of which are flagged outside the country and primarily inspected by their flag state.

The Coast Guard’s Kurt Heinz said that as a port state — meaning an authority that can inspect ships when they visit the country’s ports — the organization has less power than flag states.

“The problem that we have is that we are not really a big flag state in terms of ships,” Heinz said. “If we were, we would have more ability to unilaterally govern those standards.”

Hersman said she wants to see more transparency in publishing findings from NTSB investigations to the International Maritime Organization.

“We have to make sure that we’re sharing lessons learned and we’re doing so in a transparent way,” she said.

The NTSB fielded some criticism for not including advocates for victims of crime on ships or other cruise-related incidents. The International Cruise Victims Association has submitted a 51-page report to the forum’s docket.

On Tuesday, Representative Matsui (D-Calif.) issued a statement saying she was disappointed that such groups were “once again left out in the cold.”

“Only by including all parties at the table can we hope to make meaningful progress in providing passengers greater consumer protections and the resources necessary to better protect themselves on cruise vessels,” she said in the statement.

Hersman said that while “we very much respect and understand the tragedies and the very difficult experiences that they’ve been through,” the NTSB wanted to bring in those who were experts in the agency’s safety mandate.

“This is our first foray into cruise ship safety,” she said. “And I hope that it will not be our last.”

Read more Business stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Marcell Haywood

    BUSINESS MONDAY CEO ROUNDTABLE

    Taxi alternatives could improve service

    Today marks the launch of the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable, comprising more than two dozen CEOs and senior executives in companies large and small from the region’s key industries. The goal: To provide a temperature check of local economic conditions and business opinions on current topics. Look for a selection of responses each week in print; to see all responses, go online at MiamiHerald.com/business. And keep an eye out for our live CEO Roundtable event later this fall.

  • 122 South Florida companies make Inc. 5000 list

    Inc. magazine unveiled its annual list of fastest-growing private companies in America on Wednesday, and 122 companies from the Miami metropolitan area made the cut.

  •  
The Fresh Diet's Chief Culinary Officer Yosef Schwartz, left, and Zalmi Duchman in their North Miami kitchen in 2010.

    The Fresh Diet sold to Innovative Food Holdings

    The Fresh Diet, a homegrown national fresh-food delivery company, has been acquired by Innovative Food Holdings, a publicly traded specialty foods company based in Bonita Springs, Fla.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category