At a hastily convened session of the Passenger Ship Safety Conference in London last week, Captain Wright, Royal Caribbean International’s Senior Vice-President of Marine Operations and marine expert for the US trade body Cruise Line International Association, took the unusual step of blasting the IMO (International Maritime Organisation). He was reported to have said that RCCL are planning to have muster (safety) drills in port before their ships sail, as the industry is now being urged to update procedures after the Costa Concordia accident. Captain Wright indicated that RCCL will not wait for years before the IMO passes new legislation on safety.
“To pass this through the IMO will be a slow process,” he is quoted as saying. “I believe this will be an immediate change by the industry. It has got to happen.”
Safety drills are not taken very seriously by the majority of cruise passengers. Socialising, eating and drinking are halted abruptly when the seven short blasts and one long one of the ship’s horn notify everyone that a safety evacuation drill is now to take place. It is a bit of an effort to drop everything, go back to your cabin to fetch your life jacket and make your way to your muster station. In the past, the muster station would have been next to your designated life boat out on deck; however nowadays, it make take place in a lounge or even, which I have already reported about in the lowest part of the ship – the ice rink on the Oasis of the Seas. It doesn’t really give the impression that an evacuation is something that is even a remote possibility.
And if you are on a large multi-lingual ship such as the Costa Concordia, you would be listening to the instructions being blasted on the tanoy over and over again in many different languages, waiting patiently for a language you understand. Of course, you might start socialising with the person next to you when the wait becomes tedious.
It will be a challenge for cruise lines to get passengers to take safety drills seriously. Or perhaps not, given the coverage the Costa Concordia incident has received?