When a ship sinks it is big news, and so you’ll probably already know that two Costa ships have been in trouble in recent weeks, and that people have lost their lives. Whenever there is a ship at trouble, the tale of the Titanic is regurgitated, never more so than this year, the centenary anniversary of the tragedy. So a hundred years on, vessels are still sinking, with significant loss of life. So should we avoid cruise ships? Are they safe?
As long as ships have been sailing, they have been sinking. They are up against weather, swells, depths and of course the limits of engineering. A lot of these ships are amazing, just as the Concorde was. They are still ships however, and as the Titanic proved- even the ‘unsinkable’ are in fact sinkable. That doesn’t mean they are a really risky option. After all, cars have been around since the beginning of the last century, but we still haven’t managed to stop crashing them, nor have we managed to hone their design so that they don’t break down. We certainly haven’t stopped bikes getting a puncture as soon as you’ve stuck the spring bikini diet onto your fridge. In the hysteria people forget that a boat, however big, is still a boat. Like a car, or plane, or motorbike, there is the chance of engine failure, manual error and the sheer unpredictability of the elements. Unfortunately, sometimes more than one of these elements come together and a disaster happens.
As someone who has worked on and travelled with many cruise lines, I would like to point out the opposing argument to the scare stories on the TV at the moment. The crew are very well trained, and hold drills every week, sometimes lasting hours, sometimes outside in sweltering heat. They are taken very seriously, if a ship fails its inspection by the MSA (Marine Safety Authority) it can be taken out of service, which would cost the company millions, and would cost their reputation even more. These crew duties are on top of other safety duties such as fire fighting and stretcher teams. I do have to admit at this point that I was always a visiting entertainer and so was mostly regarded as a passenger, and so my duties were minimal to none. My main role was playing various ‘characters’ during a full drill- from being a nuisance drunk to injured or lost. These characters are given to you by the captain himself and he does not treat it as a game. Your ship mates will realise you are playing a character, but they are still expected to ‘deal with you’ and you can be as difficult as you like. This is fun for me, but they are being marked on how they deal with me and also how they maintain their composure and continue handling the larger emergency. So they certainly don’t think it’s funny when you kick off in their muster station.
SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) was set up after the Titanic sunk killing 1,517 people. They continuously update safety regulations, sometimes as a matter of course and sometimes in reaction to events. Of course all these safety drills, however thorough cannot entirely prepare a ship’s company for any circumstances, as no two emergencies are the same, and there can be any number of extenuating factors.
Check out Part 2 of this article by Melanie Macro which will be published next week on 25 April 2012.
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