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Here’s what the stricken cruise ship the Costa Concordia, looks like now from space. Could you imagine what it looked like to its stranded and panicked passengers from its wildly tilting decks the night it crashed earlier this year?

When the cruise ship, Costa Concordia, twice the size of the Titanic with 4200 innocent passengers aboard, hit the rocks off the coast of Italy earlier this year, the incompetence and cowardice of its captain and many of its crew became manifest, as 32 died and thousands suffered terror and injury in the early hours of what was supposed to be a luxurious cruise of a state-of-the-art ship.

Except — the captain was more interested in his girlfriend and in showing off, than is captaining his ship, and a cruise line that thought a casual dinner and a good night’s sleep would be more useful than a safety drill, or a well-crained and disciplined crew. This captain should get the electric chair and this cruise line, which clearly had lousy standards for training and safety and is seeking legal protection to limit its liability, should be put out of business and forgo its assets, at the very least.

The compelling, blow by blow story of the sinking of the Costa Concordia can be read in the May, 2012, edition of Vanity Fair magazine, “Another Night to Remember,” by Jonas Fredwall Karlsson.

People interested in cruising should demand to know the safety records of not only the cruise lines and ships they will sail upon but the experience and records of the senior crew of those ships. They should demand evidence of the safety training of the crews, from captain to steward, and they should demand thorough safety drills as they leave port, not hours or a day later.

And citizens should demand of their legislators better laws of the sea regarding passenger ship safety, and also better liability protection in event of problems at sea, ranging from sexual predation to disasters of every kind. As Presidential candidates and Senators and Congressmen to take positions and seek action on behalf of the cruising public, who already pay a lot to set to sea, but shouldn’t have to pay with their physical and economic safety at risk

It’s not just the captain of that Italian cruise liner who should be held responsible, but the cruise line itself, and every other passenger cruise line, and the governments who regulate them. The reputations of all have been besmirched.  After all, it’s not just a cruise; it’s a mission for the captain and crew to ply potentially dangerous waters in ships the size of skyscrapers, and protect the safety of all aboard. Crisis prevention and crisis response are more important than the mere entertainment of those aboard.

I call for the review and re-certification of every captain of every cruise ship afloat, along with new, higher standards in training, supervision and discipline for professional navigation staff. This captain abandoned his ship, while there were still hundreds of panicked passengers aboard, and then refused the coast guard’s demands that he go back aboard to direct the evacuation. And I understand he joined the line as a safety officer! What a bad joke. And I hear that it’s not unusual for liner captains to take their craft illegally and inappropriately close to shore to give passengers good views. And I understand the passenger safety drills were not conducted at the beginning of the cruise, as required.

All this points not just to a bad captain, but to bad selection, training, enforcement of regulations and supervision by the cruise lines. These are not just floating hotels, these are vessels on a mission, and their mission is safety first.  There needs to be tighter regulations, better training and supervision and enforcement, or these cruise lines are going out of business. The reputation of the cruise industry has been severely damaged by this and related incidents, and the fight to restore it will be a long and difficult one. And it should be.

July 2022

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