Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New Regulations Limit Guest Access to the Bridge and Waste Money Without Actually Increasing Safety

In the wake of the Costa Concordia accident, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) and the European Cruise Council have announced three new regulations.  As those that know me well are aware, I am all for regulations that make sense...and I have no tolerance for those that don't.

Before getting into the specifics involved here, I want to relay what happened on a Global Superyachts Forum panel I was on with regulators from American Bureau of Shipping, Lloyds Register of Shipping, the British Maritime and Coast Guard Authority and a few others.  (I was the only lawyer.)  It was announced that new regulations on the type of glass that could be used on superyachts were being developed.  I asked what I thought was a simple question:  Why

I was told (chastised is more like it) that "lives were at stake".  To which I responded:  OK, what is the morbidity (lives lost or people injured) as a result of failed glass on superyachts?  I knew the answer:  ZERO.  Well, that (I?) created a firestorm...because the regulators were so focused on regulating they were not prepared for my final area of inquiry:  Can anyone tell me what the cost-benefit is of these new regulations?  I mean how many more people are going to be saved - since none have been lost or injured - with the millions of dollars now to be spent on new glass?  Isn't there a better place that money can be spent...or not spent? 

That said here are the three new regulations affecting cruise ships and, let me give you a hint on my position:  Those regulations are, to my mind, bureaucratic garbage and a waste of money and valuable manpower.
  • Passage Planning: While the International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations have been followed, now not only do Best Practices have to be created/implimented, all bridge team members must be included in a Bridge Briefing well in advance of sailing.
    • In other words, no sleeping or time off when there are no instances of there being a lack of a Bridge Briefing attended by every member being the cause of (or could have prevented) an accident.  All of the information as far as course, speed, etc. is documented so that any bridge member can identify it immediately on the electronic charts and other navigational aids...complete with alarms if not followed.  The problem may be a lack of willingness to countermand a superior at the time the course is improperly changed; not before the ship sails.
  • Personnel Access To The Bridge: The new policy is that bridge access is to be limited to those with operational functions during any period of restricted manueuvring or when increased vigilance is required.
    • This is essentially, "Schettino, you have spoiled it for everyone."  While it will, no doubt, be disappointing not to be on the bridge during a sailaway, the fact of the matter is that I am, again, unaware of anytime having guests on the bridge have been a factor in such an accident.  While of the three new regulations this has the most logic, I must point out that our not-so-beloved-Schettino's bonehead actions occurred neither during a time of restricted maneuvering nor when increased vigilance would have been apparent to that idiot.  In short, it is a regulation that more easily can be used to say "Gottcha!" if something happens, but it does nothing to prevent an irresponsible captain from believing that cruising at 15 knots within a couple hundred yards of a rocky coastline requires "increased vigilance".
  •  Lifejackets: Cruise lines always carry more than enough life jackets, but now they will be required to carry additional life jackets equal to the largest number of people that are berthed (sleep) in a vertical fire zone (from bilge to top deck) of a ship. 
    • While I do not know where these life jackets are to be kept - most certainly not in that zone one would think - I am wondering why such a huge additional number of life jackets and, to that end, just how many lives would be saved if there was a need for all of them on a modern cruise ship.  To me it nothing more than a way that the cruise lines can say, "See we have more than enough...way more than enough"...and nothing more.  No real increase in safety will occur.
By now you must be asking, "Why is Iamboatman on such a rant about what seems to be erring on the side of safety?"  The reason is that
  • Implementing psychological testing of officers on ships carrying more than X passengers
  • Requiring countermanding of the officer in charge when his instructions or actions violate the approved course, speed, etc...and fully protecting those that do it
  • Putting safeties in place that require significant effort to override course settings absent a declared emergency
and similar would go much further in practically addressing safety concerns. 

And I must ask, with frustration:  Why aren't those things being done?  Because to the same potential passengers that are worried about cruising today because of that Schettino dude so much so that sales have dropped will not be comforted by addressing things in a way that they cannot fully understand. 

People understand life jackets (regardless of them only being used when something happens...rather than preventing something happening). 

People understand the Bridge being without distraction (but are unaware of such common things as a pilot wanting more coffee and some of those cookies you had last time or shouting to the other pilot in a foreign language). 

People understand everyone should know where the ship is going and who is in charge (but don't have a clue how that information is passed, acknowledged and understood).

On a cruise this past week the ship was delayed because two guests didn't appear at the muster.  Everyone waited.  The ship was searched.  Over 30 minutes of sitting there went by.  So when they finally gave up and went ahead with the muster how many of those frustrated, angry, guests really listened and understood what was being said...as opposed to focusing on who were "those" people, now the sailaway before dinner is ruined, etc. (or just not being focused because they are justifiably angry).

To my mind it would have made more sense to go ahead with the muster after a 10 minute wait and then put the offending guests off the ship when they were located if they had no legitimate excuse.  There would have been an increase in safety rather than an increase in the show.

In closing, remember:  Cruising is one of the safest forms of travel.  Don't let the hype get to you...either way.