The Cruising industry Hits the Wall

1 Jan 2013

Costa Concordia – Press release # 5

The refloating of the Costa Concordia should have taken place at the end of 2012, followed by its removal to a port of demolition (or to a submarine graveyard?) in January of 2013. The work of the Italian-American consortium between Titan Salvage and Micoperi was estimated at a cost of 300 million US$. Complications arose with the project and both the time and budget were drawn out. The unforeseen hardness of the undersea granite slows down the setting up of the platform needed to remove the ship. The workers and the Italian authorities are now looking at retrieval in 2014.  In the meantime, the wreck on the rocks experiences the pressure of the sea on its exterior and the one of 100,000 tons of polluted water on its interior.  The risk of the ship dislodging is increasing.  Should the removal of the ship take place according to plan, two key points demand clarification: 1. The methods of treating the water and waste on the interior of the wreck, and 2. The destination of the wreck. Italy has not displayed the ability to properly dismantle ships. The Costa Allegra was sent to the junk-yard in Turkey (1). The transport ferry Repubblica di Amalfi from Grimaldi Lines is still awaiting demolition in India. Thirty-seven ships belonging to Italian companies such as Ignazio Messina, Stradeblu, BM Shipping and SNAV headed for the junk-yard in 2012. Not a single one was demolished in Italy: 19 went to India, 10 to Turkey and 7 to Bangladesh.

To reassure their clients, the owners of the cruise companies joined together to announce several revolutionary measures, 30 percent increasing of the number of life vests on board, no more considering the pilot house as a lounge during critical periods of navigation, preparation of the route to be approved by the company, the captain and known by all officers, before each departure.

In December 2012, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) approved the cruising industry’s initiatives and adopted an amendment that will enter into force at the end of 2014 that will compel companies to better prepare passengers in the case of an emergency.

In order to rally those still hesitant, the cruise companies decided to immediately apply the existing rules, specifically rules 8, 19 and 27 of chapter three of the SOLAS Convention which have to do with information on meeting places in emergency situations and on recording of the number, identity and medical needs of the passengers while still ashore.

Feedback following the catastrophe of the Costa Concordia is still very weak. Germany’s recommendations concerning evacuation plans for passengers of “larger dimensions” and the eventual size modifications of cruise ships have to this day not been examined.  Germany has been looking at the problem of cruise ships of “larger dimensions” since 2002 “so as to avoid continuing the usual practices of the IMO, namely starting again and again debates concerning security every time an accident occurs.”

Denmark’s worries concerning the navigation of cruise ships analogous to the Costa Concordia stand for the moment alone.  Denmark emphasizes that the number of cruise ships lacking the strengthening for navigation through polar waters and carrying more than 1,000 passengers is increasing off Greenland and in the Arctic Ocean (2) and that these ships do so without the available electronic maps for navigation. “The cold and the hostility of the environment will most likely have fatal consequences in the absence of sufficient help from nearby.” IMO’s codebook on arctic navigation for cruise ships took two years longer than predicted and will not be available before 2014.

The US delegation to the IMO also raised questions, without receiving a response, concerning the stability of cruise ships after collision and grounding, the ability of the crew to successfully communicate with the passengers during an emergency situation and the feasibility of a rapid evacuation should the need arise to abandon ship.

All of this, however, has not stopped the young US company Royal Caribbean Cruise from ordering the building of a new, gigantic ship capable of transporting, and exposing to unknown risks, more than 8,000 people.

The most serious and deterrent measures in the aftermath of Concordia come from the Memorandum of Paris. With countries from the European Union, Canada, Croatia, Russia, Iceland and Norway, this institution considers the inspection of cruise ships a priority for 2013. The program HAVEP (Harmonized Verification Programme on Passenger Ships) will verify the application of all regulatory procedures concerning fire alarms, the regrouping of passengers, the availability of auxiliary energy sources, the functioning of water-tight doors insuring the stability of the ships and the evacuation of passengers and crewmembers. At the beginning of the inspection, the captain must provide documentation on the proceedings of previous emergency exercises and the training of the crew. The accident simulation will end with a test of the lifeboats dropping.  In the case of serious safety violations, the ship may be held at the dock.

 

(1) See page 23, A la Casse.com n°29, informational bulletin and analysis concerning ships after they leave service in the ocean. Octobre 2012 (pdf-5,14 Mo). http://www.robindesbois.org/english/shipbreaking/shipbreaking.html

(2) See  :

Alert in the Arctic, report from July 25, 2012

Two cruise ships in early retirement at Marseille, report from September 19, 2012 (in French)

 

 

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