Senator Boxer calls for changes in cruise safety drills

In the wake of the Costa Concordia grounding that has killed at least 12 passengers, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) sent a letter on January 19 urging U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert J. Papp to strengthen safety requirements for cruise ships by ensuring that all passengers receive safety and evacuation training before the ship leaves port.  

“In light of the tragic wreck of the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia, I write to request that you immediately consider strengthening the Coast Guard’s cruise ship safety regulations to ensure that all passengers receive muster drill training prior to their departure,” Senator Boxer wrote. “We must ensure that our citizens know what to do when an emergency occurs.”  

The Italian-flag cruise ship was at sea for three hours when it ran aground, but according to reports, the crew had not conducted the so-called “muster drill” for the 600 passengers who boarded the ship at Civitavecchia, the port of Rome. The safety drill was not scheduled until the following day.

In U.S. ports, it is a fairly common practice for cruise passenger muster drills to be conducted before the ship departs port. Senator Box would like the Coast Guard to require this.

Still, this would not impact ships like the Costa Concordia that sail outside the U.S. Coast Guard's jurisdiction. Right now, International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations require that all cruise ships conduct a passenger muster drill within 24 hours of departure.

That's why Senator Boxer also urged the Coast Guard, as the United States’ representative to the International Maritime Organization, to consider proposing an amendment to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) to strengthen international passenger safety measures in the same way.

U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL) has already called for his committee to conduct a hearing to review cruise ship safety in February.

12 CONFIRMED DEAD, 20 STILL MISSING
Twelve people have been confirmed dead and another 20 remain missing from the 4,200-pasenger Costa Concordia, which struck a rock in shallow waters off of the island of Giglio, Italy, on January 13. The master of the ship, Captain Francesco Schettino, is under house arrest and is under investigation for manslaughter. Questions have arisen about the Captain's behavior leading up to the grounding and during the ship's evacuation.

January 22, 2012