Today's cruise ships are being built larger and larger and, following
a series of disasters at sea, lawmakers are wondering if their increasingly
massive size is to blame.
For example, according to a
The New York Times report, in 1985, the Carnival Holiday, was a 46,000-ton ship; in 2003,
the Queen Mary 2 was triple that size; and, in 2013, two of the largest
ships are 225,000 tons. In 2012, The Cruise Lines International Association
said its North American cruise ship lines carried some 17 million passengers,
which is more than double the 7 million its cruise lines carried in 2000.
The largest ship today is the Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas,
which can hold 6,300 passengers and 2,394 crew and is outfitted with 2,706
rooms, 16 decks, 22 restaurants, 20 bars, 10 hot tubs, a shopping mall,
a casino, a water park, a half-mile track, a zip line, mini golf, and what the
Times described as "Broadway-style live shows
Last Year, Carnival Corporation's Costa Concordia capsized off the
Italian coast, killing 32 people. The fatal accident revealed significant
issues with safety and emergency. Earlier this year, a fire on the Carnival
Triumph left the ship without power and stranded in the Gulf of Mexico
for days and a fire on the Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas
forced the vessel back to shore, the
"Cruise ships operate in a void from the standpoint of oversight and
enforcement," James E. Hall, safety management consultant and chairman
of the National Transportation Safety Board between 1994 and 2001, told the
Times. "The industry has been very fortunate until now." Regulators
and lawmakers seek greater accountability and safety experts have expressed
concern over the size of today's cruise ships.
Although cruise line operators argue that the larger ships have increased
fire safety equipment and are actually safer, not everyone agrees. In
fact, this summer, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (Democrat-West Virginia)
introduced legislation to increase federal cruise safety procedures and
consumer protection oversight.
Experts say that larger ships face large challenges. "Given the size
of today's ships, any problem immediately becomes a very big problem,"
Michael Bruno, dean of the engineering school at the Stevens Institute
of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, and former chairman of the National
Research Council's Marine Board, told the
Times. "I sometimes worry about the options that are available."
While ship size worries some, it is the colossal size of the organizations
behind the vessels that are most worrisome to many. Issues with engine
maintenance, fire safety records, fire drills, how cruise operators handle
incidents, the efficacy of today's evacuation procedures, the crew-to-passenger
ratio, language and communication issues, lifeboat size, and high crew
turnover rates, appear to be getting lost in the simply immense size of
the companies responsible for those ships, the
Times pointed out.
Forbes, boasts 102 ships moving 10 million passengers with 90,000 staff both on
land and offshore. The cruise line has 10 subsidiaries and each of those
has its own CEO-in addition to the parent company's CEO. More than
the size of the ship, it is the size of the corporation that creates huge
logistical challenges that could adversely impact crisis prevention and
"The simple problem is they are building them too big and putting
too many people aboard," Captain William H. Doherty, a former safety
manager for Norwegian Cruise Lines and current director of maritime relations
at the Nexus Consulting Group, told the
Times. "My answer is they probably exceeded the point of manageability....
The magnitude of the problem is much bigger than the cruise industry wants
The New York Times; Too Big to Sail? Cruise Ships Face Scrutiny; by Jad Mouawad; October 27,
Forbes; No, NYT, Ship Size Is Not What Ails Carnival And The Cruise Industry;
by Caleb Melby; http://www.forbes.com/sites/calebmelby/2013/10/29/no-nyt-ship-size-is-not-what-ails-carnival-and-the-cruise-industry/