Cruise liners need to act now

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The cruise market will take a hit following the Costa tragedy but it won't last long if companies act now.

Holidaymakers get nervous whenever there is a terrible accident resulting in loss of life. But they soon realise that it normally comes down to a rare and unforseen incident.

It is too early to predict what caused the Costa Concordia to run aground off the Italian coast on Friday night. We already know there are three people dead and more unaccounted for but it is easy to see why a safe evacuation would hardly have been possible.

From what I can understand an evacuation was in place but the ship tilted. And people started to panic. Who wouldn't? Survival instincts kick in and all order would have been lost as holidaymakers tried to find any way off the ship they could to save their lives. One can only imagine the fear.

The cruise industry needs to quickly reassure people how isolated such an accident is. Passenger Shipping Association director Bill Gibbons has already begun by saying that ships comply to "stringent regulations and procedures from the governing maritime authorities covering every aspect of their build and operation."

He added: "Ships' crews undertake rigorous training, drills and scenarios for emergency situations including the evacuation of a vessel."

And Mr Gibbons reminded people that in the past 20 years cruise lines have had the best safety record in the travel industry and carried 90 people people throughout the world.

But he will need help if cruise bookings are not to suffer. All the cruise lines need to be pro-active now in getting a similar message out by mailing their customers and putting statements on their websites.

Costa Concordia suddenly hit rocks soon after leaving Civitavecchia, the port of Rome, for Savona. I like millions of other passengers have sailed that route out of the port and Costa president Gianni Onorato said Costa Concordia, under the command of the Master Francesco Schettino, had also regularly sailed it. 

He said: “The Master, who was on the bridge at that time, understood the severity of the situation immediately performed a manoeuvre aimed to secure guests and crew, and started the security procedures in order to prepare for an eventual ship evacuation.

“Unfortunately, this operation was complicated as result of a sudden tilt of the ship that has made difficult the disembarkation.”

Exactly. As the week goes on, I am sure we will read fantastic acts of heroism. But it would have been asking for a miracle to have got the 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew off that ship safely. So let's hold back on any criticism. 

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