A week after Costa Concordia ran aground in Italy, Carnival Corporation has launched a comprehensive audit and review of all safety and emergency response procedures across all of the company's cruise lines. The company owns nine cruise lines including Costa Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Holland America, Seabourn Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Aida Cruises.
"This tragedy has called into question our company's safety and emergency response procedures and practices," said Micky Arison, chairman and CEO of Carnival Corporation & plc.
At least 12 people are known to have died in the disaster, and 21 are still missing, according to the Italian Crisis Unit. Poor weather and movement of the vessel hamper retrieval of bodies. And, salvage operators are trying to prevent a half million gallons of fuel from escaping the ship and causing a major environmental disaster.
There are several remaining mysteries:
- A major criticism from rescued passengers was that they were not told what to do and the crew was noticeably absent during the crisis. While a few crew members helped evacuate people, most passengers report that they didn't see crew or the crew didn't know what to do. Seven bodies were found at muster stations, where passengers meet to board lifeboats, in life jackets. This is the procedure passengers are told to follow during lifeboat drills, although crew weren't present to tell them how to proceed.
- Costa Cruises CEO said Concordia made a pass of Giglio Island last August although not closer than 500 meters. However several days ago the British shipping journal Lloyd's List Intelligence said that its satellite tracking information indicated that Costa Concordia sailed within 230 meters in August, even closer than it did last Friday.
- Costa Concordia is on a fixed itinerary, sailing each week to ports in France, Spain and Italy and passengers embark and disembark in each port. The ship's lifeboat drill was scheduled the following morning and roughly 600 passengers who boarded that day in Rome didn't know how to proceed in an emergency. At present maritime law stipulates cruise ships must schedule lifeboat drills within 24 hours of leaving home port. Should laws be changed so than drill must take place before the ship leaves the port of embarkation?
- When Costa Concordia listed and sank into the water, most lifeboats couldn't be launched. Should cruise lines be required to build ship with lifeboats sitting on deck instead of hanging over the side on davits?
- When Costa Concordia listed and sank into the water, most lifeboats, which hang out from the side, couldn't be launched. Should cruise lines be required to build ships with lifeboats sitting on deck instead of hanging over the side on davits?
- Why did the crew tell passengers to return to their cabins or walk in the hall, that it was an electrical problem -- after water began pouring into the vessel?
- There was a 45 minute wait between the accident, when passengers were told it was an electrical problem, and the order to abandon ship was given. During that time the situation deteriorated rapidly. Why weren't passengers immediately told to return to their cabins, get life vests and proceed to muster stations?
- Perhaps the most important question: Can cruise ships be evacuated in 30 minutes (from the time the abandon ship signal is given) which stipulated by international maritime law. Costa Concordia's passengers were stuck on board for five hours or more.
Anne Campbell is editor of ShipCritic Blog