The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) publicity machine has been in full speed this week. As part of its marketing strategy that cruising is "extremely safe," CLIA announced in a press statement that it continues to review cruise ship procedures as part of a safety review which it started after the Costa Concordia disaster.
Unfortunately, the safety review panel is producing lots of rhetoric and little substantive safety changes. One of the new policies is that cruise passengers must attend a muster drill before the cruise starts. My reaction when I first heard this was "you mean the cruise lines don't already have a policy in place?" The aviation industry required pre-flight safety instructions to passengers fifty years ago.
Lots of the rhetoric is coming from CLIA's panel of so-called "independent" safety advisers. There is nothing remotely "independent" about the panel. Take, for example, Mark Rosenker who is always described as a "former NTSB chairman." What the cruise lines don't say is that Rosenker has worked in the private sector after leaving the federal government and has been a paid consultant for the cruise industry for years.
Two years before the Costa Concordia debacle, the World Cruise Industry Review referred to Rosenker as a "cruise industry advisor" and quoted him in 2010 saying "the industry has an outstanding safety record and the most dangerous part of the cruise is undoubtedly the drive to the port. It is very rare that people are injured on a cruise ship.”
Rosenker was a friend of the cruise lines even when he worked at the NTSB. In 2007, CLIA's Board of Directors wined and dined Rosenker during the annual Sea Trade cruise convention here in Miami. He gave a nice speech to CLIA which he began by stating " I am very pleased that your safety record is excellent." This was a rather amazing thing to say given the fact that just a year earlier, Princess Cruises' Star Princess ignited off the coast of Jamaica and burned through 100 cabins and killed the husband of one of our clients. (You can read about the Star Princess fire and many other cruise ships fires here).
Rosenker even promised CLIA that he would help the cruise lines keep "sensitive" information about maritime accidents away from the public, telling CLIA "there are provisions in the law to keep certain voluntarily provided safety information confidential."
This week Rosenker is back extolling on the safety of a cruise industry which puts money in his pocket, telling a travel agent publication that “it is important for consumers to understand that cruise vacations are extremely safe. This industry is highly regulated with tremendous oversight.” Rosenker tells another cruise industry publication that “every aspect of the cruise industry is heavily monitored and regulated under US, EU and international law.”
An "independent" safety expert would not engage in such hyperbolic cheer-leading. In truth, we all know that the cruise industry is essentially unregulated. The cruise lines goes to extraordinary steps to incorporate their businesses and register their cruise ships in foreign countries to avoid U.S. taxes, wage and labor laws, and safety regulations.
Rosenker has been cheering for the cruise industry for a long time. The Star Princess and Costa Concordia disasters did not dampen his enthusiasm one bit. That's what got him placed on the cushy job of the cruise line's safety panel where he will continue to cheer for the cruise lines under the guise of being an "independent" expert.
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