As the death toll increases in Tunis, the former Director of Princess Cruises says that cruise security was lax and the cruise lines failed to assess the danger associated with sailing passengers into Tunis.
Commander Mark Gaouette told IHS Maritime that cruise security measures for passengers should have been stronger.
"I believe the risk management process failed to properly assess the extremely volatile situation in North Africa," he said.
". . . at a minimum, more security should have been required for that excursion in the form of armed police or military escort, and armed presence at the museum itself."
Commander Gaouette is the author of "Cruising for Trouble: Cruise Ships as Soft Targets for Pirates, Terrorists and Common Criminals."
The death and injury tally ranges around 17 dead and 20 to 25 passengers injured.
I remain amazed that the Costa captain piloted the Costa Fascinosa out of the port in Tunis and left 13 passengers behind, not knowing whether they were dead or injured. I can't help but think of Costa Captain Schettino leaving passengers behind as he fled the sinking Concordia in Giglio. Do I have this wrong? To give the Fascinosa captain the benefit of the doubt, I can only assume that he may have been concerned that terrorists might attack the ship itself and slam RPG's into it's hull or gun their way up the gangway and look for hostages. In that sense, maybe it was prudent to escape the port as soon as possible, although it begs the question why Costa was there in the first place.
Yahoo Travel published an article titled How the Cruise Industry is Coping with ISIS Attacks on Passengers in Tunisia by Sid Lipsey / @sidlipsey. It includes comments which I made last month about the threat of terrorism in Tunis against cruise passengers.
Why any cruise line would sail into Tunis is beyond me. In 2013 and 2014, many dozens of Tunisian soldiers were killed and even more injured in deadly attacks perpetrated by al-Qaeda and other Islamic fighters, according to an article titled Terror and Politics in Tunisia in the publication World Affairs. Tunisia is a major recruiting ground for ISIS. Recruits are trained in Iraq, Syria or Libya and then return to Tunisia radicalized.
Costa and MSC have stated that they will not call on Tunisia in the foreseeable future. To me that's like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, as the saying goes. Whether these cruise ships will actually stay away remains to be seen. We have seen cruise lines announce with great fanfare that they are leaving a Caribbean port after a cruise passenger or employee has been killed ashore. They always return after the media attention dies down.
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March 21 2015 Update: Is Cruising Safe? A Chilling Look at an Industry Under Seige - an article I wrote for Yahoo Travel.
Photo Credit: International Business Times