Are Cruise Ships Dangerously Top Heavy?

Ever since the Costa Concordia disaster, questions have been raised whether modern day cruise ships are being designed more dangerously by increasing their size to pile more and more passengers aboard.

There is no question that cruise ship are getting bigger and bigger.  You need look no further than Royal Caribbean's Genesis class (Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas) which each carry more than 8,000 passenger and crew members.

But it is not just that the cruise ships are getting "bigger" that may pose a danger.  Its that they are designed to be much, much taller, with the hotel structure some seventeen stories high.  The "floating Orchestra Cruise Shipcondos," as some call them, seem to be out-of-proportionally tall, perched precariously on a hull which seems incapable of safely supporting a structure towering hundreds of feet into the air. 

Yesterday, I posed the question on Twitter and facebook:  Are Cruise Ships Top Heavy?"  I received some interesting response, including this one:

Yes. Over 30 years ago the shipbuilders built a ship then put a hotel on the inside now they build a hotel/resort first and try and wrap a ship around it second.....these ships and I use this term very broadly should all be tied up at next available port and used as hotels only.

If this issue interests you, I suggest that you read an excellent article by blogger "Teddy Sheperd" entitled "Why Mega Cruise Ships Are Unsafe: Opinion."  

Mr. Sheperd explains that in the past, there was a reasonable and safe ratio between a vessel's draft (below the waterline) and air draft (above the waterline).  The cruise ships today have lost the reasonable proportions between what's below and above the waterline, making the vessels dependent on stabilizers not only to battle rough weather but to stay upright with only slight to moderate breezes. 

Take a read of Mr. Shepard's article and ask yourself whether you really want to take your family onto one of these floating sky-scrapper hotels when, God forbid, it loses power while encountering rough seas?

I do not pretend to be a naval architect.  I studied English and History at Duke.  It remains a mystery to me how jumbo jets can take off or huge ships can even float.  But you don't need to be an expert to have an opinion on this issue.  Mr. Sheperd reminds us of the old saying in boat building, "if it looks right, it is right."

Well, these cruise ships don't look right to me.  They look like condominiums ripped out of Collins Avenue on Miami Beach and placed on a barge.  They look eager to tip over.

 

Have an opinion whether cruise ships today are inherently unstable?  Please leave a comment below. 

 

Photo:  MSC's Orchestra cruise ship - draft of 7.88 metres (25.9 feet).