Yesterday the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure convened a hearing on the Costa Concordia disaster.
As I mentioned in prior articles, I was concerned that the Chairman of the committee, John Mica, a Republican from Florida who is an unabashed supporter of the Florida-based cruise industry, would use the hearing as a platform to praise the cruise lines and help them try and rehabilitate their tarnished reputation.
I was right. The hearing yesterday began with the committee members praising the cruise industry and "applauding" the cruise lines for what they described as an "excellent" safety record. Chairman Mica described cruising as a "joyful," "pleasurable" and "incredible" experience. Congressman Young from Alaska trumped the Italian investigators and announced that "there was nothing wrong with that ship." He applauded the industry’s "great safety record," and warned against against "casting aspersions" on the cruise lines. Congresswoman Maxine Brown, also a cruise lines supporter from Florida and a former travel agent, praised the cruise industry as providing the "safest" form of transportation in the world.
The cruise line and CLIA representatives touched on all of their "talking points," and then scurried out a back door behind the hearing room to avoid the press.
Although Congresswoman Doris Matsui (CA) and Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) asked some tough questions, the hearing was mostly a pep rally for the cruise industry.
Most disappointing was the involvement of Congressman Elijah Cummings (photo left) who, like all of the other committee members never mentioned the dead U.S. passengers (Gerald Heil, age 69, and Barbara Heil, age 70, of Minnesota) by name.
How can the U.S. House of Representative conduct an inquiry into a cruise disaster which kills two Americans where no one even mentions the names of the dead couple?
Congressman Cummings, usually an even keeled legislator who has treated cruise victims with respect, made clear that his primary concern was for the reputation and economic interests of the cruise lines. He brought up the issue of what he described as avoiding "collateral damage." He said to the C-SPAN audience that he wanted to make certain that no one came away from the hearing with an impression that cruise lines were not safe.
Collateral damage? Thirty two people dead or missing and Mr. and Ms. Heil’s bodies remain trapped in the bowels of the Costa Concordia. And Congressman Cummings is concerned that the cruise industry’s reputation may be collaterally damaged by the investigation?
Later this morning, the Senate will be convening its own hearing on the Concordia debacle. Let’s hope that the Senate takes the tragedy more seriously and asks some tough questions.Maech
March 1, 2012 Update:
The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel news paper echoed the sentiments in our article with "Congressional Hearing On Cruise-Ship Safety Turns Into Love-Fest for Industry."
Don’t forget to read: Six Lies The Cruise Lines Will Tell You After The Costa Concordia Crash