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. 

Star Princess Cruise Ship FireI have written about CLIA’s much publicized 10 safety policies here and here.

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 Princess Cruises Star Princess Cruise Ship Firevoluntarily 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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  • Tim

    I recently sailed on Allure and was surprised that the muster drill consisted of going to a meeting point in the promenade. We never saw a life jacket but were told there would be crew members passing them out. Never went to see where the lifeboat was but we were told a crew member would lead us there. In case of a real emergency, things may not go exactly as planned and I would prefer having a life jacket in my cabin and knowing what boat I need to get on…

  • mitch

    All have a reason, why you don’t go with your life jacket from your cabin. Imagine 5000 people going from their cabins with the life jackets on the corridors? Also you need to know only where to go, the meeting point, not the lifeboat. You’re not showed where the life boat is just because the ships don’t want to have 5000 people on the same time on the life boats because cannot launch 50 lifeboats on the same time. Everything should be organise. Also imagine is the ship has a problem on one side (fire, damaged, etc), then you need to go to a different life boat, right?

  • Tim

    One needs look no further than Concordia to know folks may not make it to a lifeboat. I want a life jacket in my cabin and I want crew members also having them to distribute. What if the fire is where I am suppose to meet? There are lots of “what if” scenarios that can play out and I want to know I have the information and equipment at my disposal and not have to count on the disaster cooperating with the very specific plan laid out by the cruise line. Thats the funny thing about disasters… they do not go according to plan.