The latest Allianz Safety and Shipping review has shown that human error is the biggest safety issue onboard cruise ships. The review shows that ship losses have been reduced significantly in the past few years, thanks mainly to advances in technology, training, regulation and proactive safety efforts on behalf of the shipping industry, but was clear in its conclusion that human error remains the root cause of most accidents – giving the example of the Costa Concordia disaster. Dr Sven Gerhard of Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty commented on the review: “Technology is only as useful as the training behind it – and we don’t always see this human element keeping up with other advances. What we do see with the best ship owners is a proactive safety management culture, going beyond the minimum standards and running from top to bottom of the organisation.”
As the Allianz review was released, an incident in the Canary Islands once again demonstrated the perils of working on cruise ships. A safety drill being carried out by the crew of the Thomson Majesty ship while it was in the harbour of La Palma went wrong and resulted in the death of five crewmembers and the injury of three others. The drill saw a lifeboat being lowered into the water in order to test passenger and crew evacuation procedures, but according to a Thomson representative, “Unfortunately, when the boat was being raised back up, one of the wires snapped, resulting in the boat falling back into the water.” A spokesman for seafarers’ trade union Nautilus said that lifeboat training drills were often fraught with danger and accidents were commonplace. Andrew Linington added: “We’ve had this happen so often and the industry has moved lamentably slowly to deal with the problem. There’s been research that suggests that more people are dying in lifeboat drills than are being saved by lifeboats. It’s that serious.” Nautilus advises its members to practise raising and lowering lifeboats without crew members inside them.
Squaremouth, the travel insurance comparison site in the US, has also commented on cruising issues – notably travel cover for cruise holidays – following the stranding of the Carnival Triumph cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico for several days in February, causing serious discomfort to passengers. Chris Harvey, chief executive, warned about the ‘considerable differences between purchasing travel insurance through a cruise line and [on] the open market’. The three main differences noted by Harvey are that cruise linepurchased travel policies often provide compensation in the form of cruise credits rather than cash in the event of trip cancellation; cruise line cover typically only covers travellers while they are on the ship – so not door-to-door travel as a normal policy would cover; and that cruise lines only tend to offer one policy, which can provide less coverage at a more expensive price than open market policies. Harvey said: “The quality of the cruise-line policy is exactly the same; however, travellers might end up paying much more for lower benefit amounts.”