David Selby: An industry in search of clear blue water

Anyone in the business who was even the slightest bit complacent won’t feel that now

Share
Related Topics

Cruising has become a huge business. Around 1.7m British people went cruising last year – double that of 10 years ago – and across Europe the number was close to six million. The opportunity to see so many places in one holiday, combined with the vast array of facilities on board modern ships, has made cruising a mainstream holiday experience.

But, in the aftermath of last weekend's incident off the Tuscan coast, there will be many people both inside and outside the industry asking how such a huge accident could happen, on such a large, modern ship in this day and age. And wondering just how safe cruising really is. Anyone involved with cruising who might have become even the slightest bit complacent will have had it knocked out of them.

Ships' crews have to demonstrate that they can deal with a range of emergency scenarios to the authorities, in a similar way to aircrews. But it is only when a real incident occurs does one find out how well equipped crew members are to cope. While training can never cover for all eventuality, it would appear that the crew of the Costa Concordia made some good decisions given that out of more than 4,000 passengers, only 16 remained unaccounted for as of yesterday. On the other hand, shore-side stories from passengers suggesting, for example, that they did not have any money for a change of clothes for up to 24 hours, are not good.

There are all sorts of questions now being asked, prime among them being: are cruise ships becoming too large? I would say no. Design improvements are making them more and more manoeuvrable. Where they need to be, ports are being expanded to accommodate the largest ships. The size of the ship played no part in the Costa Concordia incident.

The cruise line business is already extremely tightly regulated. Ships are subject to the rules of the Flag State (the maritime authority of the country to which the ship is registered), the Classification Society (auditing surveyors who check the ship's structure, seaworthiness and the crew's ability to perform emergency scenarios), and the Port State Control (which can detain a ship if it feels that there is danger or a significant health issue to passengers and crew). Operations are regularly tested.

I've no doubt that the authorities will be urgently getting to grips with these issues, but the fact is that the industry has a very good safety record. January is one of the peak months for booking cruises and the early signs are that people have not been discouraged by Friday night's tragedy, seemingly regarding it as a one-off. Would this incident stop me from cruising again? No, it wouldn't.

David Selby is a former managing director of Thomson Cruises. He is now a consultant to the travel industry

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

Recruitment Genius: Fundraising Manager / Income Generation Coach

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A smart software company locate...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Account Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Busy, friendly and creative marketing ag...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - London - £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Wes...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children who fled the violence in the Syrian city of Aleppo play at a refugee camp in Jabaa, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley  

A population bigger than London's has been displaced in Syria, so why has the Government only accepted 90 refugees?

David Hanson
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Ukip on the ropes? Voters don’t think so

Stefano Hatfield
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project