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Union Nautilus International airs concerns after Concordia’s grounding

Union airs concerns after grounding
Saturday, January 14, 2012 - 02:53 PM
http://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/world/union-airs-concerns-afte...

The Concordia’s grounding, two weeks into the Titanic centenary year, should serve as a wake-up call to the shipping industry and those who regulate it, the maritime professionals’ union Nautilus International said today.

The union – which represents 23,000 ship masters, officers, ratings and other shipping industry staff – said the Italian-flagged cruise ship was the latest in a series to highlight its long-standing concerns over safety.

“In this, the centenary of the loss of the Titanic, major nostalgia industry is already in full flow – but it is essential that everyone recognises that the Titanic offers lessons for today and that there are contemporary resonances that should not be lost,” said general secretary Mark Dickinson.

Nautilus is concerned about the “rapid recent increases in the size of passenger ships” – with the average tonnage doubling over the past decade.

“Many ships are now effectively small towns at sea, and the sheer number of people onboard raises serious questions about evacuation,” Mr Dickinson said.

“Nautilus is by no means alone in voicing concern at underlying safety issues arising from the new generation of ’mega-ships’ – whether they be passenger vessels carrying the equivalent of a small town or container ships with more than 14,000 boxes onboard.

“Insurers and salvors have also spoken about the way in which the sheer size and scale of such ships presents massive challenges for emergency services, evacuation, rescue, and salvage – and we should not have to wait for a major disaster until these concerns are addressed.

“The growth in the size of such ships has also raised questions about their watertight integrity and fire-fighting protection.”

Mr Dickinson added: “We believe that more attention needs to be given to such issues as the adequacy of life-saving appliances, and the quality and quantity of crews and their training and experience in operating these vessels and dealing with emergency situations, including evacuation.”

Nautilus says it is essential that inquiries into the Costa Concordia grounding examine reports of an electrical problem onboard – an issue on which the union raised concern following an explosion and loss of power onboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.

The union urged investigators to examine human factor issues including seafarers’ working hours and adequate manning of the bridge and engine room.

Investigations also need to focus on crew competence and training issues, Mr Dickinson added.

The union is calling for a thorough review of regulations governing the construction and operation of passenger vessels – in particular, standards of stability and “watertight integrity”.

Attention needs to be paid to existing evacuation systems and more innovative systems for abandonment, it also said.

A spokesman for the Passenger Shipping Association said: “Our thoughts are with those passengers and crew involved with Costa Concordia.

“Incidents of this nature are isolated and very rare.

“Ships’ crews undertake rigorous training, drills and scenarios for emergency situations including the evacuation of a vessel.

“The ships themselves comply with stringent regulations and procedures from the governing maritime authorities covering every aspect of their build and operation.

“While the focus should rightly be on attending to the immediate incident at hand there will, of course, be a full and thorough investigation into the causes of this event and the full cooperation of both the company and the wider industry is assured.”

Read more: http://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/world/union-airs-concerns-afte...