Friday will mark the sixth month anniversary of the Costa Concordia disaster and Carnival UK chief executive David Dingle has turned his focus to safety and on industry standards. He had hopes that the month of July would be remembered for the 175th anniversary of P&O Cruises and other better things at the company. However, he knows it will be a while before they will be able to forget about the Costa Concordia.
The January 13 tragedy was one of the worst passenger cruise disasters since the Titanic sinking 100 years ago. The Costa Cruises ship was sailing just a few hundred metres from the coast of Tuscan island Giglio in Italy when it hit rocks around 9:45pm – just hours after departing on its journey from Rome. The vessel started to tilt within minutes as water filled the engine rooms due to a 50-metre gash in the hull. Without propulsion or power, the Concordia drifted a few miles before coming to rest on nearby rocks closer to the island’s small harbour.
The ship was carrying 4,200 crew and passengers at the time of the tragedy. Of that, 30 people from eight countries were confirmed dead and two are still unaccounted for. Many cruisers told of total chaos as everyone had to fend for themselves. Crew members were giving them blank stares when they asked what to do, some said.
Survivors also told how they received little to no safety training after boarding. International guidelines recommended a safety drill within 24 hours of leaving port, but the tragedy happened well before that for the 600 travellers who boarded in Rome. Other guests had boarded several days before in Barcelona.
Talking to The Telegraph, Dingle considered how Carnival UK can recover from the disaster. He says it may sound cruel, but more than 1,000 people died on the Titanic. However, the 32 lives lost on the Concordia were still too many. He stressed there can’t be another tragedy like this, and he doesn’t think the disaster should be the end of an industry that has safety taken hundreds of millions of travellers out to sea over the years.
Dingle noted that there were more than 200 million cruise voyages conducted over the ten years before the Costa Concordia disaster. Only 22 or 23 lives were lost due to safety-related problems during the period. That’s a really comforting statistic compared to other types of transportation. This is a very safe industry, but the journey should always be made safer. The industry as a whole has decided that it needs to review safety from top to bottom. They are making good progress in bringing out a whole set of voluntary standards, he added. Carnival is also increasing scrutiny of its safety practices.
In the days after the Costa Concordia tragedy, shares in Carnival plunged in both New York and London as the end of the cruise industry was forecast by doomsayers. The group’s profits dramatically suffered, falling from £133 million to just £9 million in the three months ending May. However, it says cruisers are slowly returning due to bargain prices, while Dingle is optimistic about their future. He says they have worked through recessions and tough environmental moments before. They have the experience and know how to deal with dreadful times, he added.
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