Today (July 1) marks a major worldwide deadline for cruise ships -- and ports of call -- which are now required to adopt ever-stringent security procedures as laid out by the International Maritime Organization. As such, the International Ship and Port Facility Code (ISPS) has levied additional safety- and security-related requirements on some 40,000 ocean-going vessels and 3,000 major seaports. Not all ships, not to mention all ports, have earned compliance as of today's deadline.
Cruise passengers most likely won't notice the changes. "These [ISPS] are excellent preventative measures to enhance maritime security but the great thrust of the code is directed toward cargo ships, where the real threat lies," says Captain Bill Wright, senior vice president for safety, security and the environment for Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited, owner of both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. "Cruise ships have a lower threshold of concern than cargo lines."
That's because shortly after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, cruise lines vastly upgraded procedures, from rules requiring them to provide passenger manifests to 100 percent screening of everything that comes onboard -- from provisions to passengers. "The experience we have in security [since then] allowed us in a remarkably short time to ramp up to the new challenges we were facing," says Wright, who formerly captained Royal Caribbean's Radiance, Enchantment, and Voyager of the Seas, among others.
More of concern -- at least among cruise passengers worried their plans may be disrupted if a ship is slated to call at a port that hasn't achieved certification -- are last-minute changes in itineraries. Wright says that Royal Caribbean and Celebrity report absolutely no itinerary changes as a result of the new requirements. "It's important to remember there is a distinct difference between a cruise ship and airliner. We take our own security services with us. We combine what's available from a port with our substantial security systems -- explosive detectors, security squad, metal detectors. It's all self-contained. If we show up in Timbuktu we've got the majority of our security needs onboard."
For a more in-depth look at the impact of the new ISPS regulations on passenger cruising, read our new Trendwatch: Port Security On High Alert.
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Enhanced Port & Ship Security Rules Now In Effect
July 1, 2004