David Dingle, head of Carnival U.K., and spokesman for the Passenger Shipping Association on safety issues, gave an exclusive interview to Cruise Critic on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Costa Concordia tragedy.
Cruise Critic: How did the Costa Concordia tragedy affect people's perceptions of cruise?
David Dingle: Overall, apart from Costa Concordia, the cruise industry has had historically a very good safety record.
In the 10 years to Costa Concordia, there were more than 150 million passenger movements by cruise ships, and in that time there were only six fatalities through safety-related incidents.
If you benchmark the cruise industry against other passenger transport industries, it's a good record. Clearly you can't be too comfortable -- six fatalities is six too many -- but there is no such thing as “absolute safety.” But what there is is a commitment to safety. Concordia reminded everybody of the need to be committed to that safety.
CC: Many observers asked: Why did it take the Costa Concordia tragedy to put in place safety procedures as obvious as doing the muster drill before the ship sets sail?
DD: Many cruise lines already did this. I'm not going to list each one, but many did already. One of the key developments post-Concordia was that the industry collaborated as it's never done before in terms of safety. Each line offered up all their policies, and all were compliant. But now all of the lines exceed that basic compliance.
CC: Why did the International Maritime Organization only put four of the safety procedures into law? [The four it adopted were: the pre-departure muster, the loading of lifeboats by crewmembers for training purposes, the recording of passenger nationalities and the common elements of musters and emergency instructions.]
DD: I can't speak for the I.M.O., but it's about the difference between what is a regulation and what is a standing order. It's about what operating procedures best meet a regulation. I suspect there is also some caution in regulating too much ahead of the inquiry findings.
CC: How has the tragedy impacted the wider cruise industry?
DD: The memory and lingering effects have been different in different markets. The closer you get to the epicenter of the tragedy, the more it has impacted. The Italian market has of course been the worst affected -- this ship is after all still on its side off the coast of Italy for all to see. The media did a good job of putting it into perspective; they did not sensationalise it, and I think that helped. It was an awful one-off; the risk of something like it happening again is very small indeed.
CC: How do you feel the one-year anniversary will affect cruise and cruising this year?
DD: The downside will be to remind everybody about it. The upside is that it is a very good platform to restate our commitment to safety. We have a platform to tell everybody what we have put in place and to reassure people of our deep-seated responsibility to safety.
--by Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor