New Lifeboat Training Policy Aims at Boosting Cruise Passenger Safety

September 21, 2012

(12:55 p.m. EDT) -- Cruise ship crewmembers must practice launching and loading lifeboats at least once every six months to ensure familiarity with lifeboat operations, a new safety policy dictates.

Per the policy, all crewmembers involved in operating or loading lifeboats are required to attend the drills, which must be performed while the boats are at sea. During the training, lifeboats must be filled to capacity with crewmembers and maneuvered in the water. The goal of the drills is to help make lifeboat operations more familiar to crewmembers. Crewmembers who aren't placed inside the lifeboats must observe the drills.

Though the policy is mandatory for ships with crew sizes of 300 or more, ships with crew sizes of fewer than 300 are required to conduct similar training "at appropriate intervals."

"This policy, like all the policies that have already been developed by the Operational Safety Review, exceeds current international regulatory requirements and has been externally verified by world renowned independent experts," European Cruise Council chairman Manfredi Lefebvre said.

The Cruise Lines International Association and the European Cruise Council unveiled the Life Boat Loading for Training Purposes policy earlier this week. It applies to all oceangoing members of both associations and is effective immediately. All major cruise lines belong to one or both of these organizations.

The need for more frequent and comprehensive crew training was noted after Concordia disaster investigations revealed some crew were not adequately drilled in correct evacuation procedures.

Though Costa Crociere denies any of the Costa Concordia crew were unprepared for the evacuation, the line has created a new position: senior vice president, maritime development and compliance. According to the cruise line, the position was created to "ensure that their maritime and safety processes, organization and people are the best in the industry."

New industry-wide safety policies, many just taking standard procedures already in place and mandating them, began cropping up in February, when the industry first instituted a rule requiring mandatory emergency muster drills for embarking passengers before departure from port. More policy changes were announced in April and June, including those that restrict bridge access, clarify pre-cruise passage planning protocol and standardize muster drill elements.

--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor