The U.S. Coast Guard last weekend issued a warning of a possible terrorist attack by either swimmers or divers and ships, not to mention ports, are operating under additional security. The new warning -- last month President Bush’s administration had said that it had learned of possible terrorist activity by scuba divers -- was sent to local units of the U.S. Coast Guard. These units alerted port authorities and the maritime industry and provided specific safety recommendations.
Does this impact cruise ships? A spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard was purposely vague about the warning but cruise industry executives say they didn’t need this latest bulletin to spur security enhancements. In essence,” says Michael Crye, president of the International Council of Cruise Lines, an industry organization, “we are already doing the kinds of things the rest of the maritime industry is discussing today.”
Like? Some measures cruise industry executives will talk about -- some they won’t. “The coast guard has been high on the way cruise industry handles security,” says Radisson Seven Seas’ Mark Conroy. Cruise ships have constantly been on “level 3” security since the events of September 11 and that includes heightened measures like screening all luggage, not just carry-ons. Provisions are also carefully checked before being loaded on board. Passengers are carefully cleared with manifests being sent to customs and immigrations officers at all ports at least 24 hours before arrival. There’s a waterside watch as ships come in and out of ports so no other boats can get too close. Ports have upgraded their security procedures adding, in many cases, armed officials.
Ultimately, Conroy notes, cruise ships have some advantages in terms of creating a secure environment. Among them:
- Ships themselves have limited access and all those access are set up with security equipment such as cameras and are manned by security staff when opened.
- All sensitive areas on the ship are secured behind locked heavy doors which are monitored by security equipment.
- We embark guests in ports that have restricted access and by their nature are secure by the local governments. Most have a detailed security plan that complies with IMO and ISO standards for certification.
“Then,” Conroy says, “there are things we can’t talk about.”
ICCL’s Crye says that while the industry takes all Coast Guard warnings seriously, it’s taking this latest one in stride. “We have no information of a specific threat directed to cruise ships,” he says. “No information.”
Bottom line? Says Crye, “safety and security of our passengers and crew has always been the highest priority of the cruise industry and it always will be. This is an extremely, extremely safe vacation experience.”