Most people cruise because it’s a relaxing vacation. You can visit a number of places and meet different people. But despite these benefits, it is natural to question the safety of the cruise ship. Are cruises really safe?
The odds of a cruise ship death is 1 in every 6.5 million. According to the New York Times, you are more likely to die in a car crash with the odds of 1 in every 103. Moreover, cruise ships have now developed sophisticated instruments to maintain their safety and security. Cruise ships are indeed very safe.
Today, ships must be designed and operated in observance of both U.S. and maritime law requirements. As stated by Cruise Lines International Academy (CLIA), cruise ships undergo more than 60 health and environmental inspections to ensure the safety of passengers and crew on board.
Few incidents might still be unavoidable, but with the help of modern technology and qualified crew members, these usually result in no casualties. Therefore, cruises are generally considered as one of the safest ways to spend your holiday. But like other forms of transport, you should be prepared and alert for possible problems that may arise.
Cruising is exciting and fun. Don’t let rumors and unsupported statistics prevent you from experiencing this thrilling experience. Read on to learn more about cruise ships and how safe they really are.
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Are Cruises Safe?
Since the catastrophic disaster that happened on the Titanic, maritime laws are changed and are always updated. This tragedy becomes an eye-opener to everyone about our loopholes when it comes to laws of the sea. It led to the creation of a treaty called Safety of Life at Sea, also known as SOLAS.
Until now, few minor mishaps may still happen. But compared to the past, they are less tragic and are less fatal. As technology improved, so does the equipment and regulations on cruise ships. To put your mind at ease about cruising, I will share with you facts and figures that make cruises one of the safest forms of travel and recreation.
As the cruising industry has grown, lots of improvements were made in navigation and life-saving equipment, cruise ship safety management systems, and training standards of qualified crews. Cruise ships are always subjected to rigorous inspections. The U.S. Coast Guard carefully examines every ship that docks at their ports. These examinations majorly focus on life-saving equipment, the functionality of safety systems, and crew training.
At present, cruise ships are well-equipped with navigational equipment to avoid maritime accidents. The collision between two ships is now less likely to happen. Thanks to the technology called Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS).
The ECDIS is a state-of-the-art computer-based navigational instrument that complies with the International Maritime Organization (IMO). It can determine a ship’s position in relation to charted objects, land, navigation aids, and unseen hazards. So the probability of ships sinking from crashing to another ship or iceberg is low or even implausible.
Watertight doors are now present in most cruise ships. These special types of doors prevent water from entering one compartment to another in case of flooding accidents. Therefore, it limits the spread of water inside the ship and, at the same time, acts as a safety barrier.
There are also systems present on board that can detect impending cruise ship safety issues before they can happen. These systems can even immediately detect if someone falls overboard. They have installed motion sensors and thermal detection systems that would set off an alarm if someone goes overboard.
Cruises are so safe due to the amount of safety gear on board. An average cruise ship with 2,700 passengers and 800 crew carries:
- 500 fire extinguishers
- Five teams of firefighters
- 4,000 smoke and fire detectors
- 6 miles of hoses and 5,000 sprinkler heads
- 16 miles of piping used for sprinklers
- Lifeboats and life preservers to accommodate at least 125% of the number of people on board
If you can still remember the movie “Titanic,” you might recall the scene where passengers fight over lifeboats. Only 20 lifeboats were on the Titanic. These lifeboats could hold up to 1,178 people. But there were approximately 2,208 people on board.
Due to this disaster, ships are now required to have enough lifejackets and lifeboats to accommodate everyone on board as well as extra people. These lifeboats can be deployed and moved away from the ship within 30 minutes of the captain’s order.
Only 706 people survived the Titanic disaster. If the ship has 20 lifeboats for 1,178 people, how come only 706 people were saved? This disaster was due to the safety management system and training of the crew on board.
Safety procedures were not presented prior to ship sailing during that time. Now, crew training becomes extensive, especially for those with assigned responsibility for the safety of the passengers in emergency cases. They are obliged to complete approved training in crisis management and human behavior.
The cruise safety crew is also fully prepared to jump in and react immediately to potential safety issues as they are mentally and physically trained. They have training on lifejacket and lifeboat storage, securing heavy objects on board, CPR and bridge procedures and access, and everything that involves the aspect of passenger safety.
In the year 2010, SOLAS amendments adopted in 2006 focused on reducing the possibilities of accidents and increasing the survivability rate. Thus, embracing the concept of the ship “as its own lifeboat” and the philosophy of “safe return to port.”
According to Ross A. Klein, a professor at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada, there is no threat to physical harm in 95% of cruise ship incidents. He also emphasized that the industry’s history is bombarded with mistakes and accidents. But these should not give the notion that cruising is inherently unsafe.
Also, based on the research firm G.P. Wild, the incidents with passengers on board decreased by 15%, while the worldwide cruise ship capacity grew by more than 41.5 % from 2009 to 2016.
The editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic, the world’s largest consumer cruise website, Colleen McDaniel, also says, “Based on how many cruise ships that are at sea all the time, as well as how many cruise ships that are traveling every year, the likelihood of events that affect the passengers’ safety is extremely rare.”
Of course, some situations can be prevented with the cooperation of the passengers. Understanding emergency drills and being aware on deck while in the middle of the sea are safety precautions that are a great advantage to avoid becoming a victim of a crime or accident. Though cruise ships are safe, the safety of each passenger still depends on their ability to know how to avoid things that can possibly harm them.
So are cruise ships safe? Cruises are very safe, despite the few mishaps that have happened in the past. In fact, these tragedies paved the way to improved and enhanced the safety of the passengers and crew on board. But like any other form of travel and recreation, cruising is not entirely without potential risk. So don’t let these rare incidents stop you from relaxing and enjoying the journey of traveling the world.
Possible Cruise Ship Risk
Although cruising is safe, people on board must still be ready in case something goes wrong. Cruise safety staff always remind their passengers of safety lectures before and during the voyage. They do this for a very important reason, and that is to inform you that though they are there to help you, your safety still lies in your own hands.
Therefore, it is your task to listen and be mindful of these safety instructions because hazards are present but can still be avoided with your help. So here are the possible risks that you might experience and ways you can prevent some of them from happening.
1. Falling Overboard
If you are on a cruise ship and heard a person shouting “man-overboard” (MOB), you should immediately call for help as it means that someone just fell off the ship. Falling overboard is also one of the potential risks in cruise ships. There have been 245 reported cases of man-overboard in the last decade.
But after a thorough investigation, it was found that most of the incidents were caused by intentional or irresponsible acts. In fact, alcohol is involved in about 40 percent of these cases, ten percent is suicide, and the remaining 50 percent are mysteries with a high percentage involving foul play.
These cases are highly preventable, especially those that involve alcohol intoxication. To prevent you from being added to the statistics, being responsible is the key. If you are traveling alone or with someone, make sure that you know the strength of your drinks and the approximate amount that can make you immediately feel inebriated.
Just remember that no matter how high the railings are onboard, climbing where you shouldn’t is unwise, especially if your thinking is affected by alcohol.
2. Onboard Crime
According to the data from the Department of Transportation (DOT), sexual assault is the most common crime reported on cruise ships with 82 reported cases from 2018. Theft was the second-most common crime, with 22 alleged incidents from 2018. Despite these numbers, cruise ships are still safe, considering the number of passengers on board.
The crime rate in cruise ships is very low – lower than most U.S. cities. Crimes can still be present even on the high seas but still preventable depending on the alertness of each passenger.
Cruise ships are like cities floating on water, with all of the potential crime that one could encounter. You should familiarize yourself with the ship by requesting a copy of the security guide. With this info, you can immediately contact the persons in authority to respond in your case.
Though solo travel is trending nowadays, it is still advisable to travel in pairs or groups. It is always safer to have someone along with you so you can watch out for each other. If you go missing or something bad happens, your friends or relatives can immediately report your case. During this emergency, time is crucial to the victim’s survival rate and capturing the person responsible.
To prevent theft on cruise ships, remember to keep your valuables to a minimum when packing and don’t bring a huge amount of cash. You should avoid leaving your things unattended, and if possible, use anti-theft accessories. Just like back home, you should carry out safety precautions to avoid being robbed.
3. Onboard Fire
This is the accident that cruise lines fear the most. A cruise ship fire can put passengers and crew in great danger and lead to major injuries. Fortunately, this incident is very rare is most often because of the carelessness of the cruise lines.
Since cruise ships are like a contained city on a ship, passengers have limited options when a fire breaks out. It is also impractical to evacuate thousands of passengers on lifeboats. There are also lots of hazards present during this incident. It can cause burns, suffocation, and lung problems. When the fire is put out, a power outage might arise due to irreparable damage to electric wires.
But despite this risk, fire break-out is rare on cruise ships. Plus, with 5,000 sprinkler heads 6 miles of fire hose, and with the help of the trained safety crew, fire incident is less likely to engulf the whole ship.
Keep in mind that cruise ship risks can be avoided with both the cooperation of passengers and crew. It is not a wonderland where hazards are not present. If you pay attention to safety instructions before you get on board, you’ll less likely end up as a victim of these preventable incidents.
Cruise lines do their best to protect you from possible threats while cruising but remember that your safety also lies in your own hands.