|by Fran Golden||Cruises, Safety and Security||6|
The Costa Concordia disaster has promoted the global cruise industry to change its safety drill policy so that passenger musters now take place before the ship sets sail.
While many lines already had such a policy, it was not universal. Rules established by the International Maritime Organization only required a safety drill on cruise ships within 24 hours of embarkation.
But the earlier rules came under intense scrutiny when it was revealed some 700 passengers on the Concordia, when the ship hit rocks and sank off Italy on Jan. 13, had not attended any safety briefing. They had embarked on the ship hours before the accident in Civitavecchia (the port for Rome).
Seventeen people died in the disaster, with 15 people still missing.
The safety drill rules change is the first result of an industry-wide Cruise Industry Operational Safety Review, put together by the cruise line marketing organizations in the wake of the Concordia sinking.
The Cruise Lines International Association, Europe Cruise Council and Passenger Shipping Association all adopted the new safety drill policy across the board — which means it's now in effect on every major cruise line in the world.
The cruise lines noted their new policy "exceeds existing legal requirements."
Chuck Flagg, owner of The Flagg Agency, a Cruise Holidays franchise in Georgia, said the industry joining together to show a proactive focus on safety is a smart move.
"I think it's a good thing that they are being proactive and not waiting for a government entity to come and mandate. The consumer is seeing them as being proactive and not waiting," Flagg told Budget Travel.
He said he hopes the public has learned a lesson too, to pay attention during the drills.
"The public has the attention of a flea. Today it's Whitney Houston, tomorrow it's something else. But I hope cruisers take safety seriously as they see cruise lines take safety seriously," Flagg said.
During a typical muster drill, passengers gather in a spot close to their assigned lifeboat and are shown how to use lifejackets—in some cases you actually put them on as part of the demonstration—and briefed on how to evacuate the ship in case of an emergency.
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