Last month the Coast Guard started surprise inspections of cruise ships it has flagged as potentially hazardous to passenger safety. The Coast Guard’s reason for stepping up inspections of problem cruise ships is because the regular twice-a-year inspections of 140 cruise ships based at the various United States ports in 2013 found 351 deficiencies. The most frequently safety issues aboard these ships dealt with lifeboats and fire doors. Captain Eric Christensen, the officer in charge of oversees ship inspection policy, told the National Transportation Safety Board, “There was a population of cruise ships that had the lion’s share of deficiency. You want to focus your efforts on those vessels.” Specific ships or cruise lines, however, were not identified.
What does this mean to the hundreds of thousands of American cruise travelers? It appears the cruise ships based out of the United States will become safer in the sense that should a Costa Concordia type catastrophe take place, the life boats and watertight doors will likely work. However, the increased Coast Guard inspections will do nothing to protect passengers from the several shipboard hazards caused by the cruise lines’ failure to properly maintain their ships. Most cruise passengers are injured due to the failure to maintain decking surfaces whether it is carpet, wood, marble or steel. These decks experience a significant amount of wear and tear due the large number of people walking on the ships each day causing slipping and tripping hazards. The Coast Guard inspectors do not pay much attention to deck surfaces and thus those hazards will remain.