The Costa Concordia accident, which happened shortly before U.S. passenger vessel owners and operators gathered in Portland, Ore., in late January at the Passenger Vessel Association’s annual convention, was on the minds of many attendees.
A packed crowd attended a session called, “How to Plan For and Respond to a Marine Casualty,” presented by the American Salvage Association. One piece of advice was to learn about and vet salvage companies before you need them.
Dr. Earl F. Weener, a board member of the National Transportation Safety Board, addressed a general session about the value of vessel data recorders in both understanding accidents and operational improvements. Following his presentation, several PVA members took issue with his suggestion that U.S. passenger vessels should install VDRs, insisting that this would be another expensive and unnecessary mandate.
Robert Henry, an NTSB staffer, addressed cell phone distractions during another session. While admitting that sometimes cell phones are necessary for business, he stressed that their use limits one’s ability to focus on the external environment. “A person engaged in a cell phone conversation does not have the full cognitive awareness demanded by a complex and dynamic marine environment,” he said. Texting is even worse. Legislation and regulation have been largely ineffective in curtailing cell phone abuses, he said. “Cultural influences will be more effective in reducing inappropriate use, like we’ve seen with drinking and smoking.”
Adm. Brian M. Salerno, U.S. Coast Guard deputy commandant for operations, told PVA members that “collectively, we have a very good story to tell about passenger safety in this country.” He also reminded the audience that 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking and that, along with the Costa Concordia accident, will generate a greater interest from the media and the public in vessel safety.
Dr. David Altig, senior vice president and director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, addressed the convention and attempted to “make this as cheery as possible.” He included some upbeat news about the economy, but his overall assessment of where the economy is headed was mixed. “Uncertainty is our big enemy right now,” he said. “No one knows where the economy is headed, but if we see some resolution in Europe and the U.S. political environment, and there’s no blow-up in the Middle East, things might just be better than we expected.” — Bruce Buls