Monday, 2 April 2012

Why Cruise Ships DON'T Sink

Hundreds of cruise ships confounded the news media this week by NOT sinking, highlighting a growing trend in the cruise industry of producing vessels that are safe, secure and, above all, fun to travel on.

OK, I’m being a touch frivolous with a serious issue, but the general public could be forgiven recently in light of the media’s rush to ‘celebrate’ the 100-year-old tragedy of the Titanic for thinking cruising has somehow become an inherently dangerous holiday choice.

Sadly, though, TV programmes like this week’s ‘Why Ships Sink’ on Channel 4 paint a massively distorted picture of reality and it is worth highlighting the facts rather than the fiction:
  • Each week, some 300 ships set sail worldwide, carrying roughly 310,000 passengers.
  • More than 16 million people took a cruise in 2011. No ships sank. 
  • The only modern ship to sink in the past 10 years is Costa Concordia – due to a calamitous error by her captain, not a safety oversight. 
  • From 1997-2010, there were 380 plane crashes worldwide, resulting in almost 6,000 deaths.

I’m not pointing fingers at the airline industry here. Everyone has accidents and human error is a part of everyday life. In fact, for the mutli-millions of people carried every year, the safety record of the airline business is remarkable. But it is still several points worse than the cruise industry.

That’s why I feel compelled to offer some balance and perspective to the current debate. Or, more simply, what Channel 4 peddled as a 'documentary' was just more scurrilous garbage posing as 'news' coverage.

The Titanic WAS 100 years ago, folks, and a lot of lessons have been learned since then. Cruise ships are inherently safe, and, while nobody is saying they are foolproof (NB: for the record, no-one at White Star Line or Harland and Wolff shipyard EVER said their ship was 'unsinkable'), they are certainly not the death-traps that Channel 4 and others would have you believe.

Can they be safer? Of course, and one-off incidents like Concordia will ensure that is the case. But for supposed news media to suggest otherwise is just muck-raking (or ambulance-chasing) of the worst kind.

PS: to answer the question, Why Ships Don't Sink: because they are incredibly well-engineered by high-tech modern designers using design processes and state-of-the-art computer programmes that take advantage of marine architecture progress over the last 50 years. If they were really putting out shoddy work, we'd have known about it years ago.