Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Safety issues dominate Cruise Shipping Miami conference


Carnival Cruise Lines vice president Howard Frank went off script, took off his glasses and sighed heavily as he told a capacity crowd of conventiongoers Tuesday that he has worn only a Costa lapel pin on his suit jacket since the Jan. 13 Costa Concordia disaster in Italy. The room was silent as he collected his thoughts.

It was a day when Frank and a handful of other cruise line executives released the elephant in the room at the Cruise Shipping Miami conference, directly addressing the issue that was foremost on the minds of attendees.

Frank's were just the first comments in a two-hour session that focused largely on safety and the challenges of the global cruise market. Most of the discussion was about theoretical procedures and training, as an ongoing Italian investigation into the accident precluded any specific information about what happened aboard the Concordia.

The accident, which killed at least 32 people, no doubt changed the tenor of the conference at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The annual conference drew about 11,000 people from 120 countries, including government officials, port operators, tourism promoters, travel agents, cruise line employees and vendors. The disaster and safety issues loomed large in sessions that ranged from new destination development to globalization.

"There is nothing more tragic than losing crew or passengers," said Frank, chief operating officer of Carnival Corp., the world's largest cruise operator and Costa's parent company.

"Costa will come back stronger that ever before," he said.

The Concordia disaster came at a particularly bad time for the industry, which just late last year began to see a rebound from economic strife and was starting to return pricing to pre-recession levels. The grounding, plus a fire aboard another Costa ship, several norovirus breakouts and the robbery of a group of passengers on a Puerto Vallarta shore excursion, started 2012 on rough seas.

In response to the accident, in which the captain took the ship off course and ran it aground near the island of Giglio, the industry already has adopted new muster drill regulations, requiring ships to put passengers through safety drills before they leave ports. The Concordia passengers had yet to receive safety instructions when the ship hit the rocks.

CEOs of the cruise lines Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Holland America and MSC were united in their defense of crew training and commitment to safety. On Monday, Royal Caribbean invited members of the media to its $6.5 million Fort Lauderdale facility to observe firefighting and safety training drills.

"The industry will weather this," said Gerald Cahill, Carnival president and CEO, "but we won't get back as much pricing this year as we might have."

Adam Goldstein, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean, addressed the relationship between cruise captains and their first officers, a relationship many people questioned on the Concordia. Why didn't the first officer raise the alarm when Capt. Francesco Schettino veered so dramatically off course?

"We want to make sure that anyone who needs to can speak up," Goldstein said. "To make sure that everyone is doing the right thing."

Despite this year's early setbacks, the executives expressed confidence in the future of cruising. They pointed to the debut of several major ships this year, including the Disney Fantasy, Carnival Breeze, Costa Fascinosa and Celebrity Reflection. They also were encouraged by new ports, especially the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong that can provide a drive-to port for the huge Asia market.

While bookings are up, the executives said, there will be a new challenge this summer as stringent fuel regulations are likely to affect profits. New regulations will require ships to burn cleaner, low-sulfur fuel within 200 nautical miles of the United States and Canada. Several CEOs are meeting with congressional panels this month to discuss the impact on the industry, plus the availability of the fuel.

Janet K. Keeler can be reached at or (727) 893-8586.

Safety issues dominate Cruise Shipping Miami conference 03/13/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 9:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. UPS relocates express operations from St. Pete-Clearwater to TIA


    TAMPA — United Parcel Service Inc. is switching airports for its express air operations. Beginning in October, UPS will relocate from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport.

    Beginning in October, UPS will move from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport. [Associated Press file photo]

  2. St. Petersburg man shot in arm during home invasion robbery


    ST. PETERSBURG — One man was arrested on charges he shot another man in the arm while attempting to rob a home in what St. Petersburg police are calling a drug-related incident.

    John Alam, 25, faces charges of home invasion robbery, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and possession of a firearm by a felon after deputies said he tried to rob a home Wednesday morning and ended up shooting someone. [Courtesy of Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Bob Buckhorn, a mayor who knows what he wants, surveys constituents on what they want


    TAMPA — Focus has not been a problem — or really, even a question — during the six-plus years that Mayor Bob Buckhorn has been in office.

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn keeps a digital countdown clock in his office showing the days, hours. minutes and seconds until he is term-limited out of office on April 1, 2019. As of Wednesday, he had 584 days to go. [City of Tampa]
  4. WATCH: Heroic Hooters manager helps two sheriff's deputies subdue unruly customer


    BRANDON — The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office praised a heroic Hooters Restaurant manager Wednesday for coming to the aid of two deputies struggling to subdue an unruly customer.

    It took two deputies and a Hooter's manager to get control of Ashton B. Toney after he threatened to kill an employee who refused to serve him alcohol at a Hooter's in Brandon, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office reported.
[Booking photo from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]