Cruise ships calling to Irish ports face tighter inspections

 

CRUISE VESSELS calling to Irish ports will be subject to “tighter” inspections as a result of the Costa Concordia sinking off Italy last January, according to the State’s Marine Survey Office.

Checks on safety and crew handling of “abandon ship” drills and fire-fighting will be stepped up, the office, under the Department of Transport. Marine surveyors will also conduct “detailed, additional” checks on whether or not crews are trained and familiar with their vessels, the office says.

Some 30 passengers were confirmed dead and two are still “missing” after the Costa Concordia ran aground and partially sank off Isola del Giglio, Tuscany, on the night of January 13th last.

One of the latest legal actions resulting from the sinking claims that vessel “design faults” hampered evacuation.

Chief surveyor Brian Hogan said Irish safety inspections on passenger liners were “already among the toughest in the shipping world”. Mr Hogan is chairman of the international shipping safety grouping known as the Paris Memorandum of Understanding.

It comprises 27 countries, including European and North American coastal states in the North Atlantic region.

Foreign-flagged vessels calling to member state ports are inspected for compliance with safety, security, pollution prevention and adequate living and working conditions on board.

Inspections have become more detailed here since the Costa Concordia sinking, he said, and would be tightened further in 2013. Vessels with the most serious safety violations would be detained in port by the Marine Survey Office.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has welcomed the stronger focus on marine safety, and said his department would be giving it greater priority next year.

“This will mean more inspections by marine safety officers, improved training for Irish Coast Guard volunteers and better preparedness for oil-pollution incidents,” he said.

Dublin, Cork and Galway are among ports chasing the cruise vessel market, but the Costa Concordia incident highlighted “the terrible consequences which can arise when things go wrong”, Mr Hogan said.

The European Commission is reviewing passenger safety and a report is set for publication during the Irish EU presidency next year.