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chengkp75

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    Former cruise ship Chief Engineer

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  1. Flyertalker; Unfortunately, this does not surprise me with today's Navy, as witnessed by the two collisions in the Pacific over the last couple of years. A two year shipyard period is bound to breed complacency, but the lack of training of crew is worrisome, as is the lack of training with other assets like the shipyard fire department.
  2. Much of this is why the IMO has mandated the "Safe Return to Port" design for passenger ships, making the ship its own best lifeboat. If the ship ain't sinking, or burning out of control, you don't get off, and the ship can bring you back to land, albeit likely limping back. I hate to say it to non-mariners, because I don't want to discourage anyone from cruising, and because abandonments are so rare, but once you get into a lifeboat, prepare yourself for a long time in it. While everyone knows that "nearby ships are required by law to aid another ship in distress", what they don't know is that the Captain of that nearby ship is also required by law to not place his ship, cargo, crew, or the environment in danger attempting to assist. Most ships these days have virtually no means of taking people off lifeboats at sea. For nearly every cargo ship out there, it would require bringing a fiberglass boat alongside a steel ship in a seaway (so the boat bumping and sliding against the ship all the time), and getting passengers who are not necessarily fit, or actually elderly or disabled, to either climb a pilot ladder (what you see the pilot climb when getting on the cruise ship, but about 3-4 times higher), or jumping from the boat onto a 2 foot square platform at the bottom of the accommodation ladder, while that platform attempts to poke holes in the lifeboat. The vessels best able to take people off lifeboats would be naval and coast guard vessels (lower decks, more crew, more equipment for rescue), offshore supply vessels, and the like. If you are in a lifeboat, and there is a raging storm, you will be in the boats until the storm passes. If the weather is clear (but even then there are seas), you will likely be in the boats until those types of vessels can get geared up and get to your location, perhaps a day or two. Boats have rations and water for 3 days, and if you ever have to get into one, it is most likely that you will need all of those for the time you are in the boats. And, this has nothing to do with the number of passengers, or boats, even getting one or two boats evacuated to another ship at sea is an extremely risky operation, and will only be done as a last resort.
  3. I'll add my experience to Andy's comments. Marine evacuation systems (boats, rafts, MES), like those on airplanes are tested by the manufacturer in "simulated" conditions (no actual fire, no actual sinking, no one drunk, typically no truly disabled people), to determine that the system is capable of evacuating the required number in the required time. Once the system has been accredited, there does not need to be periodic testing on the ship or aircraft. Lifeboats and rafts are meant to be used once, one way, getting people off the ship. Recovery of boats is a dangerous procedure, one of the highest accident rates in the maritime industry, caused by designing the systems so that launching the boat is as simple and failsafe as possible, but those measures make retrieving difficult and dangerous. Take the "free-fall" boats used on commercial ships. A hook is released by hydraulics, and the boat slides down a ramp and falls into the water. By law, the release method was required to be tested quarterly, and for years we dutifully put two or three guys in the boat, and released it into the water, whenever we were in a protected anchorage, so that recovery would be as easy as possible. Then we start noticing stress fractures in the fiberglass of the boats, and the manufacturer tells us the boat is only rated for a limited number of drops into the water. We find out there is a testing device that allows the hook to release, but stops the boat from moving more than a couple inches down the track, removing the stress of hitting the water from the statutory testing. Also, due to the nature of the marine environment, failures of even emergency equipment can happen, and so, as Andy says, you never load a lifeboat fully with people for testing, you only send the minimum number needed to handle the boat, to limit potential casualties. As Andy and Jim have said, it will be difficult to get large numbers of passengers into boats and away from the ship in an actual emergency. What folks don't understand is that the "30 minute" rule is not that everyone is off the ship in 30 minutes after the alarm is sounded. It means that each boat can be loaded and launched in 30 minutes, from the time the Captain orders the boats loaded (which is not the same as when the alarm sounds). This is why the passenger muster is so important, and why it needs to be announced in a timely fashion in an emergency. The passenger muster is not about getting into the boats, it is about accountability. It is designed to get all passengers into known, controlled, limited locations, and not only counted, but accounted for by name. Once there, it is fine from an emergency response viewpoint to have the passengers sit there for hours if need be, until it is determined whether evacuation is required or not. If it is, then multiple small groups will be led to their embarkation stations (those places actually at the boats) where they will be loaded and launched.
  4. Nope. After a class action suit a few years ago, the cruise lines are very limited in what they can include in the "taxes and fees", and fuel surcharge isn't one of them. I agree that it is unlikely that a surcharge will be added in the near future, but it could still happen if there is a great surge in bunker price. As long as the ships continue to burn 3% sulfur (high sulfur) residual fuel (those ships that have scrubbers), bunker prices will not fluctuate as greatly as crude prices, since the residual fuel will continue to be an "end product" from many refineries, who will be looking for buyers for this byproduct of making their "bread and butter" product, gasoline.
  5. When a ship is designed, the locations suggested for muster stations must be presented to the classification societies for their approval. The space must meet their requirements for lighting, ventilation, size, structural fire protection, access and egress locations and sizes, etc. These have all been determined using crowd and crisis management computer models and paradigms that predict how crowds will react, and where problems could occur. If a proposed space does not meet these requirements, it will either be modified to meet them, or another location found, long before the ship is even built. This is why you will almost never see muster locations change over the life of a ship, since changes would require another analysis of the new proposed spaces. Unfortunately, even when people understand that airplanes catch fire or crash, they still don't pay much attention to the safety orientation, so I don't think any briefing will help gain cooperation from cruise ship passengers. And, while having a fire drill for passengers is a nice thought, first off, from a passenger standpoint it would simply look like another muster drill, since that is what it would be. Secondly, even if announced as a drill only, the possibility of accident and injury to the passengers would be a liability that the insurers would not want to undertake.
  6. Actually, it was a case where the muster was needed. Remember, the muster is not about getting into the boats, it is about accountability. In this case, as with most cases where passengers are sent to muster, this got the passengers into known locations, and counted to ensure everyone is found. For every time that passengers need to be evacuated from their muster stations, there are 60 or more instances where they went to muster, and then were sent back to normal activities, even a case like the Star Princess. Just because the passengers did not go into the boats, does not mean the muster is "not needed".
  7. First off, since nearly all crew have an assigned emergency duty, who do you get to play "passengers" during muster drill, or do you shut down the entire ship (as is done for crew drills) to allow "non-muster" crew to play passengers. And, then you are suggesting that training be reduced from 52 times a year to once a year?
  8. Well, on Oceania, obviously the muster location was the show room, which is the whole idea of the drill, not getting into a boat. As you said, you went to muster one time, and I'm sure that loading you into the boat was never considered by the Captain. The passenger muster is about accountability, not boats. While crew have drills, and the crew assigned to assist passengers (muster leaders, stairway guides, etc) do participate, again, they are not actually doing their job, as there are no passengers to guide or muster.
  9. Andy has done a great job of describing the MES operations. I can add a little to it. MES are used on cruise ships, mainly for crew, but also in some cases for the passengers who are over the "double occupancy" limit. As Andy has said, it is almost impossible to get stuck in the chute, and most injuries were caused by inexperienced crew not getting out from under the chute quickly, or not directing/assisting people to get out from under. The round canisters you see on cruise ships (and also in the photos in the article linked) are the davit launched rafts Andy mentions. The raft canister is picked up by a davit (crane) arm, swung over the side, and lowered to the embarkation deck. It is then inflated, the crew board at the embarkation deck, and the raft is then lowered to the water, where it disconnects from the davit wire, and the wire is reeled back up to pick up the next raft and repeat. The MES, as shown in the photos is housed in large square "boxes", that contain 2-4 rafts and the chutes. As regards the Viking Ocean incident, in those winds, the rafts would likely have been torn from the side of the ship (the ropes have "weak links" that will separate to keep the raft from being pulled under if it is not untied from a sinking ship. Also, I have seen the canopy of rafts torn off in high winds. It would have been extremely risky to deploy these in that situation, unless the ship was sinking. As Andy says, there are risks associated with both rafts and lifeboats. As Andy says, the motion in a raft in even a small swell is incredible. As part of my training, I spent 4 hours in a 25 man raft, offshore Halifax, in March, in 6 foot swells. Like Andy, that is the worst sea sick I ever got. The best I can describe it, is "think of one of the old waterbeds (the ones that were simply a plastic bag of water), and an elephant is dancing on it.
  10. Even many crew "tasked" to be lost/confused/obstructive passengers would not give off the same "aura" as people who are actually in that state. The two incidents you mention are about polar opposites on the spectrum of musters. On Concordia, crew, acting on orders from the bridge, sent people away from the muster stations, and there was no actual mustering until the Captain announced "abandon ship", which led both passengers and crew to get into lifeboats and rafts with virtually no accountability. Remember, the passenger muster, even in a real emergency, is not to get into the boats and abandon ship. The Viking Sky, on the other hand, had the muster called well before any thought of abandoning the ship was formulated. This is how it should be done, so that the passengers are all in controlled locations, and accounted for. These two examples show how to absolutely not do a passenger muster on one hand, and a fine example of how to do one on the other.
  11. The old muster drill was as "real" as it is going to get, short of setting off Hollywood smoke while doing it. The drill is to get you to understand how to get to your station from wherever you are on the ship, in a crowded situation. The only "learning" that is required for passengers is how to "show up" and then "shut up". Putting on a life jacket is an "ancillary" function of passenger muster. The drill is not about putting a life jacket on, or even getting into a boat. It is about "herding all the cats" into limited, known locations so that accountability can be taken, so that emergency resources are not wasted looking for someone who is not where they should be. All of the ancillary information given out in the video, or at the muster station, is all well and good to be presented in video, many ships have done this over the years, in addition to the physical muster drill. And, those who are concerned enough to wish to ask questions, could always have stayed after muster to query the crew. We always had people around after the drill. And, these are two "very important" reasons for limiting the realism of an emergency drill that is designed to save your life. Nuff said.
  12. Is that from the viewpoint of a passenger, or from an officer or crew who are trying to train to control crowds of uncooperative passengers? Don't you think that the "distractions" of the old muster, where there are crowds flowing down the stairs and out the doors, and people calling for their family members, and asking crew where their muster station is, does not make you focus more on what you are doing during the drill, rather than sauntering to your station in your own time and pace? Is a drill where firefighters are sent into a room where there is a cardboard sign saying "fire", just as good as a drill where they are sent into a room where there is an actual fire, and the instructors tap one crew member to be a "casualty" as a distraction to the team? The age old adage is "train as if its real".
  13. Not judging, just pointing out from my professional experience what problems I see with the new format muster.
  14. Is this just your impression of the new format, or have you experienced a real emergency muster after having done the new format, to determine whether or not you are more focused and better able to handle an emergency? I suppose you think that firemen training with a cardboard sign in a room saying "fire" is just as effective training as putting them in an actually burning room, and adding casualties, as a previous poster mentioned? Don't you think that the distractions of an old style muster drill actually make you focus much more on your actions and responses? Being able to saunter to your station at your own time and pace is quite different than trying to get there while everyone else is also doing it. And, BTW, if you are tripping on the lifejacket strings, you're not stowing them properly, and I've always felt it should be part of the drill to have everyone properly stow their jackets before leaving.
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