I want to thank the witnesses from the United States Coast Guard, the
International Maritime Organization, and the cruise line industry, for helping
us understand the underlying industry and oversight matrix as it now stands.
I would also like to thank the individuals who did not get to speak but have
contributed resource materials to the docket or commented via email and
We could not have held this forum without the tireless attention of those who
organized it. Liam LaRue and Dr. Barry Strauch have been visible players, as
well as other technical panel participants Larry Bowling, Capt. Rob Jones, Nancy
McAtee, and Eric Stolzenberg. And just as with an oceangoing vessel, we couldn't
get underway, never mind move forward, without the many hands working behind the
scenes. For this forum these were Stephanie Davis, Zulfia Manely, Christy
Spangler, Rob Turner, Lucille Waldren, Eric Weiss, Eric Emery and Paul Sledzik .
On behalf of the Board and the attendees, thank you to the entire team that made
this event possible.
Last year, the NTSB held a forum on the subject of safety culture. In closing
that forum I said "The safest ship would never leave port. But that ship
wouldn't be in the business of transportation." Or in this case, that wouldn't
be considered a cruise.
So what is the best framework to advance vessel safety in this unique,
international endeavor? Does our present regulatory framework ensure the safest
practices will be in place regardless of the flag each vessel flies? Does it
guarantee that the best possible lessons are learned from accident and incident
We are presently involved in three investigations involving cruise ships. In
our work, the NTSB draws knowledge from tragedies to improve the safety of us
all. Over the last two days, we have asked "how do we, collectively, do that
In the aftermath of the Titanic disaster, the United States launched its own
inquest into the sinking. Joseph Conrad called it a "provincial display of
authority." Back in England, one official explained why the Titanic had been
subjected to only a limited lifeboat drill: "I am a civil servant, sir, and
custom guides us a good bit." The world learned that safety at sea is an
international concern, a concern in which complacency can have deadly
In the over one hundred years that have followed the Titanic disaster, with
the adoption of international agreements like SOLAS, we know that today's cruise
ships operate to a higher standard. But as we have said to other industries, the
lack of a major accident is not an indication of safety. The industry – cruise
lines, class societies, regulators, and safety investigators – must remain ever
vigilant and seek constant improvement. As to civil servants, custom may still
guide us a good bit. But custom alone cannot guide us – and it cannot guide
industry – when it comes to safety.
A key question for us to consider as we go forward is: With today's ships
carrying many times the passengers and crew of Titanic, if we should ever face a
tragedy of the size and scope of the Titanic – or larger – are we prepared? Are
we prepared to conduct a massive search and recovery effort? Are we willing to
have a truly independent and transparent investigation?
For many, a cruise is a dream vacation. But that dream shouldn't turn into a
nightmare. The traveling public expects – and deserves – a safe voyage each and
every time a ship leaves the dock.
We stand adjourned.