Good morning. Welcome to the Boardroom of the National Transportation Safety
Board. I am Debbie Hersman, and it is my privilege to serve as Chairman of the
NTSB. Joining me are my fellow Board members: Vice Chairman Christopher Hart,
Member Robert Sumwalt, Member Mark Rosekind, and Member Earl Weener.
We're here today to learn about cruise ship safety on behalf of the traveling
public, to help make cruises safer for the traveling public. When a passenger
steps onto a cruise ship they have the right to expect the safest vessel
NTSB's mission is to investigate accidents, determine probable cause, and
issue recommendations to help prevent future accidents. For ships, that means
operational safety, training, survival factors, oversight, human performance,
ship design, fire safety and more.
But neither our mission nor our expertise extends to criminal activity or
public health. To those who have suffered a loss or an injury on a cruise ship,
regardless of the cause, I wish to express our deepest condolences. We know that
grief knows no statutory boundaries. But please understand that our goal at this
forum is to listen, learn, and prevent future tragedies that are within the
NTSB's safety mandate.
We will cover a lot of ground over the next two days, and this forum is
structured to gather the best possible information in that short span of time.
Only Board Members, staff, and presenters will participate directly. But we
invite the public to join the conversation on twitter @ntsb #cuisesafety, or to
email their comments for the public docket to
In 1912 — although nobody thought it could happen — the RMS Titanic
sank, with tremendous and tragic loss of life. In 1914, the world responded with
the International Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea, or SOLAS.
100 years later, in 2012 — although people thought such tragedies were relics
of the past — the Costa Concordia capsized, taking dozens of lives.
In 2014, this forum marks the NTSB's first public event on the safety of
cruise ships. We have never held an investigative hearing on a cruise-ship
accident or incident, because the agency has jurisdiction only in U.S.
territorial waters, within 12 miles of shore. When incidents happen in
international waters, by contrast, our comments, along with those of the U.S.
Coast Guard, are sent to the investigating state. In this forum, we will also
ask whether today's regulatory framework and investigative protocols truly
provide for the most robust, independent and transparent investigation of these
We are here today to shine a light on the current state of cruise ship
safety. What are the known vulnerabilities in cruise ship safety? How do cruise
lines oversee the safety of their vessels? How are officers trained to adhere to
the highest standards of safety? What protections are now in place to prevent
fires? What practices are in place to evacuate the population of a small city
from a ship at sea? Open discussion of all these topics can help advance the
application of lessons already learned.
In a moment, our forum coordinator Liam LaRue will explain the panels we have
convened to help us get at these questions.
Worldwide, about 22 million people will take cruises in 2014. That's more
than four times as many as just 20 years ago. The largest ships can now
accommodate more than 6,000 passengers and 2,000 crew.
The remarkable growth of cruise lines in recent years has the industry
building yet more capacity. But more serious accidents and incidents can only be
headed off by continually seeking safety improvements. Conversely, the dead
weight of complacency may be one of the few things that can darken this booming
industry's bright outlook.
I look forward to a productive two days.