Sheehan has written to past passengers, describing the two-officer bridge team approach and noting that Norwegian’s captains are ‘experienced seafarers with an average of 33 years at sea.’
He continues: ‘All of our captains come up through the ranks progressing from second officer to first officer and then chief officer up to staff captain before they can become captains. On average, it takes at least 15 years for a captain to be promoted into that role. We further ensure that our captains regularly undergo rigorous simulation training on navigation and bridge operations.’
Sheehan notes there are always two officers in charge of bridge operations, ‘mandating strict adherence to operating procedures,’ and says bridge teams follow pre-set voyage plans which are ‘thoroughly reviewed and discussed by the captain and bridge team prior to port departures and arrivals.
‘In addition, all of our ships employ the latest state-of-the-art navigational equipment and technology to ensure that our bridge teams have the most accurate data regarding the planned itinerary.’
Hanrahan, in a detailed note on the Celebrity website, opens with an expression of sadness and sympathy for all those affected by the Costa Concordia incident.
‘I debated about writing to you, as I wanted to be respectful of the investigation process and avoid adding to the speculation as to the cause or related failures,’ he says. ‘However, the concerns that have been raised about the safety of cruise ships compelled me to take the opportunity to share what an intense focus we have always placed on safety, and how rigorously we put that focus into practice every day.’
Like Sheehan, Hanrahan notes his company meets and often exceeds regulatory requirements. He adds that passengers see just a portion of safety practices, mainly through the muster drill conducted prior to every sailing, and directs readers to a website section (www.celebritycruises.com/safety; select Safety & Security) that outlines more details.
Hanrahan also specifies that Celebrity captains have, on average, 25 years of seagoing experience and all report to Greg Purdy, ‘a highly experienced former officer in the US Coast Guard.’
The Celebrity chief adds that captains across his fleet earned degrees from some of the world's finest maritime institutions and, along with the captain, every ship has at least two other officers who hold the level of license required to serve as master—so, essentially three people are aboard each vessel who qualify as captain.
‘Besides the training and drills we conduct on board, our captains and their bridge teams also participate in navigation simulator courses and other training. One of the cornerstones of our training is that everyone is expected to speak up if they detect something wrong, regardless of their rank. Our shipboard officers and our shoreside team spend a considerable amount of time focused on how we can continually improve our safety procedures,’ Hanrahan says.
In addition to in-house expertise, Celebrity relies on experts in its Maritime Safety Advisory Board, established in 2006. The group includes former senior officials from the US and UK Coast Guards, as well as leadership from the academic world.
‘Our chairman Richard Fain has said there's no such thing as perfect safety, but there is such a thing as perfect dedication to safety. And that's what we strive for daily,’ Hanrahan adds in a sentiment also expressed this week by his sister company ceo, Adam Goldstein of Royal Caribbean International.
For his part, Buckelew, in a message on the Princess website, expresses sadness over Costa Concordia: ‘We are stunned that this incident occurred, and our hearts go out to all those affected, especially the families of the deceased, and to everyone at our sister company Costa Cruises as they cope with this difficult situation.’
Buckelew assures Princess has ‘a multitude of measures in place to ensure a safe and secure shipboard environment,’ adding that he expects ‘important lessons will be learned from this recent incident, and we will use these to further refine our own safety practices so we can continue to provide our passengers and crew with a safe and secure environment.’