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Post-Concordia, USCG observes passenger drills, plans no new rules ahead of Italy’s probe

USCG now monitors passenger musters during routine inspections
After the Costa Concordia wreck, the US Coast Guard has begun observing passenger muster drills as part of its routine cruise ship inspections but does not plan to institute any new safety rules prior to the completion of Italy’s accident investigation, a USCG official said at Cruise Shipping Miami.

USCG teams, which visit ships two to three times a year for routine inspections, will continue to watch the passenger exercises for the foreseeable future. ‘There is no end in sight,’ said John Sedlak of the Office of Vessel Activities, Foreign and Offshore Compliance Division, USCG Headquarters.

Before Concordia, USCG observed only crew drills.

‘We welcome you,’ said James Hunn, svp maritime policy and compliance for Carnival Corp. & plc, who is heading his company’s comprehensive safety audit and review instituted days after the Concordia capsize. The first action that emerged from what became an industry-wide safety review was the voluntary decision to hold mandatory passenger musters before leaving port.

Sedlak said USCG is looking forward to seeing if there’s any international regulatory action on the drill policy.

He added that USCG’s focus in observing the drills is to ensure the ship is instructing passengers according to what’s required under SOLAS: how to properly don a life jacket and what to do in the event of an emergency.

Also, inspectors may check to see that crew are following their company’s safety management procedures on how to address passengers who are unruly or not paying attention during the drill.

As for any rules about this or other issues arising from Concordia, Sedlak told the forum ‘We are waiting to see the results of the on-going investigation. We don’t want to act without knowing all the facts.’

He added that USCG might be forced by legislation to institute new rule-making ‘but, at the moment, we do not seek that.’