Earlier this month, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) began conducting unannounced safety inspections aboard cruise ships docking in a number of United States ports. The new inspection program was made public at an NTSB hearing held yesterday in Washington D.C., which focused on safety aboard cruise ships.
The new unannounced inspections will target only a few, specific cruise ships that have been flagged for further inspection or show a repeating pattern of safety violations. Flags can be raised by inspectors at one of two inspections conducted each year by the USCG to ensure the ship is properly maintaining safety codes. If a cruise ship is flagged, the USCG will board the ship unannounced at least once during the year to check on specific safety features and ensure the ship is staying up to its proper safety code.
The USCG has stated the most reoccurring safety issue aboard cruise ships is inoperative fire doors. The fire doors, which are designed to seal off a specific area of the ship to prevent fire from spreading, have failed to operate properly on a number of undisclosed cruise ships. The USCG has stated they will focus in on this safety issue in the future to ensure a fire at sea can be properly and safely contained.
Captain Eric Christensen, USCG Chief Traveling Inspector, stated, “There was a population of cruise ships that had the lion’s share of deficiency. You want to focus your efforts on those vessels. They don’t know you are coming, but this is how you can summarize they would normally operate. The bottom line is, we hold substandard vessels accountable.”