Safety at Sea: It’s a shared responsibility

I’ve been working in the IT security sector for two decades, and as more and more organizations have transitioned to cloud computing, something we stress is that security becomes a shared responsibility when you entrust your resources to a cloud provider such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon AWS.

Likewise, when board a cruise ship or an airplane, or enter your room in a high-rise hotel, your safety becomes a responsibility that’s shared between you and the cruise line, airline, or hotel management.

safety first

There was a minor uproar on one of the Facebook cruise groups recently, regarding the muster drill on MSC Seaside. I’ve seen similar complaints before, and I appreciate the concerns. I hope I can allay some of them here.

Most of the complaints/concerns center on two things:

  • Muster drill is short and chaotic
  • Life jackets are kept at the muster stations instead of in your cabin

Both of these are true, but here’s why they aren’t the huge problem that some are making them out to be:

Short and sweet. The MSC muster drills are indeed quick, and may seem chaotic, though they’re certainly a relief to those who have stood in sweltering heat for 45 minutes just waiting for Carnival to even get started. There is a demo on how to put on and inflate your life jacket, and instructions are repeated in several languages because the ship has an international mix of passengers. 

musterThe drill is more casual than those on, for instance, Carnival’s older ships where everyone has to line up shoulder to shoulder four or five rows deep out on the deck and stand at attention during the demo. Instead, you get to sit in comfortable theater seats or stand around in the casino while watching the demonstration. (On Carnival’s newer ships, stations are indoors and you can sit in the restaurants and theater – which is a good thing, as I’ve seen people pass out from the heat while standing during the long outdoor drills).

It’s the ship’s responsibility to conduct the muster drill according to SOLAS guidelines. It’s your responsibility as a passenger to attend, to pay attention, and to know where to go and what to do in case of an emergency.  The muster drill is only part of that.

Safety video. I’ve been on Seaside three times. Every time, it’s been repeated during the drill that there is a safety video on the cabin TV and you are advised to watch it. This is intended to be part of your safety training, just like the airlines have gone to showing a video instead of or to supplement the live safety briefing.

This is a good thing. You can watch the video with no distractions, without your view being obstructed by a tall person in front of you, and re-watch it if you need to. Again, this is part of your responsibility as a passenger.

sleeping on planeYes, there are people who won’t watch it, just as there are always many people on the plane who have their headphones on and eyes closed or on their books or are snoring away during the safety demo or video. You can’t force anyone to learn anything.  The cruise can only make the information available and it’s up to you to utilize it.

Life vest location. Having the life jackets handed out at the muster stations absolutely makes sense. Think about it. The likelihood of an emergency occurring while you’re out on the ship vs. in your cabin is much higher. Going back to the cabin to get the jacket wastes precious time when minutes can make the difference between life or death.

This takes a big part of the responsibility off of you and places it on the ship’s personnel. You no longer have to stress out about rushing to the cabin to retrieve your jacket. If others in your cabin haven’t come to get theirs yet, you don’t have to agonize over whether to take theirs with you or leave them there for them to get or wait there for them to get there – any of which could end up putting your life or theirs in danger if you guess wrong. 

I understand the fear that an emergency could occur while you’re asleep in your cabin, requiring you to don your jacket and jump off your balcony — but that’s not the protocol. Going to your muster station is, whatever time it is.

However, if not having a life vest in your cabin concerns you, there are very portable inflatable ones you can buy and bring with you. Some airlines allow you to fly with the cartridges and some don’t. Here is info on flying with your inflatable life vest: 

Part of being responsible for your own safety means taking extra steps on your own, such as bringing your own equipment, if that’s what’s required to ensure your peace of mind. It also means maintaining a state of mental awareness so that you can respond intelligently if something happens.  If you drink yourself silly and leave your safety entirely in someone else’s hands because “it’s vacation,” you’re taking a bigger risk. That’s your choice, but make it knowing what you’re doing.

Is cruising safe? If you have worries about safety on board, please read the article linked below – especially this statistic: “the odds of dying on a cruise ship are roughly 1 in 6.25 million.” And that includes all the people who deliberately jump off the ship or fall while doing something incredibly stupid such as standing up on the balcony rail.

I know it’s disconcerting when things change. We get familiar with the same old ways of doing things and it seems scary when they’re done differently. But different doesn’t always mean there’s a problem.

The MSC masters I’ve met on Seaside – Captains Massa and Di Palma – are very experienced and very caring captains. I have every confidence in them to run a safe ship, and I know they would never put their passengers and crew – as well as their own lives – at risk.

Accidents can happen and it’s important to be prepared, but please don’t be paranoid. And let’s not unnecessarily scare the first time cruisers who are already a little nervous about this new and unknown experience. All of the good things in life carry risks. It’s your responsibility to consider all the facts and factors and then decide whether the risks are reasonable, and to learn how to mitigate them. 

A related and overlapping subject is safety in ports, and I’ll do another article addressing that in the near future. 

About debshinder

Technology analyst and author, specializing in enterprise security. Author of or contributor to over 25 books, including "Scene of the Cybercrime." Fourteen-year Microsoft MVP, married to Microsoft FTE Tom Shinder, and proud mom of two wonderful grown-up human children and three amazing Japanese Chin pups. In my spare time, I love to travel - especially on cruise ships - and write about my grand adventures.
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