Super cruiser: Under threat? Photo credit: Paul Dickerson, http://flic.kr/p/8Dk97K
The death toll from the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster has risen to six and the number of missing passengers and crew has leapt from 15 to 29 after Italian coastguard officials reassessed the original figures. As rescuers continue their search, Concordia Captain Francesco Schettino remains in custody on suspicion of manslaughter and abandoning ship.
According to The Telegraph, new evidence has emerged that appears to show the captain sailed dangerously close to the island of Giglio in order to salute the head waiter’s sister: “Minutes before the cruise ship hit the rocks, the waiter’s sister Patrizia Tievoli had posted on Facebook that: ‘In a short period of time the Concordia ship will pass very close. A big greeting to my brother who finally get to have a holiday on landing in Savona.’”
Shares in Carnival, which owns the stricken cruise ship, slumped by 30 percent at one point, before rallying to a 17 percent drop. The Guardian reported that experts believe there could be choppy waters ahead for the company, with the potential for a drop-off in bookings. But what are the implications for the cruise industry as a whole?
Cruise industry will rally. “The sinking of the Titanic did not stop the cruise industry and this one won’t either”, wrote Jim Boulden on CNN’s business blog. According to Boulden, there will be “short-term blips” as people reconsider taking a cruise in the short term, but the industry should rally. Boulden also reported that Carnival, which controls half of the cruise market and trades under names including Princess, P&O, Cunard, may even bring the Costa Concordia back into service at some point.
Costa Concordia Captain Francesco Schettino is “overcome and wants to express his greatest condolences to the victims”, said his lawyer, according to The Daily Mail.
Short-term effects. “Few industry observers expect the capsizing to have any major long-term impact on the cruise industry”, wrote Jorn Madslien for the BBC. Madslien predicted that there would be a short-term drop in bookings, which would lead cruise companies to offer reduced rates, but that this would not sound a death knell for the industry: “The cruise industry behaves like a massive ship at sea. It might slow down from time to time, but it takes a lot to bring it to a standstill.”
An uncertain future. The incident is likely to raise concerns about the safety of large cruise ships, said Jane Archer in The Telegraph, particularly given that larger ships such as the Allure of the Seas and the Oasis of the Seas have a greater capacity than the Costa Concordia:”Factor in the crew on those two vessels and you have a small town of almost 8,500 people; getting that many people off safely in an emergency would be a daunting task.” Archer wrote that the long-term implications for the cruise industry are difficult to predict: “The pictures from Concordia have been horrific, but there has been comparatively little loss of life and the very few Britons on board are all safe and well, so memories could be short. There are billions of pounds riding on that hope.”
Safety first. A Times editorial pointed out that cruise holidays are very popular in the UK: “More than 1.5 million Britons took a cruise in 2009, a 4 per cent increase over the year before, with a rise of 7 per cent in those joining the cruise at a British port.” The editorial said that the risk of a cruise ship sinking is “very slim”, but that it is vital companies enforce regulations and don’t just focus on profit at the expense of safety.