Tom Stieghorst
Tom Stieghorst

By any measure, the cruise industry appears to be getting safer. That’s the viewpoint from both the industry’s trade association and one of its staunchest critics.

In a study commissioned for CLIA, consultant GP Wild found that the number of serious incidents has not increased over the past five years, while the number of minor operational incidents declined.

Taken together, overall incidents were down 13% in the period from 2009 to 2013, according to CLIA Research Director Alison Powers.

Michael McGarry, senior vice president of public affairs for CLIA, said the decline is reflective of “ongoing [safety] reviews, implementation of best practices and continuous improvement and the adoption of effective policies” in the cruise industry.

Practices were tightened noticeably in the wake of the Costa Concordia accident in 2012, which produced 27 fatalities.

That accounts for more than half of the 50 accidental deaths to passengers and crew in the five-year period. Another 96 passengers were reported overboard in the five-year period, of which 20 were rescued.

For 2012, the cruise industry’s rate of fatalities per 1 billion passenger miles of 0.61 exceeded that of the world airline industry, which recorded 0.13. For the five-year period, the two had identical 0.19 fatality rates, the GP Wild research found.

In another take on the issue, maritime lawyer Jim Walker also concluded on his blog that the cruise industry is safer in 2015, although his list of reasons is different than CLIA’s.

Walker said three things have made the industry safer: the employment of lifeguards by Disney Cruise Line at its pools, the creation of a website and database of crimes on cruise ships at the U.S. Department of Transportation and an appeals court ruling that makes it easier for passengers to sue cruise lines over medical malpractice allegations.

Walker predicted that more cruise lines will “come to their senses” and hire lifeguards this year.

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