There was an interesting piece on CNBC, one of those orchestrated debates that pass for news coverage these days, about cruise ship safety. It was interesting mainly for how thoroughly it missed the point.
The piece started its rundown of recent cruise ship problems with the grounding of the Empress of the North off the coast of Alaska, without stopping to consider whether this is a typical mass-market cruise ship. It’s not. Gene Sloan, The Cruise Log blogger for USA Today, presented a convincing argument that it’s not a cruise ship at all.
Strangely enough, the piece didn’t mention the sinking last month of the Greek ship Sea Diamond, which, though smaller and older than most modern cruise ships, is at least closer to the kind that most American tourists might sail on.
Of course there wasn’t any actual reporting on whether a cruise is more dangerous than say, a vacation at a resort on land. And clearly the script didn’t call for any meaningful analysis of cruise ship safety, because the host sneered down the travel columnist guest who tried to explain that cruise ships are subject mainly to the laws of the country whose flag they carry. This makes U.S. regulations a little touchy, and an attempt to deal with the way foreign-flagged ships operate may require a closer look at the whole, complicated enchilada.
I think there probably is a good hard look coming at the way that ships carrying U.S. citizens from U.S. ports deal with crime and safety. And I think there ought to be. But it’s not an issue that’s going to be solved by oversimplification or exaggeration.
The only useful thoughts that emerged from the CNBC piece came from Kendall Carver of the International Cruise Victims Organization. He suggested that cruise ships could carry law enforcement officials, rather like sky marshals, who could independently investigate crimes on board.
That, at least, is something to think about.