Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

May 2012

Plenary: Cruise Conferences in the Wake of the Costa Concordia Accident

Christopher Durso
Cruise Shipping Miami in ConveneWhen the Costa Concordia ran aground off the coast of Italy’s Giglio Island on Jan. 13, capsizing within an hour and killing at least 30 passengers and crew, cruise-line safety became an instant international issue. Barely a week later, on Jan. 19–20, the Passenger Ship Safety Conference met in London, at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel & Conference Centre. Two months after that, Cruise Shipping Miami 2012 (CSM) brought nearly 11,000 cruise-industry professionals from around the world to the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Not addressing the Costa Concordia disaster was not an option. Nor was it something the team behind either show would even consider. “It was impossible to ignore it,” said Daniel Read, director of the cruise shipping folio for UBM Live, which produces Cruise Shipping Miami. “It was a huge, huge thing happening in the industry.”

Both conferences stood as examples of how professional gatherings can respond constructively to current events - offering both valuable best practices for industry practitioners and much-needed expert information for the general public. At the Passenger Ship Safety Conference, produced by Riviera Maritime Media, “Issues arising from this incident were under the microscope during the two-day event,” the conference website reports, “… but not to the exclusion of other, equally important discussions.”

The conference also included a press briefing on the Costa Concordia situation presented by the Cruise Lines Industry Association (CLIA), the European Cruise Council, and the Passenger Shipping Association, during which CLIA President and CEO Christine Duffy said: “Understandably, today’s press conference is not about speculating on the cause of this awful event. However, we know that people have questions about how our industry is regulated, and there has been considerable demand for information of a technical nature. So in response, we have brought together a panel of experts.”

Held on March 12–15, CSM offered another opportunity for the cruise industry to address the Costa Concordia. When the incident happened, Read said, UBM immediately reached out to its industry partners, including CLIA, “to make sure we were covering what Passenger Ship Safety Conference + Cruise Shipping Miami Not addressing the Costa Concordia disaster was not an option. ‘It was a huge, huge thing happening in the industry.’ happened appropriately, respectfully.”

In the first issue of CSM Today, the show’s daily newspaper, a short, direct column from Read appeared on the front page, under the headline “A Time for the Cruise Industry to Reflect, Regroup, and Look Ahead.” Acknowledging that the Costa Concordia was the industry’s “worst disaster,” and that “[i]mmediately our hearts went out to those who lost loved ones,” Read wrote: “The cruise industry is working in solidarity to address safety and training issues, and to rebuild consumers’ trust that cruising remains the world’s safest mode of transportation.”

CSM’s opening keynote address was delivered by Howard Frank, chairman of CLIA and vice chairman and chief operating officer of Carnival Corp., the parent company of Costa Cruises. The SeatradeInsider website described Frank’s voice as “sometimes cracking with emotion” as he discussed the Costa Concordia. “As a cruise-ship operator,” Frank said, “there is nothing more heart-wrenching than the loss of one of your passengers or crew members.”

Frank’s keynote was followed by a state-of-the-industry roundtable discussion with six top cruise-industry CEOs. Questions of safety dominated the program. “We covered safety like we always do,” Read said, “but I think there was an additional emphasis.”

Later that day, CSM presented a safety forum in conjunction with CLIA and the U.S. Coast Guard - a reflection of “the determination from everyone that we learn from this and put best practices in place,” Read said. He added: “We made sure we were representing the industry and representing the incident, and putting together the platform to make sure it was addressed in the most appropriate manner.”

More Resources

Passenger Ship Safety Conference: convn.org/pssc-2012
 
Cruise Shipping Miami: convn.org/Csmiami

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