On Wednesday, February 29, 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives is going to have a hearing on cruise ship safety which is entitled "A Review of Cruise Ship Safety and Lessons Learned from the Costa Concordia Accident."
At first blush, this appears to be a well needed Congressional Hearing in order to focus on problems in the cruise ship industry, and take steps necessary to create more regulations and laws that apply to the cruise ship companies which will make cruising safer for all of us. However, this particular hearing that is scheduled on February 29, 2012 is spearheaded by the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (the subcommittee on Coast Guard and maritime transportation), Florida Republican John Mica.
Not only is this hearing led by Republican Mika out of Florida, the initial agenda included a list of the witnesses, which reflected that the witnesses were all cruise ship company's friends or allies. There were five representatives of the cruise lines listed and one Coast Guard witness. I have previously written about how the cruise ship industry maintains strong ties with the United States Coast Guard, often times sponsoring and attending Coast Guard functions. The witnesses listed include a president of Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), Michael Crye (a lawyer for the Cruise Line International Association), as well as Vicky Rey, a public relations and customer care representative from Carnival Cruise Lines. In addition George Wright, from Princess Cruises, as well as Captain Evans Hoyt from Norwegian Cruise Lines was listed to testify at this hearing.
You may be asking where are any of the victims of the Costa Concordia disaster, or any proponents for cruise ship safety changes, such as a representative from International Cruise Victims Association, or a maritime attorney such as myself who acts as a safety advocate for passengers and crewmembers? Not surprisingly, none were initially listed.
I wasn't surprised to learn that Republican Mika set up this hearing, and stacked the field in favor of the cruise ship industry by the list of witnesses that were invited to speak. I previously was invited to speak during Congressional Hearings addressing cruise ship safety back in March 7, 2006 following the disappearance of George Smith aboard a cruise ship. Our firm represented the family of George Smith. I was invited to speak as a maritime expert addressing cruise ship security and safety issues. Eventually, the Congressional Hearings led to passage of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, signed into law by President Obama on July 27, 2010.