By Debbie Hersman
The last two days in Florida have been heavily focused on marine issues, which is not surprising in a State surrounded on three sides by water.
Monday, in preparation for our forum on cruise ship safety and oversight, I met with executives from the cruise ship industry. Recent cruise ship incidents, such as the fires aboard the Carnival Triumph and the Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas, and the capsizing of the Costa Concordia have raised questions about the regulatory framework, ship design and fire protection, operations and corporate oversight of cruise ships. Cruise company CEOs and safety officials noted that when it comes to safety, the industry does not compete, but shares their experiences from incidents and lessons learned. I’m looking forward to hearing from cruise ship safety experts and the various officials who are responsible for the oversight of the industry at our forum on March 25-26 to gain better insight into the safety challenges and opportunities for this fast-growing segment of leisure travel.
Today, I spent time with Rear Admiral Korn, Commander of the Seventh Coast Guard District; Captain Gould, Sector Commander of Miami; and many men and women who faithfully serve our country in the United States Coast Guard (USCG). We started with a briefing by Commander Clare and the staff of the USCG Cruise Ship National Center of Expertise (NCOE), which is focused on raising the competency, capabilities, and consistency of USCG oversight of cruise ship safety, as well as environmental and security examinations. We discussed how the NCOE supports USCG offices across the nation by providing training, resources and even deploying experienced personnel to areas where there is a lack of qualified inspectors.
Our next stop was at USCG Station Ft. Lauderdale. “Southeast Florida’s Maritime Enforcers” serve at the front lines carrying out vital drug interdiction, search and rescue missions. One such search-and-rescue effort occurred after the November 2013 crash of an air ambulance Learjet on its return flight to Cozumel, Mexico. We had the opportunity to meet with the crew involved in that effort and express our appreciation for their extensive efforts to recover the wreckage, which we will need to conduct a thorough investigation of this crash. We also observed them in action on one of their boats.
The last two days, I have been accompanied by another courageous and committed woman, NTSB’s Director of the Office of Marine Safety, Ms. Tracy Murrell. Starting her more than 20+ years in the marine industry with a Bachelor of Science in marine transportation from Texas A&M University, Tracy has worked for Royal Caribbean, Arco Marine, Maersk Line, LTD., and SeaRiver Maritime. On more than one occasion, she has demonstrated character and courage by serving as the only female on her crew. And she is clearly committed to safety. Among her many accomplishments, Tracy was involved in the development and implementation of shipboard emergency response plans and new technology such as electronic mustering and accountability system for passengers and crew, and integrated safety and emergency management systems.
In a speech last November, USCG Academy Superintendent Rear Admiral Sandra Stosz discussed how today’s female leaders stand on the shoulders of those who came before. She is right; with each new generation has come new milestones. I look forward to seeing how far today’s generation of women in the maritime industry will go.