The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

February 19, 2013

No central agency oversees, inspects cruise ships

(Continued)

These are not new issues — they had been raised by members of Congress before the Triumph incident.

"This horrible situation involving the Carnival Triumph is just the latest example in a long string of serious and troubling incidents involving cruise ships," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who led a committee hearing on cruise safety last year.

Last year, after the Costa Concordia, also owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp., ran aground off the coast of Giglio, Italy, Rockefeller held a Commerce Committee hearing to examine deficiencies in the cruise line industry's compliance with federal safety, security, and environmental standards and review industry regulations.

"As I remarked then, they seem to have two lives: One is at port, where the Coast Guard can monitor their operations; the other is at sea where, it appears once they are beyond three nautical miles from shore, the world is theirs," Rockefeller said in letter he wrote this week to Admiral Robert J. Papp Jr., the commandant of the Coast Guard. "The Carnival Triumph incident only serves to further validate this view."

The Triumph left Galveston, Texas, on Feb. 7 for a four-day cruise to Cozumel, Mexico. An engine-room fire paralyzed the ship early Sunday, leaving it adrift in the Gulf of Mexico. Passengers described nightmarish conditions on board: overflowing toilets, long lines for a short supply of food, foul odors, and tent cities where vacationers slept on deck. Tugboats slowly towed the 14-story vessel to Mobile, Alabama. It arrived there late Thursday.

Before a ship like the Triumph sets sail, it's possible — but not easy — to find information about past incidents and safety or health issues. The CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program is viewable online. The database shows recent disease outbreaks aboard cruise ships and how they were addressed.

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