Cruise industry defends safety record in wake of disabled ship

Darr added that “essentially every aspect of the cruise industry is heavily regulated and monitored under national and international maritime laws for many purposes, the most important of which is to protect the safety of passengers and crew.”

Nearly 4,000 passengers were stuck on the Triumph ship, which became debilitated after an engine fire broke out on board four days after the cruise departed Galveston, Texas, one week before Valentine’s Day.

No one was seriously injured in the Triumph incident, but passengers on board the ship complained to media outlets of squalid conditions on the ship, which they attributed to bathrooms malfunctioning and food spoiling without refrigeration.

Darr wrote that “contrary to what the op-ed's author says, significant fires on board ships are rare.

“The global cruise industry has robust regulatory measures to protect passengers and crew,” the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based cruise association vice president wrote Thursday.

“Fire safety regulations are continuously enhanced and have reduced the frequency and severity of fires,” Darr wrote. “The last major overhaul of fire safety regulations entered into force in 2010, and those regulations remain the subject of continuous review and updating.”

Some lawmakers have been calling for increased regulation of the cruise industry, citing both the stranding of the Triumph passenger and the crash of the Italian Costa Concordia cruise ship last year.

In the Italian accident, the cruise liner ran aground after being steered too close to shore by its captain. The driver of the Costa Concordia was later accused of abandoning the wrecked ship while passengers were still trying to escape.

Darr said Thursday that “the cruise industry is subject to strict international regulation and oversight and fully promotes policies and practices that foster a safe, secure and healthy cruise ship environment.

“There's no doubt that cruising is one of the safest, affordable and enjoyable vacation experiences available today, which explains why a record 20.6 million passengers worldwide enjoyed a cruise vacation in 2011,” he said.

A pair of passengers who were stranded on the Triumph have filed a lawsuit against the ship’s operator, Carnival Cruise Lines, claiming the company ignored prior incidents involving the boat.