- Cruise lines will conduct safety drills before leaving port
- The policy is being voluntarily implemented by cruise associations
- Current laws require safety drills within 24 hours of embarking
Cruise lines are now required to conduct passenger safety drills before leaving port, under a rule announced by three cruise industry associations.
The new policy is the first to come out of an internal cruise industry review announced last month in response to the Costa Concordia disaster. At least 16 people died and 16 are still missing following the ship's January 13 collision with rocks close to the shore of the Italian island of Giglio.
Holding muster drills before leaving port goes beyond the existing legal requirement that passengers participate in the safety drills within 24 hours of embarking.
"There are various means of delivering passenger safety instructions and abandon ship instructions, but we believe ... the existing international requirement that we provide this instruction within 24 hours can be bettered by doing it immediately upon (passenger) boarding," said Michael Crye, executive vice president of Cruise Lines International Association.
CLIA -- the largest cruise industry organization in North America, according to its website -- the European Cruise Council and the UK-based Passenger Shipping Association all have adopted the new policy, effective immediately. Passengers who arrive after drills are held will receive prompt individual or group safety briefings.
About 600 of more than 3,000 Corcordia passengers had not participated in the muster drill because they got on the ship within hours of the accident.
"The official investigation will make a determination as to whether this briefing would have been helpful in that regard," Crye said.
The organizations will consider the findings of the official Concordia investigation when they are released and make further recommendations based on those details, Crye said.