In safe hands with Captain Zini

//In safe hands with Captain Zini

zini.jpgAlthough I am cruising in the Western Caribbean this week aboard Allure of the Seas, I’ll save reports of my experiences on the ship and our ports of call until later.
But in light of the Costa Concordia disaster, it has been interesting to listen to our captain explaining the safety procedures which Royal Caribbean has in force on its ships.
I spent an hour on the bridge this afternoon with Captain Hernan Zini (left) at the controls as Allure left Royal’s private resort of Labadee, on the north coast of Haiti. There were no other ships in sight, and if the 20 knot wind was of any concern, it was not immediately apparent except to the suite guests whose Champagne sailaway party on the helipad was almost blown away.
Zini and three of his senior officers were at the starboard bridge wing to supervise letting go the lines and using the ship’s powerful thrusters to move us gently away from the pier – purpose built for Allure and Oasis, the two biggest cruise ships in the world.
As we began to get under way he moved across to his Starship Enterprise command chair in the centre of the bridge; a tiny joystick in the left armrest and a trackball at his right hand all that was needed to control the thousands of horsepower at his command. Monitor screens at desk level and above his head displayed radar images and electronic charts, with the ship’s planned course and actual track indicated with a series of red lines.
It all appeared uneventful and every move was carried out with measured calm. Only afterwards, with the ship in open water, did he break off to de-brief his officers with comments about which aspects of the manoeuvre could have been improved, and how he would like to see it done next time.
Later he explained that there are three conditions when navigating the ship – unsurprisingly they are green, amber and red. At green, with the ship in open water and fair weather, with no expected traffic or obstructions ahead, there will always be two officers on watch, together with a sailor.
The slightest complication – and we were heading for one with the passage through a relatively narrow channel between Haiti and a smaller island – and there would be a third officer on the bridge. On this occasion it would be the captain himself.
In fog or other severe weather, and in areas of busy traffic, every duty officer is required to be on the bridge.
He showed me the voyage plans that are set for Allure, and explained that if he chose to deviate from them, or was forced to make a change for whatever reason – weather, traffic, medical emergency for example – a new voyage plan had to be drawn up, checked against the charts, and signed off by two other senior officers. If they felt that anything being planned would be dangerous, they were encouraged to say so. It would not be an act of mutiny to disagree with the Captain, drawing his fingers across his throat to indicate what would happen to him if he made an unsafe decision.
I could sense the feeling of horror behind his eyes as it went unsaid that these practices appear to have been ignored by Captain Francisco Schettino during his ill-fated sail-by of Giglio.
Modern cruise ships are as built with every safety feature known to man. How can it be possible to guarantee that they are never put in the hands of a rogue captain whose reckless behaviour can cost lives?

By | 2017-06-15T15:59:56+00:00 18 January 2012|Cruise News|1 Comment

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

One Comment

  1. Pat Teeling 19 January 2012 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    Wishing you well on our favourite RCCL ship, Allure OTS.
    I agree with your comments regarding the ships master and captain. He is great.
    Be sure to say hello to the lady in the cupcake shop and the cast of Chicago. I passed your column onto them following your 1st cruise on the ship.

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