‘Quantum of the Seas’ is first cruise ship to merit vaunted safety award

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For the first time in its 155-year history, the Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA) has chosen a cruise ship as the recipient of its prestigious Maritime Safety Award.

The annual award, recognizing “an individual, company or organization which has made a significant technological contribution to improving maritime safety,” was presented to Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. for the design and implementation of an integrated Safety Command Centre (SCC) on its new smart-ship, Quantum of the Seas.

The SCC breaks down incident response, physically and functionally, into a collection of “pods,” each with its own specialty, which can act separately or as part of an integrated response as each incident requires.

In nominating RCL for the award, professors Dracos Vassalos and Tom Allan – both RINA fellows who sit on the RCL Maritime Safety Advisory Board – said the SCC addresses a gap in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).

In the decades that followed its creation in 1914, SOLAS mostly addressed ship fires and their prevention, detection and extinguishing. Onboard “safety centers” came to be after the International Maritime Organization singled out the problem of an emergency distracting the ship’s master from safely navigating the ship.

But “when Safety Centres were introduced, particularly in the cruise ship industry, the whole idea seemed like an afterthought without proper analysis of the needs, proper allocation of resources and proper integration of the effort to offer seamless operation and support,” Vassalos and Allan wrote.

“All this is likely to change with the introduction of an integrated Safety Command Centre on Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas.”

The SCC’s guiding principle, “Partition to understand and integrate to solve,” resulted in a design that includes:

  • An Incident Pod, providing an overview of the problem and the necessary tools for fire safety, stability, HVAC, flood detection and automation as well as the necessary means to mobilize group coordinators.
  • An Evacuation Pod, linking the ship’s master and staff captain to a dedicated team managing and carrying out any orders to leave the ship.
  • A Communication Pod to manage the vital task of external communication with outside support services.
  • A Command Pod, which can be isolated behind sliding glass doors that lead to the bridge, which allows the bridge to monitor crisis response as necessary or shut out distracting noise or activity to concentrate on navigation.

This configuration provides dedicated spaces for the various tasks that may be required by a safety incident, all funneling to a command space where the responders can gather, share damage assessments, view video evidence and drawings of affected areas and anything else required of a true incident command center from the start of the trouble until the ship returns to port.