Thursday, January 19, 2012

Disaster at Sea

After the grounding of an Italian cruise liner near the island of Giglio, the safety of passenger ships is on everyone's mind.  By most accounts, the evacuation of the Costa Concordia was chaotic.  As of January 18, there were 11 confirmed deaths.  Twenty-two people are still missing.  Newspapers report that the Italian government is planning to file criminal charges of abandoning ship and manslaughter against the ship's captain. 

The dramatic sinking of the Titanic on its inaugural 1912 voyage led to an increased interest in maritime safety.  Even before ships with survivors docked in New York, the U. S. Senate began holding hearings while events were fresh in the minds of witnesses and survivors.   The hearing, "Titanic" Disaster, makes fascinating reading. 

Composite photo of a Marconi operator, lifeboats, the ship, and captain of the
Titanic (center) from the Library of Congress

The sinking of the Titanic lead to the adoption of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), an international treaty administered by the International Maritime Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations. The organization is also responsible for limiting pollution from both accidents and routine shipping.

Treaties such as SOLAS are increasingly important in the rapidly globalizing world.  For more information, consult the Government Information Library's page on treaties.  For more information on the work of Congress, present and past, consult the Congress page.

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