International Judicial Monitor
Published by the International Judicial Academy, Washington, D.C., with assistance from the
American Society of International Law

Summer 2013 Issue

100 Ways


International Law: One Hundred Ways It Shapes Our Lives

100 Ways

Being More Confident in the Mechanical Safety (and safety practices) of Your Cruise Vessel

By: James G. Apple, Editor-in-Chief, International Judicial Monitor, and President, International Judicial Academy.

(In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Society of International Law in 2006, the Society published a small pamphlet titled International Law: One Hundred Ways It Shapes Our Lives. The Introduction gives an explanation for its conception: an affirmation that “international law not only exists, but also penetrates much more deeply and broadly into everyday life than the people it affects may generally appreciate.” This column seeks to elucidate and elaborate on many of the 100 ways briefly presented in the ASIL pamphlet.)

That the cruise industry is related to international law was shown to me by a personal experience that occurred several years ago. I was recuperating from serious back surgery in the late winter and early spring in Washington, D.C. I needed to get away from the rough winter weather that was proving to be a major interruption and impediment to my recovery. My wife and I booked passage on a cruise ship that was leaving a port in Florida for a trip around the Caribbean. The majority of the passengers on this particular ship were college students on spring break. Thus the voyage was filled with an excessive amount of revelry.

Despite the carnival atmosphere, much to my surprise, international law was mentioned twice during the voyage. The first came at the very beginning of the cruise, before the ship left port, in the form of an on-deck safety briefing involving all of the passengers about the use of life boats and life preservers in the event of an emergency. Somewhat apologetically a ship’s officer announced over the ship inter-com that this activity was required by “international law.” The second mention of international law came at the beginning of the musical show in the ship auditorium. The master of ceremonies advised that there could be no recording or filming of the show, because such was prohibited by “international law.” He was specifically referring to international intellectual property law.

The cruise industry is a major international business. It has grown from a single cruise in March, 1891 involving Near East ports and ports on the Mediterranean Sea to an industry the revenue of which is expected to total 36.2 billion $US in 2013. In the U.S. alone the cruise industry employed 356,311 persons that paid a total of 17.4 billion $US in wages and benefits.

Cruise industry jobs worldwide serve 20.3 million passengers embarking from 2000 ports around the world, including North America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Mediterranean and Middle East, the Far East, Southeast Asia and Australia.

In the 1980s there were 40 new ships built. That number increased to 80 in the 1990s. From 2000 to 2013 the number of new ships built for the cruise industry was 167. The fleet of cruise ships world wide now stands at 292. The largest ship in the fleet is the Freedom of the Seas owned and operated by Royal Caribbean International. It is 112 feet long and has 15 passenger decks.



From the period 1970 to 2010 cruising was the fastest growing segment of the travel industry, with a 2100 per cent growth rate.

Cruising is generally one of the safest ways to travel. From 2005 to the Costa Concordia disaster off the coast of Italy in 2012, of the 100 million cruise passengers during that time, there were only 16 fatalities. Such a safety record probably could not have been achieved except for international law, specifically, three international treaties that deal, among other issues, with the actions and activities of cruise ships. The three treaties are the Geneva Convention on the High Seas (1958), the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (1974) and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982). These treaties grew out of the Titanic disaster in April, 1912.

Article 2 of the Geneva Convention on the High Seas provides the context for later provisions. Basically it states that the “high seas are open to all nations.” This freedom includes four specific freedoms: freedom of navigation, freedom of fishing, freedom to lay submarine cables and pipelines, and freedom to fly over the high seas. It also makes provisions in Article 3 for access to the high seas by land-locked countries. Article 10 contains the important provisions relating to safety measures on ships by requiring signatory states to “take such measures for ships under its flag as are necessary to ensure safety at sea” including:

  • Assistance to any person found at sea in danger of being lost.
  • Proceeding  “with all possible speed” to rescue persons in distress if informed of the need for assistance.
  • After a collision, rending assistance to other ship, crew and passengers.
  • Establishing and maintaining  an “adequate and effective search and rescue service.”

A significant number of articles in the Convention deal with piracy and steps that can be taken to oppose it.

In 1974 the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea was adopted. It entered into force in May, 1980. A summary of the provisions of this convention states that “the main objective of the SOLAS convention is to specify minimum standards for the construction, equipment and operation of ships, compatible with their safety.” The Convention requires certain certificates and allowance for inspections to assure compliance with the convention by all “Flag States.” 

A portion of one chapter of the Convention deals specifically with the requirement for watertight compartments to deal with problems arising from damages to the ship’s hull, which was the major problem involved in the sinking of the Titanic. There are also a specific parts of certain chapters relating to (1) fire protection, fire detection and fire extinction; (2) life saving appliances and arrangements; (3) radio communications; and (4) security for ships and port facilities.

ASIl & International Judicial AcademyInternational Judicial Monitor
© 2013 – The International Judicial Academy
with assistance from the American Society of International Law.

Editor: James G. Apple.
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