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In the days after the Costa Concordia disaster several things are known. Approximately 30 people died and the cruise industry (Carnival in particular) and its insurers have experienced huge financial losses. Some say that the ship can be salvaged and back in operation within a year or two but, even so, the losses will be staggering both outright from the lawsuits and loss of cruise business as well as the rescue operations, environmental cleanup, and repair/replacement of the ship. In the aftermath there will be many questions raised about how this could have been prevented and, in my opinion, some of the answers lie within the trucking industry.
As I worked on completing the VDC report on Embedded Integrated Computer Systems (EICS) used throughout the transportation industry I saw several interesting trucking industry applications for these units. The truck application most relevant to the cruise industry takes advantage of there being some type of network connectivity even for mobile units. Embedded computers on the trucks collect, aggregate, and transmit data from sensors located throughout the truck, trailer, and cargo at regular intervals to telematic centers that have specialized embedded computers as well. Among the many things that can be measured and evaluated is driver performance. Are they driving safely? Are they using the most efficient, and safe routes? Are they making any unauthorized detours? Are they being fuel efficient and not placing too much wear and tear on the equipment? Knowing the answers to these questions provides trucking companies with the intelligence needed to make improvements in operational efficiency as well as risk reduction.
As most cruise ships have satellite enabled Wi-Fi services, I believe they could do ship monitoring on a near real-time basis. In fact, it is hard to believe that they don’t already do this or, if they do, the information is not processed into actionable intelligence. One interesting piece of data would be whether Captain Francesco Schettino or other cruise ship captains had taken similar risks/routes before. Cruise ship owners and their insurers should go over data archives to make sure they don’t have pattern of ships taking unnecessary risks. If they don’t have the data, they should install the same infrastructure that many trucking operations already have.