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Costa Concordia tragedy spurs media flurry

Dr. Ross Klein

By Laura Woodford

In the aftermath of the recent Costa Concordia cruise ship tragedy off the Italian coast, Dr. Ross Klein, professor with Memorial's School of Social Work, was inundated with interview requests from journalists from around the globe.

More than 16 years of knowledge and research on the cruise industry, Dr. Klein says, provided a wealth of data to draw upon to respond to the media. Often, he is asked to consult and to give lectures on the topic, as well as serve as an expert witness in cases brought against cruise lines. It comes as no surprise, then, that he was top of mind when international media agencies sought out explanation as to how the disaster could have occurred.

"I have a perspective that isn't common among analysts or among academics – I think critically about the industry," he said. "For the Costa Concordia tragedy in particular, I have been pointing out that, according to the Convention on Safety of Life at Sea, a ship is required to be evacuated within 30 minutes of an abandon ship call. I have also discussed the inadequacy of the safety drill and how the industry will make up lost income when forced to discount fares to get bookings, shifting to increased onboard revenue."

Dr. Klein says the kinds of questions he has fielded include: "Whether I was surprised by the accident (no, I was not), will the accident affect cruise bookings (only short term), what was my reaction (the ship did not do as designed, evacuation was not as it was supposed to be, crew did not appear to do their jobs, there was no safety drill as is the norm in Canada, and there are serious issues around having ships this large), are cruises safe (yes and no), and what advice would I give people planning a cruise (don't be misled, be aware). There have been several questions about crew training and about how one becomes a ship captain."

Dr. Klein's website averages 2,500-3,000 visitors per day. However, during the past several days he has been getting 13,000-14,000 hits per day.

Dr. Klein says he conducted interviews with television, radio and print media outlets that included USA Today, Canada's Global TV, CBC's The National, CTV's Canada AM, the NBC Nightly News, local television news station NTV, eight local CBC radio stations, CBC's Newsworld, Cross Country Checkup with Rex Murphy, national newspapers the National Post and The Globe and Mail, Maclean's magazine and radio stations in the U.S., Canada, Germany and the U.K.
So, what is it like to field all these requests?

"It's lots of fun," he said. "I answer questions I am qualified to answer and admit when a question is beyond my area of expertise. As an academic, here is one of the few instances in which someone is truly interested in my research and in hearing what I know from my research. Isn't that what most of us dream for – that our research is interesting to someone and that it is useful?"