As the 100th anniversary of the RMS Titanic disaster approaches, the Costa Concordia grounding off the Tuscan coast of Italy is a stark reminder that going to sea remains dangerous. A modern cruise ship sailing a routine route capsized in a matter of minutes in beautiful weather, leaving at least six people dead and more than two dozen still missing. About 15 million people took a cruise last year, and they are asking tough questions. Are the massive passenger vessels stable enough to withstand grounding or collision? Are the international crews capable of coordinating a rapid evacuation of thousands of people? Who oversees the operations of these vessels?
Now is the time to re-examine international safety regulations, particularly as the investigation reveals what went wrong off the Tuscan coast. The International Maritime Organization should conduct a stem-to-stern review of safety systems requirements and damage control and stability criteria for passenger vessels. And the United States must take a major leadership role in this comprehensive undertaking, guided by our official guardians of sea safety, the U.S. Coast Guard.