Frequently Asked Questions

Our Commitment to Safety and Security

At Seabourn, the safety and security of our guests has always been our highest priority. Every decision we make starts with that basic rule.

We have a safety culture throughout our organization, both on our ships and within our Seattle, Washington headquarters. It begins with the design and equipping of our ships. We hire the right people, make sure they receive ongoing training, conduct drills and exercises to practice that training, and perform regular audits and inspections. All of this occurs under a comprehensive regulatory system in which multiple governmental authorities oversee every safety aspect of our operations.

Cruise ship safety is governed by numerous international, federal, state, provincial and local laws and regulations. At the international level, regulation of our industry begins with the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations agency focused on the safety and security of shipping that is comprised of almost all of the countries in the world that have ships operating under their flags. The IMO, through its many assemblies, committees, boards and administrative offices, sets international standards that all passenger and cargo ships must comply with.

One of the most important set of rules that is established and enforced by the IMO is the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, referred to as SOLAS. SOLAS, which is regularly updated, establishes standards for constructing, equipping, manning and operating all passenger and cargo ships.

In addition to IMO requirements, every ship operates under the maritime laws of a specific country, referred to as the ship’s flag state. Seabourn ships all fly the flag of the Bahamas and meet the standards established by that country for its vessels. Dating back to its time as part of the United Kingdom, the Bahamas has developed one of the most extensive and respected maritime regulatory programs in the world and, as a result, has thousands of cargo and passenger ships operating under its flag. To ensure that both the IMO and flag state rules are complied with, every ship is also required to be registered with one of the internationally-recognized Classification Societies; in the case of Seabourn, it is Det Norske Veritas (DNV) and RINA. The Classification Society carries out a full ship inspection once a year plus does additional surveys of important safety and other ship equipment on a set schedule that ensures this equipment is regularly examined and tested.

There are further inspections conducted by many of the countries that our ships visit. For example, any ship calling in a U.S. port is subject to a semi-annual Control Verification Inspection by the United States Coast Guard during which almost an entire day is spent by Coast Guard personnel examining our lifesaving, nautical and other operating systems including observing mandatory emergency lifeboat drills. Additional safety, security and health inspections are carried out by other U.S. agencies including Customs and Border Protection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Agriculture.

Similar inspection programs exist around the world with particularly rigorous inspections performed throughout Europe and South America as well as in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries. These inspections ensure compliance with both IMO requirements as well, in the case of the United States, with a detailed set of special requirements under U.S. law that apply to ships calling in U.S. ports.

Every nautical and engineering officer on our ship has a government license either issued or approved by our flag state that confirms they have met the requirements for their position on the size of ships that we operate. These requirements vary by position and, as would be expected, are particularly rigorous for our senior officers. To obtain a license, they must have graduated from an accredited maritime college.

We try, to the maximum extent possible, to grow people within our company. We operate a comprehensive nautical and engineering cadet program whereby young women and men who are enrolled in maritime colleges are able to spend over a year on our ships supplementing their classroom education with onboard training. People who successfully complete their cadetship are offered positions as junior officers and, so long as they continue to demonstrate their proficiency and upgrade their licenses, are promoted through the ranks.

All of our crew are appraised by a senior officer at the end of each sailing assignment. These appraisals form the basis for promotion decisions.

Shoreside, many of our people either have spent years first working on our ships or have other maritime experience. Several members of our management teams have joined us after first serving more than 20 years with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Governmental inspections are always supplemented by internal audits and inspections conducted by internal personnel. Our goal is to identify any potential issues ourselves and address these immediately rather than leave it to regulators.

To ensure that happens, we have appointed a Designated Person who operates under the standards established by the International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention, commonly referred to as the ISM Code. The Designated Person, together with his/her staff, conducts multi-day, annual inspections of every ship. Furthermore, the Designated Person is given 24/7 direct access to our Chief Executive Officer to ensure that the necessary attention and resources can be brought to bear on any serious problem that might be identified.

In addition to our Designated Person inspections, we maintain an Audit Services Department that conducts its own audits and reviews of our ships. These audits include both total ship and focused audits. The results of those audits are reported both to our Chief Executive Officer as well as to a Committee of our parent company’s Board of Directors that was specifically created to ensure that audit findings are timely and effectively addressed by management.

It is also part of our operating practices that our senior management visits and sails on our ships as much as possible. Our senior management team operates under a “trust but verify” philosophy which means going on the ships and ensuring that our practices meet the requisite standards.

We also maintain a rigorous investigation program in our Seattle office that enables us to review safety incidents that need review, determine the root cause and implement corrective measures.

Finally but maybe most importantly, our onboard management teams, starting with the Captain, conduct regular inspections and self-audits throughout the entire ship. We have monthly safety and environmental self-audits that are performed on all of our ships. Furthermore, every senior officer inspects their area of responsibility on a regular basis. Our people understand to never assume that everything is being done as it should be. They are required to check and re-check.

All of our ships comply with and in many cases exceed the applicable SOLAS safety standards. Each Seabourn ship is constructed with a collision bulkhead located near the bow of the ship to withstand significant impact. Our ships are subdivided into multiple watertight compartments separated by watertight doors that can all be closed from the ship’s bridge as well as at the door itself. The ships can sustain flooding in up to two adjacent compartments and still remain afloat.

To maximize fire safety, our ships have sprinkler systems throughout passenger and crew areas together with enhanced fire suppression systems in machinery spaces. In addition, every ship is divided into fire zones that are separated by fire screen doors that can be operated from the ship’s bridge and fire-rated bulkheads in order to minimize the risk of fire spreading beyond one fire zone.

Each ship has several fire teams that drill together so they are prepared to respond to a fire. In these drills, our teams are trained to be assembled, suited up and in place to enter a fire area within minutes of an alarm being sounded. During these drills, the firefighting teams practice implementing plans that have been developed to provide guidance for fighting fires in the different parts of a ship. We also conduct live fire drills at training facilities around the world and have expert trainers on our full-time payroll who regularly visit all of our ships several times during the year.

Every ship has a stand-by emergency diesel generator located on one of the top decks that is automatically connected in the event of a main engine room failure. The emergency diesel generator is tested regularly and ensures that critical safety systems and lighting can be maintained in the event of a power loss.

Every ship is equipped with damage control equipment that enables the ship to effectively respond to a hull breach should that occur.

Seabourn ships contain the latest safety technology and safety systems including but not limited to:

  • Structural stability software programs which ensure the weight of fuel, wastewater and other onboard supplies are properly distributed to maintain structural integrity.
  • State-of-the-art navigational systems:
    • Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to precisely locate our position on the sea.
    • Radar to precisely locate other vessels along our path.
    • Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) that enable our ships to be located and identified should there be a communications failure.
    • Echo sounders for measuring the depth of water.
  • Fire safety systems include:
    • Automated fire detection systems.
    • Sprinkler systems throughout the ships.
    • Hi-Fog or Flexi-Fog systems in the Engine Room and Incinerators.
    • Fuel System Shut-Off Valves in the Engine Control Room.
    • Audible smoke alarms in all staterooms and public areas.
    • Kitchen exhaust fire-suppression systems.

Passenger Emergency Drills take place in the port of embarkation before the ship leaves the dock so that guests know where to go and what to do if an alarm is sounded. During this drill, passengers will be provided clear instructions to be followed in the event of an emergency, including how to find their muster station, the essential actions they must take in an emergency, and the method of donning lifejackets. These drills are mandatory for all passengers and non-compliance may result in disembarkation. A passenger safety video is available for viewing on the guest channel.

With changes in technology and governmental requirements and recognizing that we always need to be ahead of the learning curve when it comes to ship operations, our people attend training courses both ashore and onboard that either we arrange or that are put together by others. We also have a comprehensive Computer Based Training (CBT) program offering hundreds of courses that can be taken whenever time permits.

Our mandatory training includes week-long sessions in an actual simulator. We and our sister companies have developed the Center for Simulator Maritime Training (CSMART) at Almere in the Netherlands, where we have state-of-the-art bridge and engine room simulators. At CSMART, our people are placed in a room that is outfitted with the same equipment as they would find on our ships. With the benefit of large video screens, computer technology and databases that contain maps of ports and other areas of operation, our people are run through simulations of actual conditions and circumstances they could expect to encounter. In this way, they can practice responses to simulated emergencies.

To ensure that training is effective, our people are regularly drilled so that should an actual emergency ever occur, they are ready to respond. These drills include, among others, fire drills, abandon ship drills, lifeboat lowering drills, medical emergencies, and bomb threats.

We hold drills in our Seattle office to ensure that we are prepared to respond should one of our ships require help. Several times a year, we activate our Incident Command Center in Seattle and, for several hours, we deal with a simulated emergency, the nature of which is not disclosed in advance to the participants. During these simulations which are done in conjunction with one of our ships, we have dozens of people in our Incident Command Center going through the kind of stresses and decisions that they would encounter in case of a real marine casualty.

Our Seattle management team also holds periodic drills with regulatory authorities. For example, in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard, State of Alaska and City of Ketchikan, AK we recently conducted a Mass Rescue Exercise in which we simulated how we would deal with an “abandon ship” scenario in which thousands of people would be brought ashore.