It has been nearly a century since the luxury cruise ship RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic, killing hundreds of people. In the disaster's aftermath, important changes were made in laws intended to keep ship passengers safe.
Is that necessary as a result of the deadly fiasco involving the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia?
At least a dozen people were killed when the ship hit a reef, then ran aground and nearly capsized. The magnitude of what happened to the Costa Concordia is virtually insignificant compared to the Titanic tragedy, in which 1,517 of the 2,223 people aboard died. But the potential for enormous loss of life existed. More than 4,200 people were aboard the Italian liner when it crashed. Had the accident occurred farther out to sea, even more people might have perished.
Already it is clear the ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, caused the wreck by steering a course dangerously close to a reef. Then Schettino abandoned his vessel while passengers were still struggling to save themselves.
Some survivors said the ship's crew adopted an "every man for himself" attitude and did little to rescue passengers. Others report the crew members they encountered did a better job helping passengers. What is especially worrisome about the accident is that cruise ships are much, much safer than they were during the Titanic era. The public has - or had, prior to the Costa Concordia - come to view ship travel as virtually risk-free.
Clearly, it is not. At the very least, that calls for governments where cruise ships are registered to re-examine regulations and their enforcement.