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Officials Work To Make Cruise Ships Safer

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Meghan McCorkell joined the Eyewitness News team in July 2011 as a...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Safety officials are cracking down on cruise ships. After a series of high-profile incidents, U.S. transportation officials say they want answers about safety measures on board.

Meghan McCorkell has more on the investigation.

About 22 million people are expected to take a cruise this year, and one of the fastest growing ports is right here in Baltimore.

Thirty-two lives were lost when the Costa Concordia ran aground and capsized off the coast of Italy in 2012. An engine fire left the Carnival Triumph powerless, drifting in the Gulf of Mexico for days with no air conditioning, no working bathrooms and limited food.

“You didn’t know if you were going to make it off that boat alive,” said passenger Barbara Anderson.

Passengers nearly loaded into lifeboats when a fire broke out on the Baltimore-based Grandeur of the Seas.

Now the National Transportation Safety Board is holding hearings into the safety of cruise ships.

“We were really focused on looking into the regulatory regime, how accident investigations take place around the world and looking into the early stages of how cruise ships come into the market,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman.

This month, the Coast Guard began unannounced inspections of ships. The most frequent issues found leaky lifeboats, faulty fire doors and obstructed escape routes. Ships with safety concerns will not be allowed to load passengers.

Thousands of passengers depart for cruises at the Port of Baltimore where both Royal and Caribbean and Carnival have ships based.

Port officials say the cruise industry generates 500 jobs in Baltimore and produces $90 million in economic activity for Maryland every year.

As the industry grows, US officials say they plan to do more to keep passengers safe.

The Coast Guard inspected 140 cruise ships last year.

The NTSB will focus only on transportation issues, not health or criminal issues on board ships.

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