Mustering with Technology

Electronics have revolutionized how the cruise industry tracks passengers

Cruise lines follow regulations known as Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) that require a safety briefing immediately before or after sailing. That briefing includes instructions detailing passenger actions during an emergency. Within 24 hours of embarkation, passengers must be present for a muster drill, during which time they are shown how to put on lifejackets and board lifeboats. Many cruise lines conduct this drill prior to sailing.

As they arrive at their assigned muster station, each passenger will again swipe his or her card through a handheld unit maintained by a crewmember. The system provides a record of those completing the presentation. Anyone not attending will be contacted by a crewmember to attend another drill. Prior to the advent of ship management systems, keeping track of who did and who did not attend the presentations could be a logistical nightmare.

The ship management system can create batches of individual passenger, crew and visitor ID cards complete with barcodes and magnetic tracking data. These cards can be used for all shipboard operations such access control to passenger cabins and restricted areas. Only authorized crewmembers would have access to operational areas such as the bridge, engine room or medical inventory storeroom. The cards can also track onboard purchases.

This technology can be applied to any industry where tracking of employees and visitors in an emergency evacuation is essential — such as in large office building environments.


The Benefits

Here are several other areas where an electronic ship management system can provide added safety and security for passengers and crew.

• Mustering: The value of the system really shines in the event of an emergency. With passengers frequently heading to the closest — not their assigned — muster station, the crew needs to know quickly who has not reported at any location. As mobile readers at each station read the IDs, the system continually updates the list. If passengers have not reported in a reasonable amount of time, crewmembers can be dispatched to check cabins and other common areas. The system will show the last time and location a passenger’s ID card was used.

The system also has an offline mode that stores information if the network is not available during an emergency. Data is automatically synchronized once the network is back online. It can also apply medical codes to passengers for real-time triage tracking.

• Immigration: The system can provide rapid verification of passenger immigration clearance. Clearance is added to the ID card, thus eliminating the need for crewmembers to process the passengers other than having them swipe their cards as they leave the ship. An audible alarm will sound at the gangway if a passenger has not cleared immigration. The system provides a complete and accurate audit trail of each passenger’s status, which meets all International Maritime Organization and U.S. Coast Guard, ICE and Customs and Border Protection requirements.

• Age Verification: When an ID card is swiped through a system kiosk or mobile PDA, the passenger’s basic information and high-resolution photo are displayed. This enables the system to provide instant age verification for any venue such as lounges where alcohol is served, helping to reduce the cruise line’s legal liability.

• Excursion/Event Tracking: Another challenge for cruise personnel is making sure that all passengers disembarking for a day excursion are back on board that evening. The system helps track passengers throughout the day as they board water taxis or even land-based buses. When they return to the ship, a swipe of a card shows the passengers that have returned. A failure to check in at any point notifies the crew to begin searching for the missing person(s).


Anthony Zagami is the founder and chief executive officer of the West Palm Beach, Fla.-based Security Identifications Systems Corp. (SISCO), maker of the A-PASS ship management system.