Useful Terms and Phrases

The cruise industry is awash with nautical terms and abbreviations of all kinds. Here are some useful terms and phrases that frequently appear in today's news stories about the cruise business.

Classification societies — Private, third party organizations whose main function is to inspect the ship at regular intervals to ensure its seaworthiness and that its structure and machinery are maintained as required by classification societies' rules. Classification societies may, if authorized by the ship's flag administration, also inspect cruise ships for compliance with international safety regulations. Major classification societies include the American Bureau of Shipping (U.S.); Lloyd's Register of Shipping (UK); Det Norske Veritas (Norway); Bureau Veritas (France); and Registro Italiano Navale Group (Italy).

Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) — A trade organization composed of 13 member lines operating almost 100 vessels in Florida, Caribbean and Mexican waters. Created in 1972, the FCCA's mandate is to provide a forum for discussion on legislation, tourism development, ports, safety, security and other cruise industry issues.

Graywater and blackwater — Types of wastewater produced by ships carrying passengers or crew. "Graywater" is produced by showers, basins and in food preparation. "Blackwater" refers to sewage. On cruise ships, both are treated in accordance with regulatory requirements and beyond that, with industry environmental standards that frequently are more stringent than government regulations.

International Maritime Organization (IMO) — A specialized agency of the United Nations devoted exclusively to maritime matters and operations for international shipping. It was established in 1948 and has 165 Member States. Important IMO conventions include SOLAS (the International Convention for Safety of Life At Sea), MARPOL (the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships) and the International Safety Management (ISM Code).

International Labor Organization (ILO) — A UN agency created in 1919 to improve the conditions of workers and advance the cause of social justice throughout the world. The organization has a unique tripartite structure and brings together representatives of governments, employers and workers from over 174 countries.

International Safety Management Code (ISM Code) — Mandates a Safety Management System (SMS) aboard all cruise ships that comprehensively addresses operations and procedures to ensure the safe and clean operation of vessels, established and effective communications procedures (on board and shoreside), maintenance procedures and responsibilities, reporting requirements in the event of an incident, and other policies. This formalized system also requires both internal and external audit procedures to ensure compliance.

International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) — A comprehensive set of measures to enhance the security of ships and port facilities, developed in response to the perceived threats in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. The purpose of the Code is to provide a standardized, consistent framework for evaluating risk and the flexibility that enables governments to determine appropriate security levels and corresponding security measures.

International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) — An acronym formed by the first three letters of "marine" and "pollution," the MARPOL agreement has been ratified by 90 nations, including the U.S. It governs almost all aspects of potential marine pollution, including oil, chemicals, garbage and sewage and mandates proper disposal and/or discharge. All ships operating in the U.S. must also comply with U.S. regulations, including the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation Recover Act (RCRA), and the Oil Pollution Control Act. The cruise industry works with the U.S. Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal and state regulators to implement productive environmental policies.

North West CruiseShip Association (NWCA) — The North West CruiseShip Association works on behalf of cruise lines to build positive relationships with communities and government agencies and to develop strong partnerships with businesses in Canada, Alaska, Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest.

The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea — 1974 (SOLAS 74) — Ratified by over 150 maritime countries around the world, SOLAS is the primary convention that addresses all aspects of shipboard safety. SOLAS regulations are mandatory for all vessels on an international voyage visiting any signatory country and address important safety items such as: safety inspections and certification; structure, stability, machinery and electrical equipment; fire protection, detection and extinguishing systems; life-safety equipment such as lifeboats, life rafts and lifejackets; and equipment for safe navigation and communications. The SOLAS Convention in its successive forms is generally regarded as the most important of all international treaties concerning the safety of merchant ships. The first version was adopted in 1914, in response to the Titanic disaster. Since its adoption, it has been amended over 23 times and thus remains a vibrant, living and effective document.

International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, (1995) (STCW) — Addresses the requirements for training and experience needed by seafarers in order to be permitted to qualify for a maritime license as a ship operator or engineer. It also specifies knowledge, understanding and proficiency standards that must be demonstrated and evaluated for competency before an individual receives a maritime license or certificate.

U.S. Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) — U.S. legislation that mirrors the ISPS Code. MTSA is a set of regulations adopted by the Department of Homeland Security designed to protect U.S. ships and ports from a terrorist attack.

US-VISIT — Program administered through the Department of Homeland Security to enhance security by electronically recording the entry and exit of non-U.S. citizens into and out of the U.S. These security measures begin overseas, when a person applies for a visa to travel to the U.S., and continues on through entry and exit at U.S. air and seaports.

Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) — The Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) assists the cruise ship industry to prevent and control the introduction, transmission, and spread of gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses on cruise ships. VSP operates under the authority of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. Section 264 Quarantine and Inspection Regulations to Control Communicable Diseases). VSP is part of the National Center for Environmental Health's Division of Emergency and Environmental Health ServicesMore about VSP