Nightly News   |  January 15, 2012

U.S. Coast Guard monitors cruise ship safety

Safety standards require cruise ships to have public address systems, enclosed lifeboats and evacuation chutes. NBC’s Mark Potter has more.

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>> describe that scene of sheer chaos and a crew unable to handle an orderly evacuation, it is raising questions about the safety of cruise ships , especially if you're one of the 17 million people planning to take a cruise this year. we get more now from nbc's mark potter .

>> reporter: at the port of miami today, passengers boarded cruise ships headed for the caribbean and beyond. and they didn't seem at all worried for their safety.

>> not for a moment, i didn't consider canceling the trip.

>> reporter: the cruise ship industry is regulated under international maritime agreements and monitored domestically by the u.s. coast guard .

>> passengers should understand the ships are well regulated, they are safe. we evaluate the ships. we evaluate the proficiency of the crew and how they would respond to emergencies.

>> reporter: but there have been a number of serious accidents, including the 1991 sinking of a greek ship off the south african coast. the capsizing of the sea diamond in 2007 after it ran aground near a greek island , and a 2010 incident in which three huge waves struck the louie majesty in the mediterranean, killing two. under safety standards begun in 1914 , after the it the it the "titanic" sinking, there must be ships. they have to give safety briefings within 24 hours of setting sail. in the u.s., they're often given before the ships leave port. but on the costa concordia , some of the passengers said they were confus terrified after the ship struck a rock and began to list.

>> it was just complete chaos and no leadership, there is no one -- no protocol.

>> it was like where do we go? no direction. you know, we didn't have life vests on at that point.

>> reporter: when asked if that confusion could occur on u.s.-based cruises, a coast guard official said it was unlikely because of all of the safety reviews in this country. mark potter , nbc news, miami.