Posted this before a while back - thougth it was pertinent here since we are discussing ferries and safety.
I have wide experience working on ferries, I have my degree in Ferry operations business, and work writing credit reports now for ferry and cruise companies as well as airlines, and so am reasonably well qualified to make certain observations.
Not wishing to be morbid, but ive been considering various things in preparation for a editorial review later this year. The title concerns the effects of a terrorist attack on a ferry or passenger ship, and it makes disturbing reading.
You say stadiums and tube lines are targets and should be avoided - i'd say that although easy targets, they are comparatively difficult to kill many hundreds or thousands - and are not specific enough to do real economic damage, like say, an attack on Heathrow which would paralyse the main artery of the country for a long time. Below is a c&p i took from some notes discussions ive been having - and i dont know about you but this scares the crap out of me. Its one of those things that the more you think of, the scarier it becomes.
Its very difficult to blow up a ferry. You would need many thousands of pounds of explosives to do any meaningful damage - they are very structurally strong - But its easy to kill nearly everyone on board. No need to blow it up - just set fire to it. Plant a small incendiary charge on a tank trailer on the vehicle deck - very easy to smuggle aboard and easy to place - pretty much untraceable, and unstoppable - once theres a bad fire on the cardeck - ie: refined petrochemicals in a tanker vessel or trailer you are in serious, serious trouble.
Hydrocarbons and refined products are dangerous and ferry operators usually prefer to put them outside on the weatherdecks for obvious reasons. Not all ferries have weatherdecks fore or aft, so for the most part the IMDG classed cargo goes on the vehicle decks. (IMDG - International Maritime certified Dangerous Goods - ie: petrochemicals, refined hydrocarbons, oxidising agents, flammable liquids, gases, explosives etc).
All vehicle ferries over a certain gross tonnage now have to have longitudinal bulkhead doors to prevent fires from spreading through the car deck but these are normally aluminium and will melt in eight or nine minutes, if the fire is hot enough - ie: if you are burning Kerosene. Either way, they are not air tight, normally there is a gap at the top to aid ventilation, and the other compartments will certainly flashover (air temperature in the adjoining compartment is risen due to transferred heat from the involved compartment to the point where the oxygen in the air combusts) before the doors melt. The vehicle decks have a degree of fire protection in the form of sprinklers, and sometimes halon gas flooders, but these are of limited use on a really severe petrochemicals fire. Then you have secondary explosions from petrol tanks, gas cylinders on caravans, and reefer units cooking off in the fire.
Expect smoke to fill the lower decks and begin rising into the passenger decks inside four minutes, and to reach the upper decks in six. Anyone below the car decks (most overnight ferries have passenger cabins and such below the car decks) is in real trouble, quite simply as smoke or fire may reach the stairwells down very quickly, and although the physics of hot gases and smoke dictates that it will take a long time to reach downwards, they will effectively block a stairwell - any exposure to the smoke for more than a few seconds will probably be lethal.
A terrorist would need to detonate the charge in the middle of the night - say, just before three, when everyone is in bed, and the crew are at their lowest state of readiness. If it is good weather there are probably only two people on the bridge, and probably only the second officer - the more senior deck officers often prefer not to take the really late shifts, especially on ferries. People react slower at night time. This includes emergency services. Also - it is SOP for the nightwatchman to be sent down to wherever the alarm is going off to confirm, before the main alarms are sounded - then the Officer in charge will sound muster stations and eventually an abandonment call.
For maximum effect, further incendiaries may be planted in cabins and lower deck areas where the fire may not be discovered until it has taken hold and become too intense to extinguish with hand held fire extinguishers. If planted in cabins near the main stairwells, you effectively cut off the lower decks and all the passengers in them. A horrible thought. Also a ship has a finite fightfighting capability, and if these fires are tackled, other fire belowdecks go unchallenged, and will spread accordingly.
The reason fires are so dangerous is because of the materials used in fitting out passenger ferries - when they burn they really do burn very quickly, and often give off toxic gases, which mix with the smoke meaning that from when you first smell smoke, unless you are perhaps thirty seconds from clean air ie: outside - open decks, then you will collapse from the toxic effects of the gases and die where you fall. The vast majority of people who died in the Scandinavian Star tragedy died because they didnt get out of the smoke quick enough and passed out from Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
Now think of this.
The newer breed of overnight cruise ferry, more often found in the Baltic, though also in numbers on English Channel, can carry more than 1,500 people in cabins, sometimes as many as 2,200. It takes more than ten to twelve minutes to get everyone out on deck at at the outside muster stations ready to embark the lifeboats and liferafts, after the first alarm has been raised. Think it probably takes thirty seconds to raise the alarm if the fire/explosion is on the cardeck, but much, much longer if it is in an enclosed upper deck space, such as the cinema, cleaning locker, or cabin block. The muster alarm may not be given right away - it is the call of the senior bridge personel at the time - they will usually go and wake the Master, assuming he is in his berth, and this will take time.
The design of ferries dictate that the upper superstructure is airtight, and that doors and windows are heavy and remain closed unless opened by hand, and will need to be chocked open - this takes time, and all the while the smoke from the fire(s) below will fill the whole upperworks very quickly. The bridge is able to reverse the air con system but this will only help, and not solve the issue, and indeed, the vents are usually on the deckspace outside, and the toxic fumes being vented from below will disperse over the crowds of people waiting to be escorted into liferafts on the decks - more exposure to the fumes which will further take its toll.
So, assuming the alarm is raised quickly and professionally, then the people who can get out of the rapidly smoke filling superstructure, will be gathered out on deck and awaiting the Master's signal to commence abandonment procedures - this will mean, again, assuming all is going well, that people will be preparing 25 person liferafts which will be lauched over the side with one crew member and 24 passengers in. The lifeboats will take 200+ each. This procedure should take no longer than 20 minutes to disembark everyone. By the end of this, the first of the helicopters will be overhead, again, assuming all goes well and the weather is fine, and any passing shipping will be on scene soon. If anyone goes in the water fully clothed in the winter ie: now, in the late summer, in the shallow English Channel, they have maybe fourteen minutes before they die of cold, less if the person is unfit etc. This time is much reduced in the colder waters of the North Sea, drops to about seven minutes in the winter time. Also bear in mind that the weather decks are six, seven or eight stories above the water on average on most ferries, and if theres a panic, then people will jump - assuming that the water will be safe - the cold shock alone will kill one in twenty, and the fall many more. There will be no help arriving for a long time - helicopters half an hour and even hours for another ship if the vessel is not in the lanes, and the vessel will probably still be afloat, but well ablaze - anyone left aboard after about forty minutes will be not be leaving the ship.
Potentially you could kill hundreds of people this way.
What a chilling and horrible prospect this little scenario makes. But removed from reality? Nope. Spanish police intercepted an ETA bomb plot to attack the Brittany Ferries Val de Loire out of the Basque port of Santander back in 1999.
Ferries are an easy target, and far easier and more devastating than a bomb on a plane or a truck bomb at a theatre. The terrorists must know this and thats why im steering well clear of overnight ferries and cruise ships for the moment.
[Edited 2004-09-29 15:47:02]
What do you mean you dont have any bourbon? Do you know how far it is to Houston? What kind of airline is this???