Fred Olsen Cruise Lines is making its fleet more accessible to disabled customers in a bid to pre-empt government legislation.

Passenger manager Chris Hutchings said the cruiseline is purchasing 10 stair walkers – two for each of its five ships -which it will use to help disabled people to embark and disembark on gangways in various ports.

The stair walkers should be in use by the autumn and will help beat any potential government legislation, which is expected to overturn the cruise industry’s current legal exemption from providing access and facilities for the disabled.

Hutchings said: “We are going to be forced in that direction with legislation we need to prepare for when the government says the situation needs to change.”

Passenger Shipping Association director Bill Gibbons said it is expected that the government will seek to alter current legislation and bring the cruise industry in line with other forms of public transport within the next five years.

The Association of Cruise Experts is to add information about disabled access and facilities on board ships to its website by the end of next month.

Director of business development Andy Harmer said ACE was responding to agent enquiries about onboard dialysis machines and disabled access.