NTSB Report: Maintenance Deficiencies and Poor Training Led to Caribbean Fantasy Fire and Delayed Evacuation

Caribbean Fantasy FireThe National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) published its findings yesterday regarding a fire on the Caribbean Fantasy cruise ferry, operated by Baja Ferries, near Puerto Rico in August of 2016. You can read the NTSB's summary, proable cause findings, and recommendations regarding the fire here.

We reported on the fire at the time in our article Caribbean Fantasy Catches on Fire (with video).

The ferry was carrying 387 passengers and 124 crew members as well as cargo, trailers, shipping containers, trucks and cars.

The NTSB investigators found that the fire started when a pipe leaked fuel onto an engine’s exhaust manifold. The fire spread because fuel valves were bolted open. The fire quickly spread and overwhelmed the fire-suppression system (carbon-dioxide suppression and water-misting equipment) and then burned into the vehicle and cargo areas where cars burned and explosions occurred.

After an hour, the master ordered an evacuation which took 3 hours and 43 minutes, rather than the 30 as required under the international maritime standards.  

The ferry had just three life boats which could not accommodate all of the passengers and crew,  The remainder of those aboard had to slide down emergency chutes positioned above life-rafts (we have discussed these dangerous devices in prior articles like this and this).  Five passengers were serioudly injured due to the steep descent into the life-rafts. 

Investigators found that crew members had not been trained in removing pins to deploy the lifeboats. The crew was unable to release on of the lifeboats causing two passengers to fall into the water as other passengers panicked.

A NTSB investigator stated that if the accident had happened farther from port, in rougher seas or at night, “the result could have been catastrophic,” according to USA Today

As we reported back in 2016, between 2011 and 2015, the U.S. Coast Guard found at least 107 security deficiencies, of which 44 were related to the fire system used by the Caribbean Fantasy. The ferry reportedly had been detained three times in 2014, 2015 and 2016 because of failed inspections. 

Photographs of the fire, fire-fighting efforts and evacuation can be viewed on our Facebook page

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Photo credit: @pjpedrojuan/Twitter via ABC News, credit to the Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally). Caribbean Fantasy Fire

 

Still Smoldering Caribbean Fantasy Towed to San Juan

Early Saturday morning, a salvage team towed the still smoldering Caribbean Fantasy ferry to the harbor in San Juan, after the U.S Coast Guard had approved a towage plan. 

The Coast Guard published a video of the vessel being towed as well as photographs of the fire, fire fighting efforts and evacuation of the ferry which can be seen on our Facebook page. The photo to the right shows that the exterior paint on the ferry had been scorched and was buckling and peeling from the intense heat. 

The Coast Guard reported that the Puerto Rico Fire Department finally extinguished the fire on the Caribbean Fantasy passenger ferry using 3,000 gallons of seawater from the San Juan Harbor around 6 p.m. on Saturday.

The Caribbean Fantasy has a poor inspection record. According to a report today in the MarineLog publication, according to the Equasis data base, a whopping 10.53% of the ferry's inspections in the past 3 years have led to detentions. According to MarineLog:

"A U.S. Coast Guard inspection in San Juan earlier this month found four deficiencies related to fire safety measures and one related to the propulsion and auxiliary machinery. None was severe enough to warrant detention of the vessel.

The most recent detention recorded in the Equasis data base was in Gibraltar in July this year and was for six days and related to deficiencies related to the auxiliary engines.

In October of last year, the vessel was detained in San Juan for three days by the U.S. Coast Guard for three deficiencies related: fire safety measures (international shore connection); crew certificates (certificates of competency) and ship's certificates and documents (safety manning document)."

We previously reported that according to gCaptain, the description of the fire prevention deficiency reads:

"The condition of the ship and its equipment shall be maintained to conform with the provisions of the present regulations to ensure that the ship in all respects will remain fit to proceed to sea without danger to the ship or persons onboard. In the engineering spaces, PSCO found deck plates slippery and surfaces coated with an oily layer. Oil was seeping form machinery and all bilge surfaces had a 1″ thick layer of oil; bilge pockets were full creating a fire hazard."

A casualty investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) RINA Services and the country of registration, Panama.

Video and photo credit: Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jasmine Mieszala). 

Caribbean Fantasy Catches on Fire

Caribbean FantasyNews sources are reporting that the Caribbean Fantasy ferry has caught fire after sailing from the Dominican Republic to San Juan, forcing passengers to evacuate the vessel.

The fire reportedly broke out as the Caribbean Fantasy sailed near Puerto Rico's north coast, according to the Mirror

Photographs posted on social media show show the black smoke coming out of the ferry which is operated by the American Cruise Ferries.

Emergency slides can also be seen in the photos leading from the ferry down to the water and an inflatable life boat. It remains unclear how many of the over 500 passengers on the ferry went into lifeboats.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the ferry is reported to have run aground 800 yards off Punta Salinas.

Update: NBC News reports that "Gyno Funes said he was one of two mechanics in the control room when a hose carrying fuel burst open and caught on fire. 'We were trying to extinguish it for two hours, but couldn't,' said the other mechanic, Marlon Doblado, after the two reached shore. The extent of injuries was not immediately clear. Several dozen people who were carried in on stretchers were being treated for dehydration, high blood pressure and respiratory problems from the smoke, said fire department spokesman Juan Vega." 

August 19 2016 Update:  Caribbean Fantasy Detained in 2015 Over Fire Prevention Violation.

Puerto Rico: 105 Injured In Fire on Cruise Ship

September 14 2016 Update: Caribbean Business: Suit: Ferry that caught Fire off San Juan had numerous deficiencies.  "Between 2011 and 2015, the U.S. Coast Guard found at least 107 security deficiencies, of which 44 were related to the fire system used by Caribbean Fantasy, the ferry whose engine caught fire . . . Meanwhile, Caribbean Business received a photo from a source claiming that the vessel’s chief engineer and the oiler suffered severe burns during the accident. The photo purportedly showed the engineer with severe burns. However, the Coast Guard, through its spokesman, Ricardo Castrodad, said American Cruise Ferries did not inform them of anyone suffering burns."

Video credit: Mirror.

Photo credit:  @PRPDNoticias/twitter via Mirror.

Caribbean Fantasy Flunks Sanitation Inspection - Why Doesn't the CDC Shut Nasty Ships Like This Down?

Professor Ross Klein's website reports that the Caribbean Fantasy, operated by American Cruise Ferries, failed a surprise inspection by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month.  

The Caribbean Fantasy received a failing score of 81. The CDC report is, in a word, gross.

The CDC discovered major problems with the maintenance of the ship's potable water tanks and bunkering system. 

The most disgusting findings were the discovery of "numerous food safety violations" where the ship's American Cruise Ferries Caribbean Fantasystaff used storage lockers to improper store food and galley equipment and utensils.  CDC inspectors found "pests" in the storage lockers which started to be cleaned only during the CDC inspection. 

The CDC found a refrigerator out of order, an oven in the galley out of order, a door to another oven broken, and a dishwasher broken.

Among other disgusting findings by the CDC:

"Multiple condiments and salt and pepper shakers stored among soiled pots and pans."

"Numerous large plastic containers, pots, pans, baking sheets, and coffee carafes were stored as clean but still soiled with food remnants."

"Different sizes of live nymph cockroaches were under the shelves where galley equipment was stored."

Pest management receiving logs had prefilled comments, including "All deliveries free of infestation."

Some "rat guards were not installed."

You can read the report here.  

Earlier this week, we mentioned that the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC), as past of its Vessel Sanitation Program, gave failing scores to two cruise ships following inspections this summer. The cruise ships involved were Regent's Seven Seas Navigator and Un-Cruise Adventures' Safari Endeavour. Both ship flunked the CDC's sanitation inspections.

The Seven Seas Navigator scored a 79 and the Safari Endeavour scored a 81.

These dismal scores of supposedly luxury lines come at a time when the Silver Shadow failed in a highly publicized and spectacular fashion when the CDC caught the crew hiding 15 trolleys of meat, fish, cheese and other perishable items in crew quarters this summer. The CDC concluded that the Silver Shadow intentionally hid food outside of the galley as part of a scheme to obtain high CDC inspection scores.       

Time for the CDC to shut some of these dirty cruise ships down.

 

Photo Credit: acento.com.do