NTSB Cites Human Error in Carnival Pride - Pier Crash in Baltimore

Carnival Pride AllisionThe National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its report yesterday regarding the allision* between the Carnival Pride and the pier and passenger walkway in Baltimore last year. 

On May 8, 2016, the Carnival Pride was attempting to dock at the cruise terminal in Baltimore, Maryland, when the ship's bow struck the pier and an elevated passenger walkway on shore, causing over $2,000,000 in damages.

The Carnival cruise ship was returning from a cruise to the Bahamas. It had previously taken on a pilot while it was in U.S. inland waters. 

The staff captain later took the helm and was navigating the Pride to the terminal. As the ship approached the pier, the angle of approach was too steep and the speed was too fast.

The captain took control of the ship from the staff captain and applied full thrust away from the berth to slow the ship but not before the bow struck the pier support columns.

The NTSB concluded that the probable cause of the crash was the staff captain’s errors during the docking maneuver (approaching the pier with excessive speed and at too steep of an angle) and the captain’s insufficient oversight. 

You can see photos of the extensive damage here.  

Read the full report here

Have a thought?  Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

Photos credit: Top - CBS Baltimore; bottom - NTSB report via gCaptain.

* Definition of "allision:" the action of dashing against or striking upon; example - by a vessel against an object ashore, in contrast to a "collision" between two vessels.  

Carnival Pride Allision Baltimore

Empress of the Seas Flunks CDC Sanitation Inspection

Empress of the SeasAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas flunked a surprise sanitation inspection conducted in early June. The Empress of the Seas scored a failing score of only 80.  You can read the report here. A score of 85 or lower is considered a failure.

The Empress of the Seas underwent an extended period of renovations in Spain and later in Freeport, Bahamas when the ship was transferred back from Pullmantur. Royal Caribbean canceled a total of thirteen cruises scheduled for earlier this year. The first sanitation violation related to the renovation and involved a bathroom for the medical staff which could be used only for storage and was "heavily soiled." Back in April of this year, Royal Caribbean told the Miami Herald that “as work has progressed, we learned that more significant infrastructure and physical improvements across the ship’s multiple galleys and provisioning areas were needed to meet our high standards.”

I was contacted previously by crew members, during the renovation period, who complained  of unsanitary conditions on the ship. There was talk that the CDC had inspected the ship and initially had not given the ship a passing score, although there was nothing officially posted on the CDC website. Several crew members said that the ship had fallen substantially in disrepair while operated by Pullmantur and had a major problem with pests.    

It is apparent, however, that once back in the Royal Caribbean fleet, the Empress failed to meet high standards. The report regarding the June inspection details forty four CDC violations, ranging from improper procedures to monitor acute gastrointestinal illness cases to incorrect potable water and swimming pool/whirlpool testing.   

The report included numerous references to live and dead flies and cockroaches around refrigerators, buffet lines and other areas used for food storage. The ships was also in violation of the CDC's requirement to use rat guards, and was utilizing rat guards on only one out of six mooring lines while the ship was in port.

A crew member states that the Empress was reinspected earlier this month, on July 10th, and received a score of 97.  If such an inspection took place, the CDC has not posted that inspection yet.  

Royal Caribbean, including its Celebrity brand, has failed other inspections in the past.  In 2013, the Celebrity Century scored only a 78.  The same year, the Celebrity Summit scored only a 81. The Monarch of the Seas scored a 85 in 2011. 

Two years ago, Market Watch published the 5 Most Hygienic Cruise Lines and concluded that Costa and Disney and three other smaller lines had never failed a CDC inspection. Since then, the Disney Wonder experienced a gastrointestinal outbreak in April of this year.    

We last mentioned the Empress of the Seas three weeks ago when it experienced problems with one of its engines, causing Royal Caribbean to alter the cruise ship's itinerary.

Photo Credit: By Jsausley - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Mismanagement and Lies Plague Cruise Ship Grounding

The U.K.'s Marine Accident Investigation Branch has concluded that a cruise ship which hit rocks and lost power last year was due to poor planning and "poor bridge team management and navigational practices." The cruise ship sustained major damage to its hull which disabled one or its two propellers. Yet, what makes this grounding particularly egregious is that the captain ordered the cruise director to tell the passengers after the dangerous grounding that "all is well" and he proceeded on with the cruise while neither the master, the cruise line nor its shoreside managers reported the incident to the U.K. Coast Guard. 

The controversy arises out of an incident In May of last year, the Bahamas-registered cruise ship, the the MV Hamburg, owned by Conti Group, bareboat chartered to Hamburg Cruises SA, and managed at the time by by V.Ships, grounded on charted rocks in the Sound of Mull, Scotland on its voyage to Tobermory.  

According to the MAIB report (Crown copyright, 2016), the Bahamas-registered passenger ship had MAIB Report Hamburg Grounding Crown Copyright, 2016previously left Bremerhaven, Germany bound for London, England. The ship was scheduled to complete a cruise around England, Ireland and Scotland, including Tobermory, Scotland.  The U.K. had issued a gale warning for the Irish Sea prompting the master of the Hamburg to increase the speed of the ship so to reach the protected bay of Tobermory before the weather deteriorated.   

The Tobermory harbor association informed the ship that it could not safely enter Tobermory Bay because other smaller cruise ships were moored in the bay.  However, the master decided to proceed toward Tobermory with a new plan to drift in the Sound of Mull, outside of the bay, until the other ships left the bay. The weather conditions included a moderate swell and the wind was force 6 to 7 gusting up to 40 knots.

Having been unable to enter Tobermory Bay on arrival, the bridge team did not re-evaluate or amend the passage plan.

After one of the cruise ships left the bay and, later, the second cruise ship pulled its anchor and proceeded to depart the bay, the Hamburg proceeded toward Tobermory.  Meanwhile, other vessels, the motor yacht Nahlin and a bulk carrier, Yeoman Bridge, approached the area. 

The officer of the watch and an inexperienced cadet on the Hamburg plotted the vessel's position on a paper chart, but were doing so 'infrequently and irregularly." At one point, the cadet observed that his plotted position of the ship was some distance away from the officer's position but closer to the shoals. However, he did not consult the officer and assumed his plotting was incorrect. This led him to remove his plotting from the paper chart using an eraser. 

The master was preoccupied with the marine traffic as the Hamburg approached the shoals and permitted the ship to hit the rocks. The ship "shook violently" as it struck the rocks but it did not become fast on the rocky shoals.  The port propeller was damaged with large portions sheared off and malformed; the port propeller shaft was distorted; the port rudder was displaced; and, the hull was heavily indented from the stern to mid-ship. The full extend of the damages was unknown to the master at this time. 

The ship temporarily lost power, due to the activation of a switchboard trip, and navigational systems and radar were temporarily shut down. Officers on the ship informed the mater that the main port engine had shut down and there was a problem with the port propeller and that it could not be used.  

The master decided proceeded on to Tobermory on one engine. The master ordered the cruise director to make an announcement to the passengers "telling them that all was well and that the cruise would continue." The MAIB report also noted that "despite the loud noise and vibration resulting from the grounding, the bridge team did not initiate the post-grounding checklist, (and) no musters were held . . "  

Upon entering Tobermory Bay, the master observed that there were many smaller boats which were moored in the bay. He decided to avoid the congestion and drop anchor near the entrance to the bay rather than at the position designated by the Tobermory bay association. A marine manager from the bay association arrived near the Hamburg in a powered rigid inflatable once the Hamburg had stopped and tried to communicate with the ship via VHF radio but was initially unsuccessful. She later communicated with the bridge team, advising them that there was more shelter further inside the bay but the officer of the watch said that the Hamburg would not proceed further into the bay. The ship began to drag the anchor and came perilously close to grounding again. The master then elected to back the ship out of the harbor and pull its anchor without further contact with the harbor association.

After leaving Tobermory Bay, the master attempted to notify the designated person ashore at the ship's managers, V.Ships, to notify him of the grounding. The master spoke to V.Ships office, but he did not reach either the designated person ashore or the back-up contact, identified in the report as the V.Ships fleet manager, according to the MAIB report. The master then telephoned the technical consultant at Hamburg Cruise SA.  "It was agreed that the vessel would proceed to Belfast, Ireland for an underwater inspection." The Hamburg Shipping consultant then informed V.Ships of the grounding.

Incredibly, neither the master, Hamburg Shipping nor V.Ships reported the grounding to the U.K. Coast Guard, or the Tobermory harbor association or the MAIB. The report then continues:

" . . . the Dublin Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) was alerted to the accident when the concerned mother of a crew member telephoned them. She had been having a telephone conversation with the crew member about the accident when mobile phone contact was suddenly lost. Fearing the worst, she contacted the coastguard. Dublin MRCC, which was aware of Hamburg’s new destination port, warned Belfast MRCC that the passenger vessel might have been involved in a grounding. Belfast MRCC then contacted Hamburg and, in conversation with the master, established that the vessel had grounded earlier in the day. The master also confirmed that Hamburg was proceeding using one of its two propeller shafts since one had been rendered unserviceable by the grounding, but stated that he was content with the situation and was not in need of assistance."

While the Hamburg proceeded to Belfast, weather conditions worsened overnight. With with only one working propeller shaft, Hamburg struggled to make progress to Belfast. The master chose to "heave-to" in the Irish Sea and wait for the gale force winds to abate before continuing on passage for Belfast. ("Heave-to" in the report means "when a vessel is headed into the wind and swell with its engines MAIB Report Hamburg Groundingrunning but her position does not change.") The MAIB found the decision to sail for Belfast “without first developing a plan with the vessel’s senior officers, technical managers and the relevant authorities ashore” was “inappropriate and incurred additional unnecessary risks.”

The full extent of the damage to the Hamburg was revealed only after divers inspected the hull once the ship arrived in Dublin and was later taken to dry dock. It took approximately three months to complete the repairs to the ship.  

In June last year, the ship's captain, Joao Manuel Fernandes Simoes, was prosecuted for failing to prepare a passage plan under SOLAS and failing to report the accident contrary to the Merchant Shipping Regulations. He admitted failing to properly plan the Hamburg's passage into the bay, and to report the incident to authorities. A Belfast magistrate fined him a total of £800 plus costs. No penalties were levied against the cruise line or the ship's managers. 

The MAIB comprehensively addressed errors by the bridge team and the failure to modify the ship's passage plan and other factors which led to the grounding. A number of newspapers and news organizations like the BBC covered this aspect of the MAIB report. In my view, accidents like this can happen even with the most experienced bridge team and mariners at the helm. But, to me, the media has not addressed the most egregious and indefensible aspect of the incident, namely the misleading and deceitful information ordered by the master to be told to the passengers, the decision to proceed to cruise to Belfast without fully understanding the compromised and unseaworthy condition of the ship, and the refusal of the master, cruise line officials and ship managers to notify the U.KS. Coast Guard, the Tobermory harbor association or the U.K. Marine Accident Investigation Branch.

The master should have obviously sounded a crew alert and mustered the passengers as required by the Safety Management System checklist while the officers checked the extent of the damage and determine whether it was necessary to abandon ship or disembark the passengers in Tobermory. The master's decision to sail on to Belfast in a damaged ship in rough weather seems particularly cavalier and dangerous to the passengers and crew members.    

Credit: Photos and report U.K. Marine Accident Investigation Branch (Crown copyright, 2016).

USCG: Top Cruise Ship Deficiencies for 2014

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) has released its list of the top safety violations for cruise ships for 2014. 

As you can see in the list of "deficiencies" below, the majority of the violations by cruise lines pertain to fire safety issues. The Coast Guard issued 329 deficiencies. Here is the list released by the USCG:

Fire Screen Doors Not Closing Properly - Fire doors didn't operate correctly.

Blocked Escape Routes - Hallways and doors used to escape were partially or completely blocked.

Crew Drills and Training Issues - Crews members were unable to operate fire suppression systems, U.S. Coast Guard - Cruise Ship Inspectionlifeboats and rescue boats and could not communicate effectively during fire and abandon ship drills.

Lifeboats and Rescue Boats Problems -  Lifeboats, rescue boats and launching appliances were in deficient shape. Davits and lifeboats were not operating properly and were missing equipment.

Improper Use of Space - Crew members stored combustible materials in spaces without adequate fire protection and suppression systems.

Fire & Smoke Detection Problems - Fire and smoke detection systems didn't work. 

Fire Suppression Problems - Sprinkler heads were in a poor shape or missing. Fire pumps didn't start and valves and CO2 systems didn't work.

Pollution Prevention Equipment Problems - problems were noted with bunkering station piping, marine sanitation devices, pumps, and oily water separators. 

Emergency Lighting Problems - Lighting to assist passengers and crew with locating emergency exits did not work.

Fuel and Oil Leaks -Engine rooms were found to have oil leaks around the main engines, in the oil purifier room and in shaft seals.  

It's a shame that the Coast Guard does not disclose which cruise line have committed the violations or the top violators. 

Have a comment? Please leave on below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

2014 Bahamas Crime Report: Armed Violent Crime Escalates

Crime Cruise Nassau BahamasThe  U.S. Department of State recently published  the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) crime report for the Bahamas for 2014.

It is a grim report.

It reflects the considerable problems with violent crimes against tourists and cruise visitors over the past year which we have been discussing.

We copied the relevant portions of the report below, but here are the highlights:

  • Population of the Bahamas' 700 islands is 353,000.
  • 70% of population is on New Providence Island (Nassau).
  • 15% of population is on Grand Bahama Island.
  • 15% of population is on the remaining "family islands."
  • Since July 2013, the government has not published national crime statistics.
  • Bahamas continues to have high crime rate, particularly on New Providence Island (Nassau), which continues to experience escalated levels of violent crime.
  • Bahamas experiences a wave of armed robberies at gas stations, convenience stores, fast food restaurants, banks, and residences.
  • Despite anti-crime initiatives, there is a significant increase in violent crimes in locations frequented by U.S. citizen tourists in New Providence (Nassau), with some incidents resulting in death.
  • Violent crimes occurs in in well-established tourist locations, close to cruise ship port and Cable Beach resort areas.
  • Armed robberies and purse snatchings remain most common crimes against tourists.
  • Criminals carry firearms, machetes, or knives.
  • Sexual assault has increased, with many victims drugged.
  • Crime has also increased on Grand Bahama island (Freeport) notably crimes involving use of machetes.  

Crime in Nassau Bahamas. We have written many articles about the high crime rate against cruise passengers and tourists in Nassau. We listed the Bahamas as the most dangerous cruise destination in the world.

Cruise lines are finally warning the passengers about the problem.

Here's a portion of the the official report:

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

"The Bahamas is a prominent tourist destination with cruise ship ports of call for Nassau and Freeport as well as an abundance of luxury resorts, including the world famous Atlantis and the soon to be developed Baha Mar. Over five million U.S. citizens visit or reside in the country each year. Approximately 80 percent of the tourists visiting The Bahamas are U.S. citizens.

The Bahamas is an archipelagic nation of more than 700 islands that cover a geographic region roughly comparable in magnitude to California. At the closest points - Bimini and Grand Bahama - the country is only 50 miles from the United States. As a result, the country is sometimes referred to as the “third border” of the United States. According to the 2010 census, the Bahamas has a population of 353,000. Seventy percent of the population lives on the island of New Providence where the capital, Nassau, is situated. Another 15 percent live on Grand Bahama, which has the country’s second largest city, Freeport. The rest of the population is dispersed over two dozen outer islands (commonly referred to as the “Family Islands”).

Crime Threats

While there has been a slight reduction in 2013 in some crime categories as reported by the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF), violent crime remains above the 2012 level. Since July 2013, the government has not published national crime statistics. The Bahamas continues to have a high crime rate, particularly on New Providence Island, which has continued to experience escalated levels of violent crime. Home break-ins, theft, and robbery are not confined to any specific part of the island. Generally, most reported crimes were perpetrated against local Bahamians in areas of saturated criminality not typically frequented by tourists.

The Bahamas has experienced a wave of armed robberies at gas stations, convenience stores, fast food restaurants, banks, and residences. Perpetrators of these types of crimes typically conduct pre-attack surveillance. There were several reports of victims being followed home after closing the business in an attempt to steal the nightly deposit. Several victims were severely injured.

The RBPF enacted a particularly forceful presence on New Providence Island in 2013, which included 12-hour police shifts, random armed police checkpoints, and a crime reduction plan in tourist areas. However, despite formidable anti-crime initiatives enacted by the government and specifically executed by the RBPF, during the past several months New Providence has witnessed a significant increase in violent crimes in locations frequented by U.S. citizen tourists. In some instances, these incidents have resulted in fatalities. In 2013, the police reported several incidents that either involved tourists or occurred in well-established tourist locations. Specifically, crimes were reported close to the cruise ship port (Prince George Wharf) and the Cable Beach resort areas. Of particular note, in May 2013, a U.S. citizen was shot and killed in New Providence during a violent altercation; in June 2013 a U.S. Embassy employee was robbed and suffered minor injuries while on the way to a Sunday worship service; in October 2013, the brother of a local political leader was shot and killed in a deliberate act of murder; and in December 2013 four locals were killed and 10 wounded in a hasty drive-by shooting using an automatic weapon. The upsurge in criminal activity has also led to incidents that could place innocent bystanders at risk.

Armed robberies, property theft, purse snatchings, and general theft of personal property remain the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists. Many criminals carry firearms, machetes, or knives. Unless provoked, criminals engaged in property crimes do not generally engage in gratuitous violence. There have been several reported armed robberies using a knife where the assailant assaulted the victim after the victim fought back and resisted. Many of these armed robberies were snatch-and-grabs involving purses, jewelry, and gold necklaces.

Residential security also remains a great concern, with the police reporting a large number of home burglaries and break-ins, including the December 2013 robbery of the Acting Prime Minister at his residence. A number of armed home invasions that occurred in both New Providence and Grand Bahama in 2013 occurred very close to U.S. Embassy residential housing.

Criminal activity in the Family Islands occurs less frequently. The Embassy has received reports of burglaries and thefts, especially thefts of boats and other watercraft. Grand Bahama is somewhat of an exception, in that criminality has increased on that island, notably crimes involving the use of machetes (large blades).

The U.S. Embassy has received an increase of reports of assaults, including sexual assaults at residences, hotel rooms, casinos, outside hotels, and on cruise ships. In some sexual assault incidents, the victim had reportedly been drugged."

 

Photo Credit: Top - Nassau Bahamas Press

Cruise Crime Cover Up: Cruise Lines Report Only Small Fraction of Crimes to the Public

WPTV Cruise Ship CrimeWPTV West Palm Beach aired an interesting program last night indicating that the cruise industry reports only a small percentage of crimes committed on cruise ships.

Last year the cruise lines reported only 78 crimes on cruise ships.  However, pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the news station located reports of more than 300 crimes on just cruise ships leaving from Florida ports. 

In 2013, the cruise lines disclosed only 14 thefts from cruise ships. However, WPTV's Dan Krauth stated that a FOIA request uncovered 75 thefts on cruise ship on Florida-based cruise ships alone. Under current U.S. law, cruise lines have to report only thefts involving property worth $10,000 or more. So if $9,999 of a passenger's stuff is stolen, the cruise lines keep it secret.

Jewelry, computers, money and other valuables were stolen essentially on every single cruise leaving Florida last year but only a tiny fraction of the thefts were reported by the cruise lines to the police. 

The cruise industry conceals the vast majority of physical assaults, sexual assaults and thefts which happen during cruising. It also touts crime statistics based on the incomplete database, creating a false and misleading impression of what really happens on the high seas. 

 

 

WPTV interviewed me during the program. The news station also cited a publication by our firm's former law clerk, Caitlin Burke, explaining that cruise ships evade U.S. law by incorporating in foreign countries and registering their cruise ships in places like the Bahamas. “Flags of convenience” date all the way back to the 1920s, according to Caitlin E. Burke, an advocate for cruise victims. “Flagging a ship under a foreign flag for the convenience of the cruise line is nothing new, nor is it rare,” Burke wrote in A Qualitative Study of Victimization and Legal Issues Relevant to Cruise Ships.

Interested in this issue?  Read Cruise Industry Launches False Crime Statistics Campaign

Credit: video and photograph WPTV

Miami Herald Editorial: "Report, Punish Crime on Cruises"

The following is an editorial / opinion piece by the Miami Herald which was published tonight:

"Crime on the high seas isn’t just about illegal commercial fishing practices, drug-running and Somalian pirates. Unfortunately, it also comes in the form of sexual assault, theft and suspicious disappearances on what are supposed to be pleasure cruises.

Under pressure from Congress, specifically, a consumer-safety bill introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, of West Virginia, the three largest cruise lines, Miami-based Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, agreed to release the data of alleged crimes reported on their ships. Combined, they make up 85 percent of the industry. The crime stats will allow potential passengers to make better-informed decisions, just as the flying public can access information on airline safety and car buyers can find out which are the most road-worthy.

The crime data’s release should also propel cruise lines to take the problem as seriously as their CEOs say they do. In South Florida, cruises are a bread-and-butter industry, boosting the economy and luring tourists back again and again.

Given the multitude of cruises that depart annually, there isn’t anything akin to a crime wave on cruise ships. However, Sen. Rockefeller is right to be perturbed by how many cruise lines handle — or fail to handle — crime reported on board. Cruise-industry leaders announced their crime-data release agreement last week during a hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation.

It’s been a rough 18 months for the cruise industry. The public has heard unsettling news of cruise ship fires, read published messages sent from frightened and beleaguered passengers adrift in the dark and, most disturbing, seen dramatic photographs of the Costa Concordia, beached off the Italian coast, lying on its side, swamped with water, 32 passengers dead. Because of the public nature of these incidents, cruise-line leaders were equally as public in taking responsibility for what went wrong.

Less so, however, when it comes to crime aboard cruises to exotic locales. Legislation in the U.S. House and Senate would require the information be made available to the public. Before, only crimes that no longer were being investigated by the FBI were made public. As a result, potential passengers only had misleading information to go on. A report showed that 130 alleged crimes in categories specified by the cruise safety act had been reported to the FBI in 2011 and 2012, but only 31 of those had been reported to the public during that time. Cruise lines reported a total of 959 alleged crimes overall to the FBI, the document says.

There’s another serious problem that lawmakers should address: Some cruise lines egregiously help crew members accused of sexual assault and other crimes elude prosecution. Unfortunately, it’s an old story being given new life in an awful case reported by WKMG-Channel 6 in Orlando. A crew member on a Disney cruise was caught on video molesting an 11-year-old girl while the ship still was in port. Ship authorities waited a full day before reporting the crime to the FBI. By that time the ship was on its way to the Bahamas, where the alleged perpetrator was allowed to disembark, out of the reach of U.S. law enforcement. Disney then did the guy a further favor and flew him home to India.

According to the website cruiselawnews.com, “Disney was able to avoid the U.S. investigation into the incident while making certain that any investigation was handled only by the Bahamas which, theoretically can investigate shipboard crimes because Disney cruise ships fly Bahamian flags of convenience.” But the Bahamas has a lousy record of investigating such crimes.

Lawmakers must pressure guilty cruise lines to confront and end this deplorable practice. Merely reporting the number of onboard crimes brings little comfort if perpetrators are not brought to justice." 

Disney Cruise Line Sexual PredatorRead other articles regarding this problem with Disney Cruise Line:

"Sickened" By Molestation of Child on Disney Dream, Brevard County Attorney General Vows to Zealously Prosecute Cruise Ship Crimes

Images of a Disney Nightmare: Are Your Kids Safe Sailing With Disney?

Did Disney Cruise Line Really Sail a Crime Scene from the U.S. to Nassau? International Press Focuses on Disney Child Molestation Case
 

NBC News Discusses Cruise Ship Crime Statistics and Overboard Passengers

Today a local NBC station in South Florida posted a video of the recent disclosure of cruise ship crime statistics.

You can read the article here.

The video (below) includes an interview with me about the provisions of the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2010 (CVSSA) which permitted cruise ship crimes and man-overboard incidents to be concealed from the public. Only incidents which were reported to the FBI and then the FBI closed the investigation could be disclosed to the public.  

The cruise lines were successful in inserting language to this effect into the CVSSA in order to conceal the vast majority of alleged crimes and overboards from the public.

 

Better Late Than Never? U.S. Coast Guard Releases Report Over 2 & 1/2 Years After Catastrophic Carnival Splendor Fire

Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Coast Guard finally released its report regarding the engine room fire which disabled the Carnival Splendor cruise ship on November 8, 2010.

The Coast Guard's reported concluded, in a nutshell, that cylinders in one of the large diesel engines sustained a catastrophic failure with the rods and pistons cracking and exploding out of the engine which permitted lube oil and fuel oil to ignite. The pistons sustained long term metal fatigue which was not checked due to an absence of appropriate maintenance and record keeping by Carnival.  Other parts of the engine showed severe, advanced corrosion reflective of an absence of regular inspection and maintenance.

Carnival Cruise Line - Splendor FireThe fire was not suppressed due to the failure of the CO2 system and mistakes and a lack of training by the ship's crew. The crew reset the automatic suppression alarm and failed to manually activate the water mist system which permitted the fire to spread. It took the crew two hours to locate the fire due to the firefighters' unfamiliarity with the engine room. The Coast Guard faulted the crew for using portable dry chemicals and carbon dioxide extinguishers rather than fire hoses. And the captain permitted the fire to continue by trying to ventilate the engine room before the fire was completely extinguished. 

You can read the report here

Although the Coast Guard was critical of Carnival's neglect in inspecting and maintaining the engine which failed, it should be pointed out that the Coast Guard conducted an annual Control Verification Exam on November 7, 2010 and passed the vessel. What an embarrassment for the Coast Guard to have inspected the cruise ship the day before the fire and permitted it to sail with passengers. 

Another interesting pint is the time line of the fire. The fire was not finally and completely extinguished for over nine hours. This is a far cry from the initial reports from the cruise line which tried to reassure the passengers that the fire was not a big deal and was under control, 

Its curious why it took well over two and one-half years for the Coast Guard to release its report. The reality is that the Coast Guard and the cruise line and the companies which the cruise line pay to become involved in the investigation exchange information and review a draft copy of the Coast Guard report before it is "official" and is released to the public.

A month after the fire, the Coast Guard issued two Marine Safety Alerts regarding the CO2 firefighting system on the Splendor ship which failed to operate. Here's our article about the Coast Guard's initial finding in December 2010: Carnival Splendor CO2 Firefighting System: "A Recipe for Failure."

 

Photo Credit: Denis Poroy/Associated Press via New York Times

What Caused the Grandeur of the Seas Fire?

Its been a week since a fire erupted on the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas.  

There has been widespread praise for the actions of the crew in extinguishing the fire, and for the manner in which the cruise line's public relations representatives kept the public informed via Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media.

But there has been little focus on the facts and circumstances surrounding the fire. What caused it? Why did it take two hours before the fire was extinguished?  And what can be done to prevent a cruise ship fire like this in the future?  

Grandeur of the Seas FireFew people are expressing interest in these basic questions. Most discussions at cruise and travel sites address the cruise line's compensation of reimbursing the cruise fare, chartering flights back to Baltimore, and providing a discount on a future cruise.

The cruising public seems focused primarily on obtaining a fun and affordable vacation.  When things go wrong during cruises, the focus turns primarily on whether passengers are going to get their money back and obtain other reimbursements for the lost vacation.    

The few websites which have addressed the issue of why the fire occurred almost uniformly seem to conclude that the public should not speculate, and everyone should wait until the "official report" is released.

What a naive thought. There still is no official report released into the cause of the fire which disabled the Carnival Splendor off the coast of Mexico in November 2010.  That was two and one-half years ago. The investigation is the responsibility of the flag-of-convenience country, Panama. Although Panama permitted investigators from the U.S. Coast Guard to be involved, it is Panama which is running the investigation.

The Bahamas is the flag-of-convenience country for the Grandeur of the Seas and is responsible for the investigation into the cause of the fire.  Although the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) were invited to be involved, the Bahamas will be calling the shots. The Bahamas is also the flag state for the fire-disabled Carnival Triumph and there is no "official report" yet about that fire four months ago,  

Will the Bahamas prepare an objective, thorough, honest and timely report into the cause of the Grandeur fire? Don't expect one anytime soon.  

Many people who have contacted us point out that the aft of the cruise ship where the fire started is a location where crew members catch a quick smoke.  There is also a crew bar on the stern of the ship. Did a crew member flick a cigarette which ignited the mooring lines?  If true, that would be an unpopular theory considering the great amount of praise that the crew members are receiving for extinguishing the fire.

If a cigarette was involved, was it flicked from an upper passenger balcony?  We will probably never know the culprit. A cigarette can cause a fire which smolders and then suddenly bursts into flames, like the deadly Star Princess fire in 2006.

Was it a fire of an electrical origin? Some have suggested that. Was it arson and intentionally set? I have heard that too.

Why was the fire not automatically extinguished?

Should the public be asking these questions? Is it appropriate to demand honest answers sooner than later?

Or should we avoid speculation and wait several years to see if an "official report" is finally issued by the Bahamas several years from now? 

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June 3 2013 Update: We received this interesting information from a experienced crew member who wishes to remain anonymous:

"If the fire initiated on deck 3 aft, this is the place where are located all the mooring ropes, and it is also the mooring deck. Now you know from the fire on the Ecstacy, how much are dangerous the polypropylene mooring ropes, once they are ignited. The mooring deck 4, is also officially a smoking area for crew, it seems strange, but it is what it is. All crew, specially from galleys goes in the aft mooring deck for smoking and mingling together, although this is nonsense, still Royal allows to do so. I personally think that a cigarette butts once again, started it all. I cannot conceive anything else. To be noted that in the aft mooring deck, there is also the CO2 station, with all the batteries of big CO2 cylinders that are deputed to extinguish fires in the engine rooms, if this area is compromised, CO2 will be affected as well. Also, I am sure Royal made all the possible moves to make disappear the 2 barbecue grills that are located there, mooring deck aft is also the place where once a month all crew gather together for a nice party, usually hosted by the deck department.......

Since the fire on the Ecstasy, SOLASs wanted to install a sprinkler system also in the mooring deck, but this system is manually activated then is not activated automatically. If the sprinkler were automatic, fire would be extinguished more quickly. In the aft mooring deck, is located also the paint locker, a source also of a lot of things that can get easily fire.

One deck above the mooring deck, there is the crew bar area, where it is possible to smoke as well. It is also the place where a lot of crew get trashed with alcohol. I don't exclude also, that someone might throw a cigarette overboard, and this returning back on board, ignited the mooring ropes,,,,very easy, again happened in the past, with Princess and the fire in the balconies. The crew bar is open deck, one deck above the mooring deck, on this level there is also the emergency diesel generator. One deck above, on level 5, there are the spare life rafts and the crew muster stations.

This time they were lucky, because a massive fire, could have the ship totally impaired, CO2 stations, emergency generator, crew muster stations, spare life rafts might all getting burned......."

      

Photo Credit: Reuters

Cruise Ship Fires & Missing Children: Will the Bahamas Ever Release Reports?

The fire on the Carnival Triumph cruise ship is being investigated by the Bahamas because Carnival elected to register the Triumph in that country to avoid U.S. taxes, labor and safety laws. As the "flag state" for the Triumph, the Bahamas is charged with the responsibility of investigating fires, casualties and crimes on that ship. The Bahamas requested the involvement of the U.S. Coast Guard as well as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The questions arise will the Bahamas really conduct an objective and honest investigation? Will it ever release a copy of the final report into the investigation into the fire?  And if so, when?

Carnival Triumph Cruise Ship Fire In considering these questions, remember that in the last disabling fire on a Carnival cruise ship several years ago, the public has still not seen the report of the flag state. In November 2010, the Carnival Splendor caught on fire and was disabled.  Because Carnival flagged the Splendor in Panama, Panama was responsible for the official investigation. Panama called upon the U.S. Coast Guard to assist it. The Coast Guard finished its reports to the officials in Panama long ago.

The Coast Guard quickly sent out "marine safety alerts" about the design defects and construction and maintenance shortcomings in the Splendor engine room.  Remarkably, the Coast Guard did not even identify the Splendor in its alerts.

It's now going on two and one-half years later but Panama still has not released a report.

Will Panama ever release the report?  Not if Carnival doesn't want it to.

Who has authority to force Panama or the Bahamas to release a report or punish them if they refuseto do so?  No one. There is no U.S. federal oversight organization. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is toothless.  A former NTSB chairman called the IMO a "paper tiger."  This is exactly how the cruise lines want the system to work.

Two years ago, Disney youth counselor Rebecca Coriam disappeared from the Disney Wonder cruise ship.  The Bahamas was responsible for investigating the disappearance because Disney registered Disney Cruises Rebecca Coriamthe Wonder in Nassau to avoid U.S. taxes, labor and safety laws.  

The Bahamas sent a lone policeman to Los Angeles to meet the cruise ship when it returned to port. He conducted a short visit on the ship and concluded his report long ago. But the Bahamas refuses to send Rebecca's mother and father a copy of the report.  

After the Triumph was towed to Mobile, a newspaper article appeared in a Bahamian newspaper that the Bahamas was sending detectives to the U.S. to investigate a sexual assault on the Triumph. The Bahamas denied that the ship where the rape was alleged was the Triumph. It disclosed only that a Bahamian flagged ship was involved. The Bahamas promised to provide information once its detectives returned from the U.S. Of course, it has released nothing.    

If your child vanishes on the high seas, or you are raped during a cruise, or your family flounders for a week on a stinky fire-stricken ship, flag states like the Bahamas and Panama don't believe that they have any obligation to release any information to you.  Their alliances are with the cruise lines which fly their flags. Companies like Carnival and Disney hide behind the foreign flags and are complicit in the conspiracy to deceive the public.

It's a dishonest, secretive, rotten system.  Its a system designed to conceal the truth and to avoid the foreign flagged cruise lines from embarrassment.  

Continuing Negative Cruise News Beats Royal Caribbean Down

The 2012 second quarter earnings results are in for Royal Caribbean Cruises and its not good news.  

The cruise line reported a net loss for the second quarter of this year of $3,600,000 - compared to net income in the second quarter of last year of $93,500,000.

Slightly fewer passengers sailed on Royal Caribbean cruise ships during this last quarter compared to 2011.

The CEO of the cruise line, Richard Fain, tied the decline in passengers and net income to the Costa Concordia disaster in Italy in January, where 32 passengers and crew died. "The steady drumbeat of negative news emanating out of Europe is certainly having an effect," Fain announced at the conference call to analysts.

Cruise Lines Often Don't Report Crimes

A local ABC affiliate in Boston WCVB TV5 recently aired a special investigation into the issue of cruise ship crime: "Crimes On Cruise Ships Often Not Reported - Local Victims Hope Laws At Sea Change."

The ABC affiliate accurately concludes that cruise lines are not required to report crimes on cruise ships in international waters.  The consequences of having no legal obligation to report a crime means that there is no consequence when the cruise line does not report the crime - such as in the case of Merrian Carver.  

Ms. Carver "disappeared" from the Mercury cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean's subsidiary Celebrity Cruises.  But Royal Caribbean did not report her missing and tried to cover the incident up.  ABC PrimeTime aired a special on this disturbing case "Cruise Cover Up - Cruise Line Doesn't Notify Anyone When Woman Disappears On Second Day of Tour."  

We have written many articles about the cover up by Royal Caribbean, and the fight by Ms. Carver's Angela Orlich - Sexual Assault - Cruise Victimfather Ken Carver who continues to advocate for the safety of cruise passengers and demand transparency by the foreign flagged cruise industry.     

The ABC TV5 investigation also focused on the story of our firm client, cruise passenger Angela Orlich, who was sexually assaulted during a diving excursion while on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  The program also touches upon the well known case of George Smith IV who died during his honeymoon cruise on Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas.  We represented Mr. Smith's widow, Jennifer Hagel.

After the story aired, the cruise industry's trade group, the notorious Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), complained on the station's web page that the story was "inaccurate."  CLIA George Smith IV - Missing - Cruise Victimclaimed that the story misled the public because U.S. law allegedly "requires cruise lines to report allegations of crime involving U.S. citizens no matter where the ship is in the world."  This is not true.  CLIA has no credibility and earned a reputation for bogus statements like this long ago.  Take a moment and read "Cruise Line Pravda" or learn about CLIA's dubious cast of characters here

In truth, there is absolutely no law requiring cruise lines to report crimes outside of 12 miles from shore.  

It also telling that CLIA took the time to complain about the news program, but didn't bother to apologize to Ms. Orlich or express sympathy to the parents of Ms. Carver and Mr. Smith who lost a child during a CLIA cruise. 

Unfortunately, such dishonesty and insensitivity characterizes CLIA and the cruise industry. 

 

 

 

 

Credits:

Video           ABC affiliate in Boston WCVB TV5