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.
The 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