Cruise trade organization, Cruise Line International (CLIA), and the parent company of Explora Journeys, MSC Cruises, are rushing to try and minimize the fallout of The Financial Times’ article that the Paroc fire-resistant panels used during the construction of the Explora I failed fire safety certifications. The highly anticipated Explora I was scheduled to be delivered on Thursday July 6, 2023.

False and Misleading Excuses: Global Supply Chain Complications Related to the Pandemic and the Need For Further Enhancements to Make the Cruise Ship Perfect

A number of travel and cruise publications initially reported that the July 6th delivery date of MSC’s Explora I (to be operated by Explora Journeys) was “pushed back” by a few weeks for reasons unrelated to safety. Open Jaw and Travel Weekly both reported on July 5th articles that MSC and the Fincantieri shipyard claimed that the delay was necessary “to make further enhancements” to the new ship.  

According to Travel Weekly, a spokesperson for MSC subsidiary Explora Journeys also said on July 5th that: “Fincantieri shipyard and the cruise division of MSC Group have agreed to make further enhancements to the final work of Explora I, the first cruise ship for the new luxury brand Explora Journeys.”

Explora Journeys has previously cancelled both a shakedown sailing for media and Explora I’s initial inaugural sailing, citing alleged “global supply chain complications.” Again, there was no mention by Explora Journeys, MSC or Fincantieri that there were fire safety concerns with the faulty Paroc panels which had already been installed on the new ship.

Open Jaw said that “like many ships scheduled to launch during and following the pandemic, MSC Group’s new, small-ship luxury cruise line debut has been previously delayed due to ‘global supply chain complications,’ which, according to Cruise Week, were again cited in the latest delay.”

Cruise Industry News also reported the false and misleading excuses of MSC and Fincantieri in another article dated July 5th titled Explora I Delivery Pushed Back. The cruise publication cited, as reasons for the additional delay such alleged issues as unspecified “supply chain issues”and the “company wanting to get the vessel right and perfect for its maiden voyage.”

MSC went as far as to tell Cruise Industry News that:

“Undertaking the construction of a prototype luxury vessel is an incredibly ambitious endeavor that depends on a multitude of suppliers and subcontractors located throughout the world. It is not unusual for these complex supply chains to encounter unforeseen and even last-minute holdups.”

After several days of these misleading excuses by MSC, the Financial Times reported on July 8th that the real reason for the delay of the cruise ship was the fact that faulty fire-resistant panels, manufactured by Owens Corning’s Paroc and installed by Fincantieri, had failed fire safety certification. The Financial Times article titled Luxury Cruise Liner’s Launch Delayed as Dozens of Ships Face Potential Safety Hazard cut through MSC’s lies and deceit. We reported on the disturbing news in our article titled: The Launch of MSC’s Newest Cruise Ship, Explora I, Delayed Due to Faulty Fire-Resistant Panels. A number of other publication including Business Insider, as well as cruise fan sites like Cruise Radio and Cruise Hive also reported on the blockbuster story.

When did MSC know about the faulty Paroc panels?

Travel Weekly reported that “Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri was said to have first been informed at the end of May that a supplier had lost its fire safety certification for one type of panel used to equip Explora I. It is reasonable to assume that the shipyard (Finterieri) would have kept the ship owner ( MSC) if not the operator (Explora Journeys) informed of such a development. MSC clearly made a host of excuses for the last-minute delay in the delivery of the Explora I in early July.

The Financial Times also reported that the faulty Paroc panels had been previously installed on 45 other cruise ships currently at sea. Carnival Corporation claims to have not heard of the problem when The Financial Times contacted it for a comment. Royal Caribbean refused to respond to the newspaper’s request for a comment.

Smells of Overreaction, False Alarms and Sensationalistic Claims?

Today, MSC and CLIA are now trying to suggest that the fire safety concerns are over-blown. Travel publication Open Jaw, after publishing MSC’s lies that the delay was due to “supply chain” disruptions due to the pandemic and the company’s alleged desire for “enhancements” to make the Explora I “perfect,” suggests today in an article CRYING FIRE MSC, CLIA Respond To Report Of ‘Fire Hazard’ On Delayed Explora I that the safety concerns are “overstated.” Open Jaw claims that the safety concerns expressed in The Financial Times’s article “smells” of “sensationalism.” Open Jaw says MSC, Explora Journeys and CLIA “were quick to dash water on what they’re calling sensationalistic, overstated reports in The Financial Times about unsafe fire panels being the cause of the delay in delivering Explora I.” It goes as far as to irresponsibly accuse The Financial Times of engaging in a “false alarm.”

Open Jaw provides no information to support its argument that The Financial Times was sensational or that the Paroc panels, which failed fire safety testing, are somehow safe and don’t really need to be replaced.

Open Jaw also disputes without a factual basis The Financial Times’ findings that it would be difficult to replace “all the panels, fitted to both the floors and walls.” The fact of the matter is that Explora I has been under construction since June 1 of 2021 (over two years!). It would only stand to reason at this late date that replacing all of the defective materials would be time consuming and expensive. Open Jaw cites trade publication Cruise Week that “the cruise industry’s initial response to the news indicates a very manageable situation.” Open Jaw further claims, again without factual explanation, that “even if replacements are required, they can be handled during routine wet docks, certainly not expensive and logistically-challenging drydocks.”

Open Jaw, apparently, has no concern for the fire risk posed to passengers and crew members sailing in the time period between the ship’s launch and the subsequent completion of remediation during unspecified and undisclosed “routine” wet docks.

Regarding the timing of the necessary repairs, Explora Journeys said in a statement reported in Cruise Industry News yesterday that the necessary additional work will allegedly require only “a couple more weeks.” As a result, the cruise line suggests that “the delivery of the vessel has been pushed back (only) to July 24, 2023” and “the inaugural cruise, meanwhile, is now scheduled to take place on August 1, 2023.”

Putting aside the larger issue of how many defective panels have been installed throughout the cruise industry and the identity of the estimated 45 other cruise ships with the faulty panels (which Open Jaw and other complicit cruise supporters have not bothered to address), it seems overly optimistic if not completely unrealistic to suggest that the necessary repairs, replacements or remediations will be completed in just two weeks from today. Will the Explorer I really be delivered in a safe condition as early as July 24th and can the first round of fare-paying passengers really board the ship with any degree of confidence on August 1st?

Have a comment or question? Please leave one below or join the discussion on our facebook page.

Image Credit: Explora I – Explora Journeys; Paroc – Owens Corning Twitter

July 10 P.M. Update:

Travel Weekly reported this evening:

“According to the Financial Times, Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri was first informed at the end of May that the panel supplier, Helsinki-based Paroc, had lost its safety certification and that this week the panels were being recalled.”

Today, the line said it was “only recently made aware” of issues with the materials, which the Financial Times reported were faulty fire-resistant panels.”