The Financial Times article published last week titled Luxury Cruise Liner’s Launch Delayed as Dozens of Ships Face Potential Safety Hazard raised the issue that as many as forty-five (45) cruise ships may be equipped with faulty fire-resistant panels manufactured by Paroc. This raises important issue of safety for the guests and crew members on ships at sea. But the cruise companies which own and operate these ships are currently playing coy with the public. They refuse to acknowledge which of their ship have these Paroc panels, whether the panels are faulty and, if so, when and how they intend to deal with the potential fire safety problem.
As The Financial Times previously reported, Paroc apparently informed the newspaper that certain cruise companies have Paroc panels on their ships at sea. The newspaper reports that “Paroc has identified 45 boats in operation with the faulty panels.”
Carnival Corporation claimed to have not heard of the problem when The Financial Times first contacted it last week for a comment. Royal Caribbean initially refused to respond to the newspaper’s request for a comment. Both cruise lines are now acknowledging only that they generally know of some “concerns involving a third-party vendor” but neither have said that there is a problem which they acknowledge, much less intend to fix. Both companies are essentially saying “trust us, we’re looking into it.”
The cruise trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), which has a well earned reputation for a lack of transparency, is touting that the safety of guests and crew members is the industry’s “highest priority.” CLIA suggests, without even stating which cruise ships may be affected by the defective panels at issue, that the public should trust the industry to fix any problems that may exist. This is a hard sell in light of the fact that around 15% of the global cruise industry may be sailing with defective fire-resistant panels.
At this point, the public is left with unanswered questions whether the cruise ship which they are already on or have booked or are considering in the future may have the faulty panels installed. Here’s what we know so far:
The Explora I is the MSC-owned cruise ship, to be operated by the new luxury brand Explora Journeys, which had fire resistant panels fail fire safety certification as reported by the Financial Times. Explora Journey tells Seatrade Cruise News that unspecified “work is underway” and they are “working tirelessly” with the Fincantieri shipyard to “replace the affected materials immediately . . .” The number, size and location of the panels are unknown.
In any event, Explora Journeys says that the first sailing of the Explora I will occur on August 1 from Copenhagen.
According to The Financial Times, two ships in the MSC Cruises fleet are affected. One is MSC Euribia, which was previously delivered by shipyard Chantiers de L’Atlantique and is currently at sea with guests. The other cruise ship remains unidentified.
Seatrade Cruise News says that MSC Cruises and the Chantiers de L’Atlantique shipyard are “currently measuring which actions, if any, will need to be taken when it comes to MSC Euribia.”
MSC hedges its response further by saying “other ships afloat with the same insulation tiles are not automatically implicated.” MSC adds to the uncertainty with this nebulous explanation: “Chantiers de l’Atlantique, is working with the classification society and maritime industry experts to analyze the situation for MSC Euribia in detail and performing the necessary tests, and we will then develop any necessary action plans if required . . .”
The bottom line is that the MSC Euribia is currently sailing with passengers and there are no concrete remediation plans for the panels.
Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas:
Paroc’s website states that the Oasis of the Seas, which was built by STX Europe (formerly Aker Yards) over ten years ago in Turku, Finland, was insulated with Paroc insulation products. Paroc represents that”250 full truckloads of Paroc products” were used in building the Oasis of the Seas, including supplies to the “cruise ship cabins, corridors, ceilings and fire doors using our products in them.”
Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas:
Paroc states on its website that unspecified “insulation products” were also installed on the Allure of the Seas while built by STX Europe in Turku, Finland.
Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas:
Paroc lists the Adventure of the Seas as a client as well as its sister ships: Explorer of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas. Paroc claims that these Royal Caribbean ships “have all used our materials to guarantee the best possible insulation.”
There is no acknowledgement by Royal Caribbean that there is a potential problem with Paroc materials or a plan to replace Paroc products on any Royal Caribbean ship, including the ships listed above.
Tallink’s Baltic Queen:
The Baltic Queen is a cruise ferry which was built with unspecified Paroc materials, according to Paroc’s website. Again, there is no confirmation either by the supplier, shipyard or the vessel owner or operator that the Paroc products are faulty or will be replaced.
Norwegian Viva and Carnival-Owned Sun Princess?
The same shipyard (Fincantieri) currently building the Explora I is also working on Norwegian Viva and Sun Princess, as recently mentioned in Doug Parker’s Cruise Radio . However, there has been no word whether Paroc panels were used on these vessels or will be replaced.
A Carnival Corporation PR spokesperson told Seatrade Cruise News that “A60 insulation manufactured by Paroc … was installed on one ship in our fleet,” but Carnival otherwise refused to identify the cruise ship or its operator or indicate whether there is a potential problem with the insulation.
Gobbledygook from CLIA:
The cruise trade group CLIA did not identify any affected cruise ships or even acknowledge any issues with fire safety caused by the Paroc panels which failed fire safety certification. Instead, CLIA gave the following evasive, happy-talk non-statement to Travel Agent Central:
“The safety of passengers and crew is the highest priority for the cruise industry and our cruise line members—as is evident by the industry’s strong safety record and multi-layered approach to regulation, testing, certification and ongoing inspection of ships, in addition to advanced detection and mitigation systems and highly trained crew onboard. Our cruise line members are confident that the responsible parties are taking all steps to determine and resolve any issues, and they remain vigilant in monitoring of all safety systems to degrees that often exceed that of other industries and maritime requirements.”
As matters now stand, none of the cruise lines owning or operating the 45 cruise ships that may be affected by the failed fire safety product certifications have been forthcoming with basic information regarding what Paroc product have been installed, whether they are defective or whether there are plans to replace the faulty materials or make repairs.
In the Absence of a Strong U.S. Oversight Agency, Cruise Lines Are Permitted to Squirm and Evade Public Scrutiny and Accountability
This predicament illustrated the difference between the U.S. commercial aviation fleet and the foreign incorporated and registered cruise lines. If U.S. based airplanes were equipped with faulty components, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would identify and promptly ground all airplanes with the potentially defective products. Unlike reputable U.S. companies like Delta, United or American, cruise companies like Carnival or Royal Caribbean (both corporate felons for environmental crimes and cover ups) will try and get away with whatever they can and as long as they can on the high seas. The International Maritime Organization (IMO), unlike the FAA, has been called a “paper tiger” by the former head of the NTSB, and permits rogue actors like Carnival Corporation to get away with routinely skirting reasonable safety regulations with impunity.
Is the public really expected to take their families to sea on cruises without any assurance that the ships meet minimum fire safety standards?
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Image Credit: Explora I – Explora Journeys; MSC Euribia – ND44 – wikipedia / creative commons license 4.0; Paroc Product – paroc; Gandhi’s Thee Monkeys Bapu, Ketan and Bandar, at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. Kalyan Shah – Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0);
*/ Mr. Hall, head of the NTSB during the Clinton administration, says the industry is watched over by “paper tigers” like the International Maritime Organization and suffers from “bad actors.” “The maritime industry is the oldest transportation industry around. We’re talking centuries. It’s a culture that has never been broken as the aviation industry was, and you see evidence of that culture in the [Costa Concordia] accident,” says Hall.
Ships may seem and feel American but are mostly “flagged” in countries like the Bahamas or Panama in order to operate outside of what he says are reasonable safety standards. “It is, and has been, an outlaw industry,” says Hall. “People who book cruises should be aware of that.”