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

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

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

 

This morning I received messages from readers of Cruise Law News indicating that a passenger deployed a liferaft from a canister during a three night "cruise to nowhere" sailing from Australia. One person on the ship said:

"I have just returned from a 3 night cruise on the celebrity Solstice out of Sydney, Australia. On the 2nd night we saw one of the inflatable life boats had been deployed and the ship had to actually turn around and go back to retrieve it. We were told by several people that it was actually a passenger that threw the capsule overboard."

Other passengers mentioned that the cruise was a real booze fest during which someone apparently thought that Celebrity Solsticeactivating the liferaft was a good college-type-of-prank to perform.

I received a photo from another passenger, apparently posted on Facebook, but I don’t have a name for attribution. 

Activating a liferaft canister like this can be written off as a hair-brain shenanigan, but it is alarming to me. No one should have access to the canisters nor should they be able to deploy one. A terrorist or someone wanting to cause harm to the vessel’s operations could easily deploy a dozen of them if they are so easily accessible & deployable and there are no security precautions in place.

It reminds me of a situation several years ago when a drunken passenger entered a "restrictive" area and dropped the ship’s anchor on a Holland American Line cruise ship. You can read about that combination of drunken passenger conduct and ship security lapse here: Drunk Passenger Drops Cruise Ship Anchor.  

October 27 2014 Update: We received a comment from the IP address of Royal Caribbean (see below) stating that "Nobody deployed the raft . . . the raft fell in the water as the strap failed . . . we did check the CCTV cameras on Deck and we also have the video already . . ."

So what happened?  Did the canister deploy by accident? Seems like this should have been disclosed on the ship. Anyone have additional info?

 

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

Photo Credit:  Facebook

Allure of the Seas - Enough Life Boats?When the executives at Royal Caribbean trotted out the Oasis of the Seas several years ago, they took special efforts to tout that the evacuation and life saving systems on this huge ship were the best in the world. After all, this was the largest, most technologically advanced, and most expensive cruise ship in the world.

Cruise CEO and President Adam Goldstein characterized the evacuation system for passengers as a "holistic" approach to saving lives. You can read about the "holistic" design here on an official Royal Caribbean press statement.

Royal Caribbean produced carefully crafted videos showing that its "revolutionary" huge state-of-the-art 370 person capacity life boats would safely rescue the passengers if anything wrong happened on the high seas requiring an evacuation. 

You can see the video below with William Wright, who captained the Oasis from Europe to Fort Lauderdale, promoting the life boats as marvels of the sea. The video says that the new life boats have double redundancy: double engines, double propellers, and double rudders, in addition to well-lighted and spacious boats, which according to Royal Caribbean would ensure that the 16 crew members assigned to each life boat could comfortably ferry the 354 passengers to safety. 

You could almost hear the thoughts of the cruise executives: we have to assure our customers that this money-making-beast-of-a-ship can safely evacuate 8,500 passengers and crew who are jam-packed together in this highly compressed space. As a result, the public was presented with the nonsensical "holistic" message from CEO Goldstein and the slick video production starring captain Wright (since unceremoniously fired from the company) stating that the passengers are even safer in the life boats!

Many maritime experts believe that the size of the new huge cruise ships make it harder to evacuate quickly and safely. Cruise lines are required to evacuate all passengers and crew in just 30 minutes, which seems like a tall order considering that there could be as many as 8,500 passengers and crew aboard these ships. But CEO Richard Fain promoted his giant ships by claiming that evacuation is in fact Oasis of the Seas Chute and Raft faster on larger ships because "they have more entrances and exits." He went as far as to claim that passengers are actually safer in gigantic cruise ships. 

But what Royal Caribbean was not telling the public was that the life boats were severely limited in number and were only for the passengers. Crew members have to jump down a 60′ chute into a flimsy life raft – not a life boat.

The chutes and rafts are contained in canisters located on the ship which deploy and drop down into the water. I last mentioned these type of canisters following the fire aboard Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas last May which burned many of the canisters located on the stern of the cruise ship.

Take a look at the bottom video which shows a Royal Caribbean crew member who gets stuck in the chute and then flies out and lands violently on his back.  We’ve also written about an incident where 20 crew members were injured in a drill using a similar chute and raft system.      

Recently, the issue arose whether there are an adequate number of lifeboats on the Allure and the Oasis, after the Allure left one of its lifeboats behind in Nassau because of a problem with a cable.

There are only 18 lifeboats to begin with on these ships. Each life boat has a capacity of 370 people, cpnsisting of 354 passengers and 16 crew members who are responsible for overseeing the passengers and maneuvering the life boat.  With only 17 life boats, there is room for only 6,018 passengers; whereas, the Allure has a capacity of 6,296.

The passengers who are not permitted into a life boat will be forced to use something Royal Caribbean and its executives never touted as either revolutionary or "holistic" – the dangerous chute and raft system used by crew members. 

When we broke this story, there was a blow back by the cruise line and many crew members. Royal Caribbean claimed that "we had enough safety crafts for everyone onboard the ship . . . Our ships carry extra lifesaving vessels at all times." Unfortunately, the cruise line use of the words life "crafts" and "vessels" did not distinguish whether it has enough newly designed life "boats" for the passengers versus the dangerous old-school life "rafts" used by the crew.

"Stop nitpicking and creating a controversy!" seemed to be the sentiment by the cruise line and most crew members. These supporters of Royal Caribbean pointed out that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requires the ship to have 25% extra life craft capacity for the maximum capacity of the passengers and crew and there’s no evidence that the Allure was in violation of that when it sailed.

My response is that the IMO requirements are a minimum. More importantly, what about the executives’ promises of the revolutionary and holistic approach to saving human souls?  Are grandmothers and children and mothers with babies going to have to jump into the chutes into a lifeboat from deck four, commando style?

It seems so, and the cruise executives know it.  Take a look at the evacuation procedure diagrams on the Oasis. The schematics of the chute system depict passengers with children and mothers clinging onto their infants descending the chutes. These images are directly from Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships

The last comment posted to my article said:

"Stop nitpicking, whether it’s a craft, raft, or boat as long as there is something in case of an emergency i don’t think most people would care. These rafts are the same one the US Navy uses, if it’s safe for our troops it’s safe for me."

When people leave comments on my blog like this, they automatically leave their internet provider (IP) address. The IP address of this person indicated that the person sent the message from Royal Caribbean in Miami. Whether this macho man was a frustrated low level employee or someone in the operations or safety departments, I’ll never know. But someone over at the cruise line thinks that it’s okay (and a darn patriotic thing to do!) for passengers to jump down a 60 foot chute acting like Rambo.

I doubt that 75 year old grandmothers or little grand kids realize that they are signing up for this tour of duty when they embark on a luxury cruise of the Caribbean aboard the Allure or the Oasis.  

Perhaps the cruise line is right that it is in technical compliance with the minimal IMO requirements. But the cruise line should be transparent with its guests. It should tell its passengers that instead of a "holistic" rescue in "revolutionary" life boats, they should be prepared to act like a Navy Seal jumping into a raft in a combat zone.

 //www.youtube.com/embed/Yn6N1B6SvMs?rel=0

  

//www.youtube.com/embed/yVXkm9477w8?rel=0