Cabin Fire on Carnival Valor Vessel Again Raises Questions Regarding Maritime Safety

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

cruiseOur firm has learned that a fire broke out onboard the Carnival Valor on Monday while the ship was in St. Thomas. According to the cruise line, the fire broke out in a cabin located on deck 8 and delayed the departure of the vessel.   The guests who were staying in the cabin affected by the fire were relocated and adjacent cabins were aired out.  No one seems to have seen any flames, but many have noted they saw and smelled smoke emanating from the stateroom.

Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said the ship’s sprinkler system quickly extinguished the fire and that all other features on the vessel are functioning normally. The ship was expected to arrive in Barbados this morning as part of a 7-night sailing. So far, we haven’t heard of any injuries related to the fire and the only damage caused appears to have been isolated to the one cabin.

Passengers have taken to social media to discuss the cruise ship fire, including Cruise Critic member cbell21219, who talked about the fire on the site’s message boards.

“Crew doesn’t seem to worried,” cbell21219 wrote. “All of ship is working except certain aspects of the aft.”

While it is important to remain calm when an emergency situation arises, a cabin fire is an EMERGENCY situation, and downplaying the gravity of a problem is rarely the best way to deal with it. A fire on a ship is no small news. A fire can spread quickly and endanger the lives of all onboard the ship.

Sen. John “Jay” Rockefeller has called for a legislation requiring cruise lines to disclose their accident and crime rates to the public, which in the past (and present), lines have failed to do. Lines are not averse to revealing minor incidents but they do their best to keep serious accidents and crimes swept under the proverbial rug.

Why? Obviously so they won’t drive away potential cruisers. Cruise lines have a responsibility to provide for the safety of everyone onboard. A fire, word of an accident or of crimes committed onboard or at a port of call to cruise passengers can result in reducing a line’s popularity, thus reducing its revenue stream.  Consequently, the lines try to avoid disclosing negative information to the public.

The problem with this is that if cruise goers are not able to be fully aware of what happens on a ship before they board it, they can’t properly prepare for what might on their cruise to them and so become easy targets and unfortunately end up as victims of preventable harm.

Though it’s already been two days since the incident, the line hasn’t provided any more details regarding the matter. What caused the fire?  Was it the result of a mechanical problem with the ship or carelessness on the part of the cabin’s occupants?

Carnival has been extensively criticized for the way they handled another fire. The one that occurred last year on board the Carnival Triumph. Based on a compliance notice report that was recently introduced as evidence against Carnival in a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Triumph passengers, the criticism is well placed. The report suggest that Carnival was aware that the Triumph was at risk for a fire due to issues with fuel leaks involving flexible hoses.

According to the report, the Triumph had been advised to install spray shield on the vessel’s fuel hoses before the fire occurred. Carnival contends spray shields were installed fleet wide in January and February of 2013, yet the lawsuit argues that the particular fuel line involved in the Triumph fire lacked shields. Carnival’s response to that is that compliance standards ONLY require hoses above the deck plate to be shielded, not those below and that because it followed protocol with the above deck shields, the Triumph was “ SAFE” to sail.

As the largest cruise line in the world, should not Carnival have taken the lead in vessel safety and shielded all flexible fuel hoses regardless of whether they were above or below deck?

I know what you are thinking, costs. Why spend the extra money if you are in compliance with standard protocols?  Well, because when it comes to safety, costs should always take a back seat to all other considerations.  How much more money has Carnival spent to date dealing with the results of their cost saving decision?  I would venture to say a lot more than they would have spent installing the spray shields in the first place and I am not taking into account the loss in the standing of their stocks or in the damage to their Brand name and prestige.

When will Corporate America stop cutting corners with safety issues in order to save a buck? Probably never. That is why important for anyone who has suffered damages as a result of a cruise vacation to contact a maritime attorney for a free consultation regarding their case.