Carnival Corp. Continues String of Maritime Accidents with Carnival Elation Equipment Failure Incident

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

It seems as though Carnival Corp. is in a race to attain a world record for “Most Cruise Ship Breakdowns” in a single fleet. The Triumph, Dream and Legend have all experienced some sort of crippling mechanical problem in the past month, and now, another Fun Ship cruise vessel has joined the list of disabled vessels.

The Carnival Elation is the latest Carnival Corp. vessel to join the cruise ship breakdown club. The Elation ran into some mechanical problems of its own last weekend with its Azipod propulsion units and had to be escorted back to its home port in New Orleans, LA by a tugboat.

The scene was all too reminiscent of the Carnival Triumph debacle that took place in February when a cruise ship fire overtook the vessel’s engine room, leaving it without power, and leaving passengers to endure five torturous days at sea without working toilets, sloshing amidst overflowing waste and sewage, and having their lives placed at risk for life-threatening illnesses.

Carnival officials released a statement regarding the Elation mishap, claiming the ship experienced “a minor issue with the steering function of one of its two Azipod units,” and while both units were operational, “the steering function of one has been temporarily taken offline until it can be repaired.

According to Carnival, the ship is designed to be able to steer with just one Azipod unit. If so, then why was the vessel brought back to port with a tugboat keeping watch over it just in case it became fully disabled?

“In the interest of extreme caution, we requested that a tugboat remain alongside the ship as it maneuvered away from the dock and into the river in New Orleans,” claimed Carnival, stressing that the ship was not being towed. “The tugboat trailed the ship down the Mississippi for good measure, although it was not needed. The ship’s full itinerary is expected to operate normally.”

Cruise companies have a tendency to downplay incidents that occur on their ships, especially those that can lead to serious cruise ship passenger injuries. And while Maritime Law requires all cruise ship operators to maintain a safe environment onboard, as can be seen from the string of never-ending accidents, safety appears to be low on the cruise industry’s list of priorities.

As far as Carnival is concerned, the Elation will get ready to board the next wave of passengers, but when will the ship’s operators even have time to fully execute an investigation into the propulsion problem? This isn’t a matter that can be resolved in a few hours. Thorough vessel examinations can take weeks, but since the downtime of placing a ship in dry dock for repairs can cost a company millions of dollars in revenue, it appears as though Carnival prefers to take its chances with a future cruise ship accident instead of making sure that no other malfunctions occur.

It would only seem logical that after February’s Carnival Triumph cruise ship fire catastrophe rocked the industry and brought to light just how little regard is given to maritime safety in the cruise industry, that Carnival Corp. would be doing its best to prevent another mishap, no matter how small, from taking place and further tarnishing the line’s reputation.

Yet, within just a few weeks of each other, the Carnival Triumph fire incident was followed with reports of mechanical problems on the Carnival Dream, which caused the ship to become stuck in St. Maarten while passengers were flown home. That same week, the Carnival Legend became disabled three days after setting sail on a seven-day Caribbean itinerary. The vessel’s propulsion system malfunctioned, preventing the ship from attaining full speed. The Legend’s captain ordered the ship return to port in Tampa, but after everything that has been happening recently with the industry, are these cruise ship accidents ever going to end?

Carnival Corp. is the world’s largest cruise company, yet, what kind of example is the cruise line setting for others in the industry after allowing for the potential of serious incidents on board due to lack of safety. Triumph passengers were offered a mere $500 in compensation (along with other reimbursements like a refund and future cruise credit), Dream passengers were so far only offered a refund for the remaining three days of the cruise that were canceled and a 50 percent off credit for a future cruise, and Legend cruise passengers were offered a measly $100 in reimbursement along with a refund on pre-purchased shore excursions and 50 percent off a future Carnival cruise.

Let’s not forget one of the worst maritime accidents in history, the Costa Concordia capsizing, which also falls under the responsibility of parent company Carnival Corp. The Concordia accident took place last year, leaving 32 people dead because the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, decided to pull a last minute change to the itinerary and brought the ship too close to shore to perform a maneuver called a “salute.” As a result, the ship crashed into a massive rock and partially sank. While Schettino was formally indicted on manslaughter and abandoning ship charges, the vessel STILL remains lodged on the rock off the coast of Giglio, Italy.

Hopefully something will be done in the very near future to protect passengers from suffering at the hands of a negligent cruise company, but we shouldn’t hold our breaths. Organizations such as the European Cruise Council (ECC) have tried to impose safety regulations industry-wide, but cruise companies continue to ignore their protocols and accidents keep on happening around the world.

As long as these U.S. based cruise ship companies remain immune from the reach of U.S. law, passenger safety and rights at sea will always be limited.

Photo Credit:

Carnival Elation escorted back to port by tugboat following mechanical issues –