In the wake of several cruise ship accidents across its fleet, Carnival Cruise Line has announced that it has initiated a program that will significantly improve cruise ship safety. According to the “Fun Ship” company, new protocols have been put in place that will enhance emergency power capabilities, improve fire safety as well as create an overall safer shipboard environment.
The safety enhancement program, which will cost the cruise line over $300 million, has already been launched, and several ships have already undergone significant upgrades.
Following the Carnival Triumph cruise ship fire in February, which left over 4,200 people stranded in the Gulf of Mexico without any power, working toilets or sufficient food provisions, the Carnival Corp. has been criticized for its lack of safety onboard its ships and failure to include emergency backup generators on its vessels in the event a maritime disaster takes place.
Although Carnival has been adamant in its stance that it has an excellent track record when it comes to cruise ship safety, the company has finally buckled under the pressure of maritime authorities and has been working to improve the safety features on its ships.
Among the many improvements to its fleet, Carnival will be expanding its comfort services for guests to ensure that if a ship does lose power, passengers will not have to suffer amidst uncomfortable and dangerous conditions, the way passengers onboard the Triumph had to.
After the Triumph lost power, passengers reported what could possibly be the worst shipboard conditions in history. Not only were travelers left without any light, air conditioning or sufficient meals, but malfunctioning toilets started to overflow, spilling hazardous waste and sewage from deck to deck.
The conditions onboard the ship posed a serious threat to those onboard, creating a breeding ground for severe illnesses to be spread amongst passengers and crewmembers.
Now, four months after the Triumph debacle, Carnival is stepping up its game to provide passengers with what it always should have made available – a safe and secure environment.
“All of Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships operate safely today,” said Gerry Cahill, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Line. “Each vessel already has effective systems in place to prevent, detect and respond to emergency situations, and we meet or exceed all regulatory requirements. However, by applying lessons learned through our fleet-wide operational review after the Carnival Triumph fire and by taking advantage of new technologies, we have identified areas for enhancement across our operations. These initiatives reflect our commitment to safe and reliable operations and an enjoyable cruising experience for the nearly 4.5 million guests who sail with Carnival Cruise Lines each year.”
Unfortunately, if Cahill’s statement about Carnival ships operating safety were true, not only would the Triumph accident been prevented, but the subsequent malfunctions on the Elation, Dream and Legend vessels, all of which occurred after the Triumph fire.
Instead of waiting for a maritime tragedy to strike, perhaps Carnival should have made more of an effort to ensure each vessel was running properly and was equipped to handle an emergency situation.
Well, better late than never.
According to Carnival, the initial increase in emergency generator power across its fleet of 24 ships will be completed over the next few months. Each ship will be given an additional emergency generator that will keep “100 percent” of toilets and elevators working in the event that a vessel were to lose power.
Once the initial phase is complete, a second permanent back-up power system will be installed on each ship to offer a more comfortable environment for guests if power were to be lost. The additional services will include expanded cooking facilities, food storage and improved communications systems.
As far as preventing future cruise ship fires, Carnival will be adding advanced fire prevention, detection and suppression systems, and will upgrading the existing water mist fire suppression systems that are already in place.
Additionally, the cruise company will implement two separate redundant engine rooms on each ship to decrease the likelihood that a vessel will lose power, as the Triumph did, and ships will undergo a reconfiguration of engine-related electrical components.
Finally, and perhaps the most critical component of the line’s enhancement program, Carnival will create a new Safety & Reliability Review Board, which will be comprised of five maritime experts who specialize in safety, maintenance, and marine regulatory compliance. The cruise line is in the process of reviewing candidates from organizations including the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board.
Hopefully these changes will reduce the number of maritime accidents across Carnival’s fleet. While maritime tragedies cannot be 100 percent prevented, implementing better strategies to provide the safest environment possible onboard ships for both passengers and crewmembers will make a significant impact in reducing the frequency of serious or fatal accidents at sea.
What has gone unnoticed in all of this is the effect of shutting access to the U.S. courthouse for crewmembers. By inserting a provision requiring arbitrations in the crew members contract, Carnival has for the most part, taken away a crew members ability to contest poor working conditions, being forced to work excessive hours, and being forced to work while sick or injured. This has allowed the cruise line to understaff and overwork its crew. Studies have shown that an overworked crewmember has the same abilities as a person driving while intoxicated. This has made for a dangerous situation. The decline in ship safety has coincided with the lack of access by the crew to a legal system to enforce their rights. The arbitration provision for Carnival requires a sick or injured crewmember, out of work, with no income to go to Panama, Philippines, England or Monte Carlo to arbitrate their claims. This is totally unrealistic. The contract might as well require arbitration on the moon. It has the same effect for the most part. This is a shocking situation which in my opinion has led to increased lack of safety on Carnival vessels.
Photo Credits: Power generators and fire systems – news.cruisereviews.com