A fire has been reported aboard Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas cruise ship. According to news reports, one of the vessel’s engines caught fire on Wednesday morning as the ship was sailing into the port of Falmouth, Jamaica. RCCL officials explained that the fire was extinguished and that guests were called to assemble at their designated muster stations with their life jackets on as a safety precaution.
Unfortunately, one crew member suffered a first-degree burn as a result of the fire. Luckily, no other injuries were reported. But one question still remains unanswered: what exactly caused the fire to begin with?
Since the Carnival Triumph debacle back in February, 2013, cruise ship fires have been taken much more seriously. Though no one was injured in this particular incident, the fire resulted in a ship-wide power outage and passengers were forced to endure dire onboard conditions for the five days it took for the Triumph to be hauled via tugboat to Progreso, Mexico. Restroom facilities weren’t working, sewage was flooding from deck to deck, and a lack of air conditioning and food provisions were among the many setbacks experienced in the fire’s aftermath.
Though there are times when circumstances that are out of the cruise operator’s control can lead to an accident on the high seas, unfortunately, as our cruise ship accident lawyers can attest to, the majority of maritime disasters are preventable. The Carnival Triumph cruise ship fire was one of those instances.
The fire on board the Triumph was caused by a leak in one of the ship’s fuel hoses. However, in the months that followed the accident, a compliance notice that was sent to the Triumph prior to the vessel’s departure on the ill-fated cruise revealed that the ship’s crew was alerted of the risk of a fuel hose leak, and did nothing to handle the situation.
According to the compliance notice, the Triumph had been advised as to the dangers associated with the fuel hoses, and spray shields were recommended to be installed on the vessel’s fuel hoses. The vessel was given until February 28 to comply with the safety recommendation, but the Triumph still set sail on February 7 without correcting the issue.
When asked about the Triumph’s failure to follow the recommendations specified in the compliance notice, Carnival contended that it partially installed the spray guards, and that a ship-wide installation on all fuel hoses, including flexible fuel hoses (like the one that leaked and caused the fire) was just an added precaution and not mandatory. Carnival also argued that the recommendation only applied to fuel lines above the engine room floor plates, not those below, which was where this particular fuel hose was located.
However, the initial compliance notice did not make any specific mention as to which hoses should have the spray shields installed. If safety was truly at the forefront for Carnival, the company would have commissioned the shields to be installed on ALL fuel hoses to ensure all fire prevention measures were taken. But it didn’t.
It’s too early to tell whether Royal Caribbean failed to maintain the Freedom of the Seas ship in safe conditions prior to the fire, but you can bet our cruise ship accident attorneys will be on top of the matter and will continue to look into circumstances surrounding the incident.