It’s been almost a year since the Carnival Triumph made headlines after a fire erupted in the vessel’s engine room due to a fuel leak, disabling the ship and leaving more than 3,000 people aboard a ship that had meager rations, broken toilets, and sewage dripping down the walls. Fortunately, no one was injured as a result of the accident, but we later came to learn that the fire could have possibly been prevented had Carnival followed recommendations to install spray shields on the Triumph’s fuel hoses. A compliance report revealed that Carnival was aware of the risks involved if it did not install the spray shields, yet failed to do so regardless.
Our maritime lawyers thought the Triumph debacle would have served as a dire reminder to the cruise industry about what can go wrong when safety protocols aren’t followed, but a recent tragedy in St Lucia is leaving us to wonder if the industry will ever truly learn from previous mistakes.
According to news reports, three people were killed in a cruise ship fire accident aboard the luxury liner Oceania Insignia earlier this morning. The fire broke out while the vessel was docked on St. Lucia. The victims included a cruise ship crew member and two contractors who were working aboard the ship. Another crew member who suffered serious injuries is currently receiving treatment at a hospital.
Fortunately, all 656 passengers on board the Insignia were safely evacuated safely and the remainder of the itinerary was cancelled, but the fact that three lives were lost is a terrible tragedy, one that (similar to the Triumph), may have been avoided.
We don’t yet know what caused this cruise ship fire, but what we do know is that (again, similar to the Triumph) the fire began in the vessel’s engine room. We also know the fire was contained, and can only imagine how much more extensive the outcome of the incident would have been were the fire to have spread across the ship.
While there are times when freak accidents do occur, some which could not have been foreseen or prevented, the majority of cruise ship accidents are the result of negligence. Whether it’s negligence in following safety recommendations or negligence in failing to fully and thoroughly inspect a vessel before it leaves port, negligence seems to play a huge role in the cruise industry’s overall accident rate.
Could Oceania have failed to properly execute safety policies regarding its fuel hoses, as Carnival did prior to the Triumph cruise fire? Perhaps. Could crew members have possibly made a mistake while performing work on board the ship? Also a possibility. There are dozens of factors that could have played a role in the Insignia fire accident, but unfortunately, history tends to repeat itself when it comes to the cruise industry, which means that there’s a very large chance that negligence contributed to the tragedy.
If negligence indeed played a role in the fire, especially negligence in failing to ensure the ship’s equipment was working properly, it would be extremely ironic, given the fact that the Insignia underwent a multimillion-dollar refurbishing earlier this year. Yet, we wouldn’t be all that surprised, given how cruise lines often cut corners when it comes to investing funds on enhancing onboard safety.
In the meantime, at least passengers are being taken care of. The cruise line announced all passengers who were on the ship, which left San Juan on Sunday for what should have been a 10-day voyage, will be fully refunded – a courtesy Carnival did not extend to Triumph passengers when it barely compensated victims for their inconvenience. Oceania also announced that passengers are being flown to Miami, where the cruise line has made arrangements to provide them with accommodations until they can be flown home.