What is the cause of a two-inch-wide crack which opened up in the deck of P&O cruise ship, necessitating urgent repairs on its return to Southampton yesterday?
Passengers on board the four-and-a-half-year-old ship took to Twitter, Facebook and cruise bulletin boards to report the incident, with some suggesting that rough seas during a crossing of the notorious Bay of Biscay were responsible for the damage.
A gap opened up across the starboard side of Deck 16, directly below the Laguna Pool deck, leaving a number of glass panes loose. The area was immediately taped off, and some reports said passengers on Deck 14 were told not to use their balconies.
When I contacted P&O’s head office in Southampton, I was told the incident was “not weather-related,” and was given a prepared statement which read: “Repairs will be made to an aluminium deck on Ventura upon arrival in Southampton today. This has no structural strength or safety implications.
“Ventura will leave Southampton later today as planned for a two night cruise.”
All of which begs the question – if the damage was not a reuslt of heavy seas, what was the cause? And are there any implications for other vessels built to a similar design?
The 116,000-ton Ventura, which has 1,550 cabins and carries more than 3,000 passengers, has an almost identical sister, Azura, sailing under P&O colours. Both were built by a Fincantieri shipyard in Italy.
Their design is based on the Grand class of ships built for Princess Cruises – like P&O, owned by the Carnival Corporation. Grand Princess and Caribbean Princess are frequent visitor to UK shores. Most, like the newest, Ruby Princess, were built by Fincantieri in Italy, although a couple of basically similar design were constructed in Japan.
On reaching its fifth birthday next April, Ventura is scheduled to undertake a 15-day dry-dock overhaul during which its hull will be re-painted and a number of internal changes including the fitting of single cabins. It looks like the work schedulers might have some additional repairs to take into account.
►I witnessed at first hand the power of the sea during an October crossing of the Bay of Biscay six years ago. On board Fred Olsen’s Black Watch, I spent two days being pounded by heavy seas, with winds reaching hurricane-force 12.
The ship’s bows were stoved in by the weight of the water and, although the vessel’s seaworthiness was unaffected, it was some months before repairs could be effected.
I also saw a number of small cracks which opened up in the structure, radiating, for example, from the corners of window and door openings.