UPDATE: A preliminary investigation has concluded the fire was the result of a leak from a flexible hose connecting engine number six to the fuel tank. US Coast Guard Commander Theresa Hatfield says the full report may take six months to prepare.
It took a while, but Carnival Triumph made it safely back to port and its 3,141 passengers finally disembarked. Most rushed off to freshen up with a much-needed hot shower; a few couldn’t wait to sit down with lawyers to draw up claims for compensation.
While the ship was quickly moved to a dockyard in Mobile, Alabama for repairs to the engine room where a fire knocked out its electrical power supply, the repercussions from the event will be rumbling on for months to come – not just for Carnival, but for the whole cruise industry.
Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the US Senate’s transport committee, has said he was horrified by the passengers’ ordeal which he described as “just the latest example in a long string of serious and troubling incidents involving cruise ships.”
In a letter to US Coast Guard commandant Robert Papp, he said: “It is time that the cruise line industry–which earns more than $25 billion a year–pays for the costs they impose on the government since it’s the Coast Guard that comes to the rescue every single time something goes wrong on a cruise ship.”
His concerns have been echoed by Californian Doris Matsui, a member of the House of Representatives, who is demanding an investigation. She said: “The recent catastrophe with Triumph, a Carnival cruise ship, is just one more mishap for an industry that touts itself as providing safe, family-friendly vacations,” she said in a letter to the committee chairman.
“The power outages, limited access to food and severe sewage issues are disturbing and raise concerns that these enormous ships are not properly prepared. A thorough investigation must be undertaken immediately, and oversight procedures must be implemented, to ensure that a similar accident does not happen in the future.
“The cruise line appears to have been completely unprepared to deal with such a major disaster. One small engine fire caused an enormous ship to become dead in the water,” she wrote. “We need answers about why this occurred and why it took over four days to get these people safely back to land. Someone must be held accountable.”
An inquiry into the incident, which left the ship dead in the water with no propulsion and limited power for toilets, air-conditioning and food preparation, will be carried out by the Coast Guard, the US National Transportation Safety Board, and authorities from the Bahamas, where the vessel is registered.
Initial investigations have pinpointed the seat of the fire in the ship’s aft engine room. The Coast Guard say it was in front of one of three generators. and investigator Patrick Cuty said it would be known within a week whether it was the same generator which had been the cause of problems in January. A full report into the blaze will probably take up to a year to produce.
Meanwhile, Carnival Corporation boss Micky Arison has been concentrating on his other major business interest, the Miami Heat Basketball team.
Despite coming in for criticism for attending a Heat Game in Miami while Triumph was still under tow, he was back on Twitter again at the weekend, posting this picture of himself with Beyonce at the All Star celebrity basketball extravaganza in Houston, Texas.