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Carnival Cruise Lines details +$300m in emergency power, fire safety, system redundancy upgrades

Andy Newman/Carnival
Cahill - upgrades will enhance emergency generator power, bolster system redundancies (file photo)
Carnival Cruise Lines said it is pouring more than $300m into expanding emergency power capabilities, adding the latest fire safety technology and boosting operating redundancies fleetwide. The efforts are intended to prevent a recurrence of the Carnival Triumph incident that has dogged the company since February and sparked intense industry scrutiny in Washington.

Carnival president and ceo Gerry Cahill announced the efforts Wednesday as parent company Carnival Corp. & plc headed into its annual meeting in London.

The corporation confirmed that the latest versions of technologies and enhancements will also be implemented on the remainder of its fleet where they are not already present in a program that is expected to cost between $600m and $700m, counting the Carnival Cruise Lines upgrades.

Cahill was quick to assure that ‘All of Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships operate safely today,’ adding that ‘Each vessel already has effective systems in place to prevent, detect and respond to emergency situations, and we meet or exceed all regulatory requirements.’ But he said that ‘applying lessons learned through our fleetwide 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 4.5m guests who sail with Carnival Cruise Lines each year,’ Cahill said.

The actions will expand the availability of hotel services for passengers should a ship lose main power. In addition, the plan will reinforce key operating systems to further prevent a potential loss of primary power.

The initial increase in emergency generator power across the Carnival brand’s 24-ship fleet will be completed over the next several months. An additional emergency generator will be installed on each vessel to provide for 100% of stateroom and public toilets, fresh water and elevators in the event of a loss of main power. The work is already under way and will not affect scheduled itineraries, Carnival said.

Upon completion of the initial phase, the line will install a second permanent back-up power system on each ship to provide a greater level of hotel and guest services if main power is lost. These additional services will include expanded cooking facilities and cold food storage, as well as Internet and telephone communications.

‘Although every ship in our fleet currently has emergency back-up power which is designed to enable the continuous operation of safety equipment and some hotel services, it is our intent to significantly bolster that back-up power to support the core hotel services. With this improvement, we will better ensure guest comfort in the rare instance of a loss of main power,’ Cahill said.

Additional investments in the newest and most technically advanced fire prevention, detection and suppression systems will include upgrading the existing water mist fire suppression systems already in place on Carnival vessels to the newest generation. When triggered, this high-pressure water mist system instantly creates a larger and thicker blanket of water droplets than the current system. As the water droplets evaporate, the system also rapidly cools any hot areas to prevent the possibility of a fire restarting.

‘On Carnival Triumph, our fire systems were effective and our teams performed well in controlling and extinguishing the fire,’ Cahill said. ‘However, we want to take advantage of the latest and most advanced generation of fire safety systems to enhance the current extensive capabilities across our fleet.’

While all Carnival brand ships have two separate, redundant engine rooms, the company’s operational review identified modifications to further decrease the likelihood of losing propulsion or primary power, as happened on Carnival Triumph in February and on Carnival Splendor in 2010. The modifications will include a reconfiguration of certain engine-related electrical components.

On ships where these enhancements will be made, the design and fabrication of specialized components will require longer lead times for completion, in contrast to the immediate upgrades to back-up emergency power and other systems.     
The ongoing work aboard Carnival Triumph and Carnival Sunshine, announced last month, entails all of these areas.

In addition, Carnival is forming a Safety & Reliability Review Board of outside experts with significant expertise in marine and occupational safety, reliability and maintenance, marine regulatory compliance and quality control/assurance. The company already receives oversight and input from outside regulatory authorities and industry experts.

The new Review Board will provide an additional, independent third-party perspective, drawing from deep experience across a number of relevant fields and organizations. It will consist of five external members. Searches are under way for candidates with previous experience in organizations such as the US Navy, US Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board, as well as leading airlines and equipment manufacturers.

‘Our fleet already operates at a high standard of reliability,’ added Carnival chairman and ceo Micky Arison. ‘The investments announced today for Carnival Cruise Lines, and those we will continue to make, will reinforce our ability to consistently deliver the customer experience that 10m people every year have come to expect from us across our fleet of 101 ships.’

He added that ‘Absolutely nothing is more important than the safety and comfort of our guests and crew, and we will use the full resources of our company to meet that commitment.’