Skift Take

The Senate committee convened to talk about more consumer protections. Case in point: Carnival was telling everyone about the wonders of the repaired Carnival Triumph in June, and wasn't transparent about letting passengers know that the ship had just failed an inspection because of fire detection and lifeboat drill problems, among others.

So much for Carnival’s commitment to safety: The Carnival Triumph failed an inspection and was briefly “detained” by the U.S. Coast Guard in June after it completed repairs and was poised to return to service four months after the engine room fire that left the ship disabled and without most passenger services in the Gulf of Mexico.

In prepared and verbal testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation today, Rear Admiral Joseph Servidio, assistant commandant for prevention policy for the U.S. Coast Guard, indicated that inspectors found “three serious deficiencies”  related to fire detection and lifeboat drills during the Triumph’s first examination in Galveston, Texas, after completing $115 million in repairs.

The Coast Guard, which uncovered a total of 28 deficiencies, found problems with fire detectors and sprinkler systems in various parts of the Triumph, Servidio said.

“Those are significant problems and we detained the vessel,” Servidio said, adding that passengers were barred from boarding before the violations were fixed the next day.

Asked about the circumstances of the failed inspection: Carnival spokesperson Jennifer de la Cruz told Skift: “The U.S. Coast inspected the Carnival Triumph for two days and identified some items for corrective action that were addressed.

“The Coast Guard approved the vessel to sail on June 13,” de la Cruz said. “Passengers boarded the ship on schedule and the vessel sailed at its scheduled departure time.”

The Carnival Triumph returned to service June 13.

Carnival Cruise Lines CEO Gerald Cahill and Royal Caribbean International CEO Adam Goldstein testified before the committee, which convened to discuss cruise passenger consumer protections — or the lack thereof. Cahill didn’t directly address the Triumph inspection issue.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, the Senate committee’s chairman, castigated Carnival’s Cahill on several fronts.

Rockefeller noted that Cahill narrated a Carnival video, posted June 12, ensuring the public that the Carnival Triumph had been fully repaired — and that was around the same time that the ship was failing the Coast Guard inspection.

Rockefeller asked rhetorically why anyone should believe Cahill and Carnival about anything related to passenger safety under these circumstances. He also lambasted Cahill, saying his opening statement before the committee was devoid of substance.

“It couldn’t have been more than a minute, minute and a half, and it had absolutely no substance in it,” Rockefeller said.

In the June 12 video, entitled “Carnival Triumph: Repaired, Enhanced and Back in Service,” Cahill talks about the ship’s $115 million in repairs and all of the upgrades to passenger services on board the ship.

“I think all of us at Carnival, we couldn’t be prouder to put this ship back into service,” Cahill said in the video [ see below],” which was around the time the ship was being detained by the Coast Guard and failing its first inspection.

Cahill didn’t respond directly to Rockefeller’s statements about the video, but noted that Carnival created a fire safety task force after the 2010 Carnival Splendor fire, conducted a fleet-wide operational review after the Carnival Triumph incident, is in the process of investing $300 million in emergency generator upgrades, fire safety improvements, and other changes, and recently formed a safety review board with outside experts.

“We take our obligations very seriously, Mr. Chairman,” Cahill said.

So apparently does the Coast Guard, which noted that the Carnival Triumph, apparently because of the failed inspection, “will be subject to quarterly examinations for three years.” 


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Tags: carnival, safety

Photo credit: Passengers leave the Carnival Triumph cruise ship after reaching the port of Mobile, Alabama, February 14, 2013. Four months later, Carnival didn't let anyone know that the Triumph failed an inspection just before it was set to return to service. Lyle Ratliff / Reuters

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