Last updated: 10:46 AM ET, Wed April 17 2013

Carnival Launches $300 Million Fire and Emergency Power Upgrade

Features & Advice | Carnival Cruise Line | Theresa Norton Masek | April 17, 2013

After a series of incidents that led some to question whether Carnival Cruise Lines was short-changing its maintenance programs, the line launched a $300 million program to upgrade emergency power capabilities and fire safety technology on all 24 ships.

The work will improve the level of “operating redundancies” to expand the availability of hotel services in case a ship loses its main power, as happened on the Carnival Triumph in February and Carnival Splendor in November 2010. In both instances, the ships lost power and floated for several days, with food and other supplies airlifted in, until they were towed to shore.

Carnival said the improvement plan is the result of a comprehensive operational review, overseen by parent company Carnival Corp. & plc, which began right after the Carnival Triumph fire.

An ongoing safety review will include all Carnival Corp. & plc brands. The latest versions of technologies and enhancements will also be implemented on the remainder of the 101-ship fleet where they are not already present. The overall program of enhancements is expected to cost between $600 and $700 million.

“All of Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships operate safely today. Each vessel already has effective systems in place to prevent, detect and respond to emergency situations, and we meet or exceed all regulatory requirements,” said Gerry Cahill, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines.  “However, by applying lessons learned through our fleet-wide 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 4.5 million guests who sail with Carnival Cruise Lines each year.”

The first upgrade, an increase in emergency generator power fleetwide, will be completed over the next several months. An additional emergency generator will be installed on each vessel and will be able to provide for 100 percent of stateroom and public toilets, fresh water and elevators if the main power is lost, Carnival said. The work is already underway and will not affect scheduled itineraries. Upon completion of the initial phase, the line will install a second permanent back-up power system on each ship to provide an even greater level of hotel and guest services if main power is lost, including 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. 

The company said it also will install the newest and most technically advanced fire prevention, detection and suppression systems. This includes upgrading the 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 present system, Carnival explained. 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.”

All Carnival ships have two separate, redundant engine rooms. The company’s operational review has identified modifications to further decrease the likelihood of losing propulsion or primary power, as happened on Carnival Triumph in February. 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. 

Carnival also formed a Safety & Reliability Review Board comprised 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 five-person Review Board will provide an additional, independent third-party perspective. A search is underway for candidates with previous experience in organizations such as the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and National Transportation Safety Board, as well as leading airlines and equipment manufacturers. 

Carnival Corp. & plc previously announced a corporate-wide operational review of all 10 of its brands. The review process will include learnings from the recent incidents that can be applied across the corporation’s fleet. Carnival Corp. & plc has confirmed that, based on the results of the ongoing review, the latest versions of technologies and enhancements will also be implemented on the remainder of the fleet where they are not already present. The overall program of enhancements across the 101-ship fleet is expected to cost between $600 and $700 million.

“Our fleet already operates at a high standard of reliability.   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 10 million people every year have come to expect from us across our fleet of 101 ships,” said Micky Arison, chairman and CEO of Carnival Corp. & plc. “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.”

Initial implementation of the upgrades to the Carnival Corp. & plc fleet will take place during the next several months. Each class of ship is different and often systems differ on ships within a class, so the enhancements will be tailored to each vessel. All findings from the operational review will be shared with Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) as part of the industry-wide operational review announced in March.

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