MIAMI – The first lawsuit has been filed in the wake of the crippled Carnival Triumph cruise ship that forced thousands of passengers to spend five days in miserable conditions on the vessel after it was paralyzed by an engine-room fire.
Texas resident Cassie Terry sued Carnival Corp. on Friday in Miami federal court. The suit seeks unspecified damages, saying Terry feared for her life or that she might suffer serious injury or illness because of the presence of raw sewage and spoiled food.
This is going to be very difficult to win, incidentally, as the alleged "injuries" are prospective (e.g. fear-based) rather than actual.
My previous article assumed the ship was unable to restore partial power following the fire. It now appears, from the information that has been flowing around the 'net, that this is not true -- the truth is that they do have two separate engine rooms on the ship, and one had a fire.
This means that at least in theory they had 50% (approximately) capacity available but the decision was made not to attempt a restart of the remaining good plant.
We don't know why, at this point.
Never mind that these ships all have a rather large foredeck area suitable for landing helicopters, and it is possible (at least in theory) in calm seas (which they did have, I was paying attention to the weather) to drop a large trailer-based genset by chopper (or more than one) onto that space and connect them into the distribution system.
No, you're not going to get full power back doing anything like that. But you don't need to -- you only need enough power to run some lights, ventilation (not necessarily AC compressors or heat, but fans) and toilets. That's readily achievable with portable systems; ask the people in Chicago (you can start with me as I was involved in it) about that who ran distribution cables up stairwells after the river flood with trailer-mounted gensets sitting in the streets.
But now with the apparent knowledge that they had half their capacity remaining had the crew restarted the undamaged engine room they would have had enough power for most normal functions in the hotel (living areas) of the ship, and probably some propulsion -- maybe enough to make shore at 5 or 6kts without tugs!
So here's my question -- if the information that has come out is correct, and there are in fact two engine rooms while one was involved in the fire, why have redundant capability if you're not willing to use it in a situation like this, and where is the threshold, if it's not five full days without power, for doing so?
If attempting a restart meant helicoptering people onto the boat that had engineering capability with the propulsion system superior to the crew on board, so be it. Get them on board, figure out what you have and what you can isolate, work the problem and then restart what's left.
What most people don't understand about a ship at sea is that the Captain is as close to a King as you're ever going to find outside of actual monarchy. The master of a vessel really is about one step down from God, when you look at it in the light of day from a legal perspective under maritime law.
Further, I fully understand that it's easy to Monday-morning quarterback this, not being there at the time and not having knowledge of exactly what went wrong. But what we do know now is that the fire suppression system did work as designed and did put the fire out, and that it was apparently in one of the two engine rooms -- and it wasn't a particularly large fire either, but it was in a bad place (implying that it was either in the fuel distribution system for those engines or in the controls and electrical components.)
In any event if there was one good engine room left and the ship really was designed to have that redundancy then the question remains: Why wasn't it used, and what decision process and facts led to the decision not to restart what remained undamaged?
As someone who has taken multiple cruises in the past and enjoys this form of vacation, I want that question answered, in full detail, before I will consider booking another one.
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