Carnival Cruises – dismal safety record

Carnival Splendor adrift without power at sea

Carnival Splendor adrift at sea without power
Image credit: US Navy

The safety record of Carnival Corporation, the parent company of Costa Crociere, the operators of the ill-fated Costa Concordia, and the operators of the Carnival Triumph and Carnival Dream, has been savaged by a US Senate Committee.

The nightmarish and horrific conditions we have seen on the news are quoted in a Senate Committee scrutiny of their safety record.

Two recent incidents

Following a recent incident in which the Carnival Triumph drifted for eight days without power, leaving passengers in appalling conditions, there has been a similar incident with their Carnival Dream  Fortunately this time the vessel was docked so although the conditions deteriorated, the trouble did not last as long.  Passengers were not permitted to step ashore in spite of the troubles on board.

Carnival Corporation brands

Carnival Corporation controls the following cruise brands:

  • AIDA Cruises, Germany
  • Carnival Cruise Lines, United States
  • Costa Crociere, Italy
  • Cunard Line, United Kingdom
  • Holland America Line, United States
  • Ibero Cruises, Spain
  • P&O Cruises
  • Princess Cruises, United States
  • Seabourn Cruise Line, United States

Largest cruise company

Carnival are the largest cruise line in the world and operate over 100 ships across their various brands, with nearly 50% of the worldwide cruise market in 2011, so the likelihood of something going wrong somewhere in their fleet is admittedly greater than it would be with a smaller organisation.  However, the real number of incidents is larger than one might think.  Too many, according to US authorities.

Dismal safety record

The chairman of the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Senator Jay Rockefeller, has written to the CEO of Carnival expressing his concerns about their “dismal safety record”.

“90 serious events … have occurred on your cruise ships, jeopardizing the safety and lives of those onboard, and prompting Coast Guard marine casualty investigations.  These incidents include groundings, collisions, allisions [the striking of one ship by another], engine room and generator fires, propulsion and electrical system failures that have left ships adrift at sea, and other critical onboard system failures.”

The Senator refers to an “alarming number of onboard fires, major system malfunctions and human errors … have occurred on Carnival’s ships since 2008.”  Despite that, he says there is “no evidence that the company has undertaken any meaningful course of corrective action to improve its safety record.”

“It seems that Carnival has failed to take any meaningful course of corrective action after these continual incidents. This needs to change.”

To put the 90 serious incidents in perspective, in the same time there were fewer than 50 incidents involving the large passenger ships of all other cruise companies combined.

Carried by taxpayer

Adding to concerns about the line is the fact that these disasters cost the taxpayer money.  Rescuing the Carnival Splendor cost the US Coast Guard and the US Navy in excess of $3.4m.  It cost the US taxpayer a further $780,000 in the case of the Carnival Triumph.

It does not help their reputation that Carnival are coming under fire for paying as little as 1.12% in corporate tax.  The nominal corporation tax in the USA is 35%.

The company must respond to the Senate Committee by 1 April 2013.  In addition to answering a number of searching questions, Carnival must also provide Safety Management Certificates and all vessel operational plans for the Carnival Dream, Carnival Triumph and Carnival Splendor, including, but not limited to each vessel’s Safety Management Plan, Emergency Response Plan and Vessel Security Plan.

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