Thursday, December 23, 2010

Not a Many Splendored Thing

In one of the more publicized cruise ship misadventures of the past several years, Carnival Cruise Lines’ 2008-built Carnival Splendor was disabled by an engine room fire off the west coast of Mexico on November 8th and not towed into port until November 11th, the 3,299 passengers and 1,167 crewmembers on board having to make due during this period with cold food, non-working toilets and other inconveniences.

According to Carnival spokeswoman Joyce Oliva, a generator caught fire in the ship’s aft engine room at approximately 6 a.m. on November 8th, damaging a switchboard and preventing the transmission of electricity to other machinery, including the ship’s propulsion motors. Nearly everything requiring electricity then became inoperable, including air conditioning, hot water, stoves, waste system and refrigeration. The cause of the fire, which was quickly put out by the crew and the ship's automatic fire-suppression system, is still being investigated.

Vessels assisting the stricken cruise ship during its ordeal included the container vessel Dresden Express, which is active in the Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System (AMAVRS) program, as well as the US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which was on a training exercise nearby and able to ferry more than 60,000 pounds of supplies via helicopter. Also involved were the US Coast Guard Cutters Edisto, Morgenthau, and Aspen and a Mexican Navy 140-foot patrol boat, plus several Mexican tugs, the latter because it was first expected that the Carnival ship would have to be moved to a Mexican port.

Tugs used in the 6-knot tow to San Diego included Harley Marine’s 4,400HP Millennium Dawn and 3,000HP Ernest Campbell. “We’ve never had anything like this happen before,” said Carnival Cruise Lines CEO Gerry Cahill of the event.