Archive for December 2013

Documents show Carnival knew of fire danger before ill-fated cruise, CNN Exclusive

(CNN) — Bettina Rodriguez and her daughter Isabel had planned their cruise for half a year. They would sail on the Carnival Triumph cruise ship and celebrate Isabel’s birthday.

It was the trip of a lifetime. That is, until they awoke to a fire alarm, smoke in their hallway and then days and days of misery. Human waste was actually piling up in bags just outside their door.

“Just on our deck alone, there were the biohazard bags lined up across the floor,” Bettina Rodriguez said. “We’re talking about raw sewage at just the end of our deck alone. It was repulsive.”

It was a nightmare, Rodriguez said. Now the nightmare has been made worse, she said, because of company documents that have just come to light. The cruise line’s own reports, inspections and maintenance records detail a problem that had been developing on the Triumph more than a year before Rodriguez and her daughter were on board.

More than 4,000 passengers and crew members were stranded aboard what’s now known as the “poop cruise” after a fire knocked out the ship’s power. The ship drifted four days before it could be towed into Mobile, Alabama — the whole time without air conditioning, and largely without lights, water, food and working toilets.

CNN has learned that the crew of the Triumph set sail in February with only four of six generators fully operational, knowing that the company had an ongoing generator fire hazard in ships across its fleet, including Triumph.

Houston attorney Frank Spagnoletti represents the Rodriguez family and several dozen other passengers from the ill-fated Carnival Triumph who have filed suit against Carnival Cruise Lines.

“That ship never should have set sail in February,” Spagnoletti said. “It was unseaworthy at the commencement of the voyage. These documents tell you that the company — and I’m saying to you the corporation back in Miami — had knowledge of the fact that this vessel had a propensity for fires; that there were things that could have been, should have been, and weren’t done in order to make sure that fires didn’t take place.”

The first trouble with Triumph was in diesel generator No. 6 — the one that wound up catching fire. Starting more than a year before the infamous cruise, that generator was overdue for maintenance, often not in compliance with the safety laws of the sea, known as SOLAS, according to the ship’s engineer.

Read the document about the generator (PDF)

Over and over again, Carnival’s own maintenance reports stated the same thing: Diesel generator No. 6 was overdue for maintenance. The company says the fire that originated with the generator was not connected to the lack of maintenance. But, during that same time period, Carnival learned about another, even more alarming safety problem in the engine room: fuel lines.

A dangerous pattern of leaks had emerged on other Carnival cruise ships, according to the company’s documents. In fact, Carnival’s Costa Allegra caught fire in the Indian Ocean in February 2012 because fuel leaked onto a hot spot and ignited. That fire left the ship without power for three days in tropical heat of nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Read Carnival’s advisory notice (PDF)

That would be eerily similar to what started the fire on board the Triumph one year later.

Carnival says it proactively began investigating after the Costa Allegra fire and found a big problem in a different type of fuel line. There had been nine incidents resulting in fuel leaks associated with flexible fuel lines in just two years.

Spate of fires pose problem for cruise industry

On January 2, Carnival issued a compliance order, giving ships two months to address the problem to “ensure a suitable spray shield … is installed” for all diesel engines using the flexible fuel lines.

“After that internal study, the company came out with a new policy to, again, shield all the flanges and the hoses,” said Mark Jackson, Carnival Cruise Lines vice president of technical operations.

But Carnival did not in fact shield the part of the one hose that wound up causing the tragedy on board the Triumph in February.

“That hose was beneath the deck plates, and it was believed the deck plates would provide that shield,” Jackson said. “In this case, it (the fuel leak) found that gap in the hose … in the bilge plates and caused the fire.”

On February 7 — with a diesel generator still in need of overhaul and fuel line shields on some, but not all, of its flexible hoses — Triumph set sail from Galveston Texas. Three days later, off the coast of Mexico, a fire broke out in diesel generator No. 6 when fuel sprayed from a flexible fuel line, even though that fuel line was only six months old.

“We were totally in compliance … with all the rules and regulations,” Jackson said. “We had … our regulating bodies on board the ship less than two weeks prior that had certified the ship to sail. Obviously, you learn things on a situation, on an incident such as the Triumph.”

Those regulating bodies included the U.S. Coast Guard and Lloyd’s insurance.

While Carnival Cruise Lines insists that what happened on the Triumph was just an accident, the company has dedicated $300 million in a fleet-wide safety upgrade, focusing on detecting and preventing any potential fire hazards in its engine rooms.

The company also points out to the passengers suing that the cruise line never promised a safe trip.

Carnival’s court filing says the “ticket contract makes absolutely no guarantee for safe passage, a seaworthy vessel, adequate and wholesome food, and sanitary and safe living conditions.” Since the Triumph fire, Carnival says it has instituted a 110% money-back “Great Vacation Guarantee” on its cruises.

Fraction of cruise ship crimes are made public

Could Carnival have avoided the Triumph cruise nightmare?

Please click on the header below to see the video footage from this Anderson Cooper exclusive!

Could Carnival have avoided the Triumph cruise nightmare?

It was the vacation from hell for thousands of passengers stuck on-board the Carnival Triumph. A fire knocked out the ship’s power, which meant no air conditioning, no lights, little food and water… and no flushing toilets. Conditions were so bad it was nicknamed “The Poop Cruise.” Now CNN has learned that the ship set sail with only four of six generators operating and knew of a generator fire hazard across its fleet of ships. Investigative Correspondent Drew Griffin is Keeping Them Honest.

Air samples at cruise ship docks worldwide find dangerous levels of deadly soot

Tests in Manhattan, Venice, Germany show urgent need for lines to upgrade pollution controls

NEW YORK – Air samples taken near idling cruise ships in New York and three European ports contained dangerously high levels of soot, according to test results released by Friends of the Earth US and the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union of Germany. The groups said the tests underscore the urgent need to install more modern air pollution reduction technology with filters that can all but eliminate deadly soot emissions.

At each port — New York, Venice, Italy and Hamburg and Rostok, Germany — samples taken by NABU with an ultrafine particle counter contained hundreds of thousands of microscopic ultrafine particles of soot per cubic centimeter of air. In New York, the sample contained 201,000 ultrafine particles of soot per cubic centimeter while the cruise ship Norwegian Gem was idling on Nov. 15, 2013. (See video of the test.)

Direct comparison with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency soot standards is not possible, because EPA includes somewhat larger particles, counts their mass rather than their number and measures their concentration over time rather than at peak levels. But the latest research indicates that the health hazards of ultrafine particle pollution, which are inhaled deep into the lungs, are the same as for other particles — heart problems, respiratory illness and premature death.

By comparison with the measurements of hundreds of thousands of particles per cubic centimeter at the cruise ship docks, NABU measured only 5,000 particles per cm3 in the center of Berlin.

“These extremely high measurements at the cruise ship docks are from the use of heavy fuel oil or bunker fuel and lack of pollution control technology,” said Dr. Axel Friedrich, formerly an air quality expert with the German federal environmental agency, who led the testing. “Without particle filters, cruise ship engines must operate continuously at the dock to keep the lights on, releasing huge quantities of toxic gases that harm public health.”

air pollution stats

air pollution stats

 

 

 

 

NABU and Friends of the Earth are campaigning to get cruise lines worldwide to install state-of-the-art air pollution control technology which can reduce the amount of soot emitted by up to 99 percent. The campaign is focused on Carnival Corp. of Miami, the largest cruise company in the world, which operates 10 cruise lines, under various brand names, in the U.S. and Europe. Although some of Carnival’s lines, such as AIDA Cruises of Germany, have installed such equipment, Carnival has not done so for all of its lines and ships.

“It’s unacceptable that some Carnival Corporation ships will be installing state-of-the-art air pollution controls, but not the entire fleet,” said Marcie Keever, oceans and vessels program director of Friends of the Earth U.S. “It’s time for Carnival to stop dragging its feet, not only on the health and safety of its passengers but of people in the ports where it calls. If Carnival cares about people and the planet, the company should install the most health-protective technology on all ships, across all of the lines it operates, to keep the air we breathe clean and healthy.”

Leif Miller, CEO of NABU, said the World Health Organization considers soot as carcinogenic as asbestos.

“These measurements now demonstrate for the first time how much worse air pollution in ports is made by the pollution from idling cruise ships,” said Miller. As the cruise industry continued to grow rapidly, this means that every year more and more passengers and residents of port cities are exposed to deadly soot. Since the technology needed to clean up emissions is here today, this is unacceptable.”

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Contact:
Marcie Keever, (510) 900-3144, mkeever@foe.org
Adam Russell, (202) 222-0722, arussell@foe.org

– See more at: http://www.foe.org/news/news-releases/2013-12-air-samples-at-cruise-ship-docks-worldwide-find-dangerous-soot-lvls#sthash.7tbMGXRs.dpuf

Letters to the Editor for Wednesday, Dec. 11

Clearing the air

Commendations are due the State Ports Authority and its CEO, Jim Newsome, for supporting removal of unhealthy air pollution from trucks at the SPA docks by promoting more eco-friendly trucks that haul cargo to and from its terminals. Incentives are given for short-haul drivers who travel back and forth from SPA terminals.
And the SPA’s new Clean Truck Certification Program requires trucks serving the container yards to be equipped with engines manufactured in 1994 or later. As a result, 84 trucks were replaced with more efficient ones at a cost of $1 million paid with support from the SPA and state. The goal was reduced diesel air pollution.

However, my commendation is tempered by the SPA’s refusal to require shore power for cruise ships which berth at Union Pier, right next to neighborhoods, causing far more air pollution than those trucks.

Why is the SPA not installing shore power to protect the health of Charleston residents and visitors?

And for shame that the City of Charleston is not requiring shore power for the same reasons. Why are Mayor Joe Riley and City Council not supporting shore power?

J. Kirkland Grant
Mary Street
Charleston

http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20131211/PC1002/131219932/1021/letters-to-the-editor-for-wednesday-dec-11

A View of the Ship from Shore

A baggage tag found on Sullivans Island…

 

ship from shore

Sink or Swim – Why is Carnival Cruise Lines exempt from city regulations?

Sink or Swim, taken from Charleston City Paper
contribution by Katie Zimmerman

The latest column from Charleston City Paper columnist Bryan Crabtree on cruise ships included suggestions in line with those put forth by numerous locals and organizations representing them, including the Coastal Conservation League.

Most people in Charleston seek a good balance whereby cruises can continue, but with standards in place to protect the health of local families and our environment as well as the strength of our economy, which relies greatly on protecting historic assets.

The drive to establish standards for cruise operations in historic cities is happening not just in Charleston. Venice, Italy, Key West, Fla., Dubrovnik, Croatia, and others are wrestling with the same concerns. Given the unprecedentedly large scale of the cruise ships and the thousands of people cruise operations bring into small, densely populated areas, it’s imperative that communities such as Charleston hasten to protect unique historic sites via enforceable standards for cruise ships, just as we support standards for other things, from tour buses to horse carriages.

It is beyond odd that cruise operations are seemingly the one business exempt from standards. This may reflect the cruise industry’s success in avoiding other rules and requirements. For example, Carnival Cruise Lines — which has had a cruise ship in operation in Charleston since 2010 — pays no taxes here and doesn’t even have a business license. Why should a highly profitable company like Carnival, which is incorporated in Panama, not have to abide by standards that apply to everyone else in Charleston?

Conservation groups, including the Coastal Conservation League, agree with Mr. Crabtree that Charleston cruise ships should use shore power to reduce the impact of concentrated diesel soot pollution on local families. Cruise ships do this in other ports even when the law doesn’t require it.

The League has also asked that records of cruise discharges be made available for public review. But when we asked Carnival if the company would consider notifying local citizens of what they are dumping in the water, a League representative was told that it was “frankly none of [our] business what Carnival does in [South Carolina’s] waterways.”

Neither the League nor anyone else is asking for limits on cargo ships since they don’t emit nearly as much pollution as a cruise ship, and they don’t bring thousands of cars and passengers into a gridlocked historic district. Like Mr. Crabtree, we support looking at alternative locations for a cruise terminal, an inquiry that so far has been stifled by the State Ports Authority.

People are tired of an all-or-nothing debate about cruise ships. They want solutions and options for achieving a healthy balance. The League has been pushing for those options for several years, but so far the proponents of unregulated cruise operations have acted as if engaging with loyal citizens is akin to dealing with terrorists.

So long as those pushing unmitigated cruise operations take an our-way-or-the-highway approach, Charlestonians — conservative and otherwise — will continue to feel frustrated and continue to ask that other options be explored.

Mr. Crabtree is to be applauded for proposing one option, and we stand ready to engage with him and any other interested persons in reaching a solution that works for everyone. As he should know, the question for our community is not the one he asked in conducting his informal poll on social media. On his Facebook page, he asked his followers if we should “allow the cruise industry to grow in Charleston or push them away?” The real question is whether or not cruise operations, like every other business here, should abide by limits and standards and find a healthy balance.

We applaud Mr. Crabtree’s call for examining alternative methods of basing very large cruise ships in the most congested and historic part of our entire region. There is no sense in polarizing people when most folks have coalesced around this reasonable middle ground.

Katie Zimmerman is the Coastal Conservation League’s director of the Air, Water, and Public Health Program. Her areas of expertise include environmental justice, community empowerment, and water quality.

 

Judge: Opponents have standing to challenge state permit for Charleston cruise terminal

By BRUCE SMITH
Associated Press
Updated: December 03, 2013 – 3:16 pm

CHARLESTON, South Carolina — Charleston neighborhood, conservation and preservation groups may challenge a state permit for a $35 million South Carolina passenger cruise terminal, a state administrative law judge has ruled.

In a 16-page ruling on Monday, Chief Administrative Law Judge Ralph K. Anderson III rejected a South Carolina Ports Authority motion to dismiss a challenge to a state Department of Health and Environmental Control permit.

The DHEC permit certified that putting added pilings beneath an old riverfront warehouse so it can be renovated as a new terminal complies with state coastal regulations.

The permit challenge is one of three ongoing legal fights involving the city’s cruise industry.

The Ports Authority in July asked Anderson to dismiss the challenge to the state permit, saying the pilings have not yet been installed and so there has been no injury to the plaintiffs and they have no standing to appeal. Attorneys also argued the appeal should be dismissed because whether cruises operate out of Charleston is a political question, not one for the administrative law court.

Anderson noted the plaintiffs, who include six local groups, allege the permit will allow more cruise ships with the pollution, traffic and health impacts that accompany them.

“At this stage of the proceedings, the court finds that petitioners have sufficiently alleged that the organizations have standing,” he concluded, but added he would consider the larger issue of whether cruises should be allowed at all.

“The case before this court involves the discrete matter of whether the permit issued to the Ports Authority complies with state law,” he wrote.

A hearing is set for next month.

The question of whether the cruise industry is a public nuisance is now before the state Supreme Court. The justices heard arguments last month and have not indicated when they might rule.

The third legal challenge is to federal permit for the terminal pilings. A federal judge ruled in September that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not study the issue adequately and tossed out the permit. The Ports Authority and the Corps have appealed that decision to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia

Terminal opponents say they want limits on cruises so they don’t overwhelm the city. Supporters say the city will only be a niche cruise market and the industry is already being appropriately regulated.

(Story distributed by The Associated Press)