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Carnival to upgrade fleet in wake of Triumph debacle

The cruise ship operator plans to spend $300 million to add an extra generator to each ship and improve fire-suppression systems.

April 17, 2013|By Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times
  • The Carnival Triumph is towed to harbor off Mobile Bay, Ala., in February after an engine fire knocked out its power. Carnival Cruise Lines announced a $300-million program to add an extra generator to each of its ships and upgrade fire-suppression systems.
The Carnival Triumph is towed to harbor off Mobile Bay, Ala., in February… (Gerald Herbert, Associated…)

Hoping to improve its tarnished image, Carnival Cruise Lines plans to spend $300 million to add an extra generator in each ship and upgrade fire-suppression systems in response to the high-profile malfunctions that hobbled the Carnival Triumph this year.

Carnival's investment comes in response to an engine fire in February that cut most of the power to the Triumph, which had to be towed from the Gulf of Mexico while frustrated passengers contended with nonfunctioning kitchens, bathrooms, air conditioning and elevators.

Although Carnival's ships already have backup generators, Carnival officials said the additional generators will ensure that there will be 100% power for all staterooms, elevators and public toilets.

In addition, Carnival said it plans to upgrade its fire-suppression systems and make modifications to its electrical systems to reduce the likelihood of power outages caused by fires.

Finally, the cruise line said it plans to form a safety and reliability review board composed of outside safety experts to advise Carnival.

Carnival's parent company, Carnival Corp., plans to spend an additional $300 million to $400 million to make safety upgrades to the nine other cruise lines owned by the corporation.

"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," said Gerry Cahill, president and chief executive of the company.

The investment will bring Carnival's older ships in line with recent standards that require cruise ships built in the last few years to provide passengers with working bathrooms, ventilation and other basic services in the event of an accident, said Andrew O. Coggins, Jr., a professor of management at Pace University's Lubin School of Business in New York.

Carnival's stock has yet to recover from a stumble it took after the Triumph calamity. The shares, which have dropped 14% since Feb. 12, fell 8 cents to $33.23 on Wednesday.

The Triumph mishap was one of several catastrophes for the Miami corporation. Last month two other Carnival ships suffered mechanical problems, including the Carnival Dream, which stalled in the harbor in Port Canaveral, Fla., with generator problems.

In 2010, another fire cut power on the Carnival Splendor off Baja California. Passengers stood in long food lines and endured rooms with malfunctioning bathrooms and air conditioners before the ship was towed to San Diego.

Cruise Lines International Assn., an industry trade group, said the ships of all its members operate emergency generators, but the group does not keep track of how many ships operate with more than one backup generator.

hugo.martin@latimes.com

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