“The thing is that everyone remembers the Carnival Splendor fire,” said Spencer Brown.“And something that appears to be very similar happening within a two-and-a-half year span, it does shake confidence a little bit.”
Cahill said the Triumph fire is not the same as the Splendor, which suffered a “catastrophic explosion” in a diesel generator.
“Clearly we learned a lot from Splendor,” he said. “The automatic extinguishment systems worked very well. Our teams onboard have gone through extensive fire training and they also performed very well. I think those things were very helpful in this situation. Once we have a chance to go back, do an investigation….we’ll learn the cause, we will learn more information, I’m sure there will be further things we will learn that we’ll want to implement across the fleet.”
The U.S. Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board said late Tuesday they were investigating the cause of the fire. They will assist the Bahamas Maritime Authority because the ship is Bahamian flagged, the agencies said.
Hector Pazos, a St. Petersburg-based expert in maritime accidents, said explosions are more common than fires in engine rooms. “I don’t understand what happened,” he said. “It must be something fairly large.”
He said maintenance goes on constantly in an engine room, with crew required to keep detailed logs and follow lengthy manuals routinely. “It’s not that they have to wait for the end of the month to take it to a shipyard,” Pazos said.
Jim Walker, Miami-based maritime attorney, said he has seen cruise companies work crew members extremely hard – and he expects that the ships put in as much work.
“These are not airlines or city buses where you have 50 percent of them in operation and you can shut them down and rest them or put them in the garage and provide maintenance,” he said.
Aside from short scheduled drydock repairs and upkeep, Walker said, “They’re doing maintenance at sea… Push the ships like the crewmembers to the point of exhaustion and when they break, that’s what you see.”
While nowhere near as severe as the wreck of the Carnival Corp.-owned Costa Concordia that killed 32 people in Italy in January of 2012, the Triumph fire comes at an inopportune time for the world’s largest cruise ship company. The traditionally busy booking time known as “wave season” is about midway through, and Carnival had reported encouraging activity in North America in its last earnings report.
Cahill said he could not estimate what kind of financial hit the company might take and added “frankly, we haven’t even looked at it or thought about it.”
But Tim Conder, a Wells Fargo analyst, estimated that the impact could be between as much as $80 million, or 10 cents a share, for the quarter.
“While this incident represents a string of similar occurrences over the last several years, we believe this incident will most likely be more of a negative PR event, especially during the Wave season,” he wrote in a note to investors. “We believe that management will place additional efforts to better identify and install preventive measures to avoid future similar incidents and related negative PR.”
Carnival stock closed Tuesday at $39.02, up nearly one percent.
This report was supplemented with information from the Associated Press.