High-volt short 2 weeks before ship fire

By GERRY HARRINGTON, United Press International  |  Feb. 15, 2013 at 4:54 PM
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Carnival Cruise Lines and the U.S. Coast Guard Friday declined to tie a high-voltage generator short to an engine room fire that crippled the Triumph.

"I don't have details" about the cable-damaging short in a high-voltage connection box the Triumph reported to the Coast Guard two weeks before the Sunday fire that disabled the ship, Carnival Public Relations Director Lanie Morgenstern in Miami told United Press International.

The short may not have been fixed before the fire, the Coast Guard report indicated.

Coast Guard Deputy Chief of Media Carlos Diaz told UPI his armed-forces branch and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating "the circumstances surrounding a fire."

Until the investigation is completed, "it would be speculative," Diaz said, to make a connection between the electrical short and the Sunday fire that knocked out the ship's propulsion system, power, and the sewage, heating and air-conditioning systems.

The 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members -- who left the Port of Galveston in Texas Feb. 7 for what was supposed to be a four-day cruise to Cozumel, Mexico -- spent five days living and sleeping on sewage-soaked carpets and open decks, with food so limited some passengers said they were reduced to eating candy and ketchup on buns.

The ship limped into the Alabama Cruise Terminal in Mobile with Coast Guard tugboat and cutter assistance Thursday night.

The Jan. 28 Coast Guard report examined by UPI indicated during a so-called Port State Control inspection of a foreign ship, the Triumph reported "a short in the high-voltage connection box of one of the ship's generators, causing damage to cables within the connection box."

The Texas City, Texas, Coast Guard marine safety unit on the southwest shore of Galveston Bay ordered the problem fixed by Feb. 27, noting: "The condition of the ship and its equipment shall be maintained to conform with ... regulations to ensure that the ship in all respects will remain fit to proceed to sea without danger to the ship or persons on board," the report said.

The report did not say if the short was corrected before Sunday's fire, the UPI review indicated. The report had the word "False" under a "Resolved" heading and a blank space under a "Resolved Date" heading late Friday.

The Triumph is a Bahamian-flagged vessel and the Bahamas Maritime Authority is the primary investigative agency.

Chris Dowty, the maritime authority's technical-compliance officer in London, told UPI Friday evening he would provide a statement shortly.

Morgenstern told UPI the Triumph "previously experienced an electrical issue with one of the ship's alternators," but it was fixed Feb. 2.

She didn't say what the issue was.

An alternator converts mechanical energy to alternating-current electrical energy.

"There's no evidence at this time of any relationship" between the alternator issue and the fire, Morgenstern said.

Concerning the crippling engine-room fire, she said Carnival and government agencies would conduct "a detailed investigation" into "the extent of the damage and the cause of the fire and to apply the resulting findings."

"Each Carnival ship is fully certified by a flag administration and classification society, and those organizations audit every ship in the fleet at regular intervals," she told UPI.

Carnival has said it would cancel sailings of the stricken Triumph until at least mid-April.

Carnival Cruise Lines is a subsidiary of U.S.-British-Panamanian Carnival Corporation & PLC , the world's largest cruise ship operator, sailing in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.

The Carnival ship Costa Concordia ran aground and sank off the Italian coast Jan. 13, 2012, killing 32 people.

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