Democratic lawmaker wants review of stranded cruise ship

The California lawmaker who sponsored a bill to increase safety standards for cruises is calling for a legislative review of a Carnival Cruise Lines ship that has been stuck at sea since Sunday.

ADVERTISEMENT
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), who sponsored legislation passed by Congress in 2011 to beef up safety requirements for passengers on cruise ships, said the debilitation of the Carnival ship in the Gulf of Mexico was proof the cruise industry needs further regulation. 

“The recent catastrophe with Triumph, the Carnival cruise ship, is just one more mishap for an industry that touts itself as providing safe, family-friendly vacations," Matsui said in a statement released by her office.

"While I am glad that no injuries have been reported, the stranding of almost 4,000 people for four days is anything but safe," she continued. "The power, food and sewage issues reported by passengers are disturbing and raise concerns that these enormous ships are not properly prepared for emergency situations."

The ship, named the Carnival Triumph, lost power on Sunday when an engine caught fire onboard three days after it departed from Galveston, Texas. The entire cruise was supposed to last four days, but Thursday marked a full week since passengers first boarded the vessel.

Carnival has said the ship is being towed now by tugboats to Mobile, Ala., where it is expected to arrive on Thursday evening.

The company has said there are 3,143 passengers aboard the cruise ship and 1,086 crew members. No injuries have been reported.

Matsui said she hopes the ship reaches land as scheduled on Thursday and wants to look into the circumstances that led to its debilitation once the passengers are safely unloaded.

“It is my hope that Carnival gets these passengers home to their families safely and swiftly, and that proper investigative and oversight procedures are taken immediately, to ensure that a similar accident does not happen in the future," she said. 

The 2011 cruise safety law Matsui sponsored focused more on the behavior of passengers aboard ships than on the safety of the vessels themselves. For example, it requires cruise lines to provide video surveillance and provide medical personnel on board to deal with the possibility of sexual assaults.

The law also required cruise ships to be fitted with peepholes in passenger's rooms and side rails that were at least 42 inches high.

The measure does not address the responsibilities of cruise lines when ships are disabled, however.

Matsui raised similar concerns about revisiting cruise safety issues when an Italian ship, the Costa Concordia, ran aground last summer. The captain of the ship in that instance was accused of abandoning his vessel with passengers still onboard.

Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill said in a series of statements that the company is trying its best to take care of the Triumph passengers.

Cahill said all of the Triumph's passengers would receive refunds of their ticket purchase and credits for future cruises after the experience they have endured. The company has also said that it is positioning 200 employees in Mobile to receive passengers when the disabled cruise ship arrives in the Alabama port city.

"We know it has been a longer journey back than we anticipated at the beginning of the week under very challenging circumstances," Cahill said. "We are very sorry for what our guests have had to endure."

The company said in a post on its Facebook page that the fire was "contained to the aft engine room" and quickly extinguished.

"We are very pleased to advise that no casualties or injuries to guests or crew have been reported," the company said.

However, the fire left the ship without enough power to continue its journey, Carnival said.

"The ship is currently without propulsion and is operating on emergency generator power while the ship's technical crew assesses the damage and attempts to restore power," the company said.

Carnival tweeted Wednesday that situations like the Triumph ship stalling are "rare." 

— Published at 11:22 a.m. and updated with new information at 2:15 p.m.