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Carnival Triumph failed its first inspection after repairs, Coast Guard says

Cruise ship testimony
Adam Goldstein, President and CEO of Royal Caribbean International; Gerald Cahill, President and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines; Mark Rosenker, former Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board; Ross Klein, professor in the School of Social Work at St. Johns College and Rear Adm. Joseph Servidio, assistant Coast Guard Commandant for Prevention and Policy, testify before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee July 24, 2013 in Washington, DC.Win McNamee / Getty Images

The Carnival Triumph failed an inspection and was briefly “detained” by the U.S. Coast Guard in June after it completed repairs and was poised to return to service four months after the engine room fire that left the ship disabled and without most passenger services in the Gulf of Mexico, the Coast Guard testified before a Senate committee today.

In prepared and verbal testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Rear Admiral Joseph Servidio, assistant commandant for prevention policy for the U.S. Coast Guard, indicated that inspectors found “three serious deficiencies” related to fire detection and lifeboat drills during the Triumph’s first examination in Galveston, Texas, after completing $115 million in repairs.

The Coast Guard, which uncovered a total of 28 deficiencies, found problems with fire detectors and sprinkler systems in various parts of the Triumph, Servidio said.

“Those are significant problems and we detained the vessel,” Servidio said, adding that passengers were barred from boarding before the violations were fixed the next day.

Asked about the circumstances of the failed inspection: Carnival spokesperson Jennifer de la Cruz told Skift: “The U.S. Coast inspected the Carnival Triumph for two days and identified some items for corrective action that were addressed.

“The Coast Guard approved the vessel to sail on June 13,” de la Cruz said. “Passengers boarded the ship on schedule and the vessel sailed at its scheduled departure time.”

The Carnival Triumph returned to service June 13.

Carnival Cruise Lines CEO Gerald Cahill and Royal Caribbean International CEO Adam Goldstein testified before the committee, which convened to discuss cruise passenger consumer protections — or the lack thereof. Cahill didn’t directly address the Triumph inspection issue.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, the Senate committee’s chairman, castigated Carnival’s Cahill on several fronts.

Rockefeller noted that Cahill narrated a Carnival video, posted June 12, ensuring the public that the Carnival Triumph had been fully repaired — and that was around the same time that the ship was failing the Coast Guard inspection.

Rockefeller asked why anyone should believe Cahill and Carnival about anything related to passenger safety under these circumstances. He also questioned Cahill, saying his opening statement before the committee was devoid of substance.

“It couldn’t have been more than a minute, minute and a half, and it had absolutely no substance in it,” Rockefeller said.

In the June 12 video, entitled “Carnival Triumph: Repaired, Enhanced and Back in Service,” Cahill talks about the ship’s $115 million in repairs and all of the upgrades to passenger services on board the ship.

“I think all of us at Carnival, we couldn’t be prouder to put this ship back into service,” Cahill said in the video,” which was around the time the ship was being detained by the Coast Guard and failing its first inspection.

Cahill noted that Carnival created a fire safety task force after the 2010 Carnival Splendor fire, conducted a fleet-wide operational review after the Carnival Triumph incident, is in the process of investing $300 million in emergency generator upgrades, fire safety improvements, and other changes, and recently formed a safety review board with outside experts.

“We take our obligations very seriously, Mr. Chairman,” Cahill said.

Coast Guard Rear Admiral Joseph Servidio said that the Carnival Triumph “will be subject to quarterly examinations for three years.”

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