Faulty Safety Materials May Put Dozens of Cruise Ships at Risk

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Shipbuilders and cruise lines are being informed that two types of fire-resistant panels have lost their safety certifications and are now being recalled, which raises concerns not only for new ships currently under construction, but also for recently launched ships as well as cruise ships that have undergone recent dry docks or renovations.

According to the supplier, as many as 45 ships may be impacted, including vessels from Carnival Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, and other lines.

Critical Safety Equipment Loses Certification

As reported by The Financial Times, Helsinki-based Paroc, which manufactures fire-safe insulation panels and materials used on cruise ships for bulkheads, decks, ventilation ducts, and other applications, has informed the Fincantieri shipyard that two types of its panels have lost their safety certifications due to recent failures in safety certification testing.

This has caused local distributors to recall the impacted panels, which have already been used in 45 ships, according to Paroc.

Explorer I
Photo Courtesy: MSC Explorer Journeys

The last-minute delay of Explora I, the new luxury expedition cruise ship for MSC Cruises, was described as being due to supply chain issues and the need for “further enhancements,” but the vessel’s construction likely used the now non-safety-certified panels. The ship was scheduled to debut on July 17, 2023, but now the first voyage is planned for August 1.

It is unclear whether or not the new maiden cruise will move forward as planned, which may be impossible if significant refitting with different materials is necessary.

Which Ships May Be at Risk?

The safety certification for Paroc’s fire-resistant panels has a five-year validity period, and the most recent certification was completed in 2020 with an expiration date of 2025.

This means that any vessel constructed or refit with the panels since 2020 could potentially be sailing with unsafe materials due to the recent safety test failure.

MSC Euribia Cruise Ship
MSC Euribia Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Studio Porto Sabbia)

In addition to Explora I, MSC Euribia, which just debuted in early June, has also used the affected panels as has at least one ship from Carnival Cruise Line. Vessels from Royal Caribbean International may also be impacted, as the Meyer Werft shipyard, where Royal Caribbean’s newest ships have been constructed also contracts with Paroc for fire insulation materials.

The exact ships that may include the recalled panels have not been disclosed, but could include vessels such as AIDA Cruises’ AIDACosma, Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Wish, Holland America Line’s Rotterdam, Princess Cruises’ Discovery Princess, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Prima, and Virgin Voyages’ Resilient Lady, among many others.

AIDA Cruise Ship at the Meyer Werft Shipyard in Papenburg, Germany
AIDA Cruise Ship at the Meyer Werft Shipyard in Papenburg, Germany (Photo Credit: INTREEGUE Photography / Shutterstock)

Upcoming ships that could be impacted by this safety issue include Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Viva, Cunard Line’s Queen Anne, Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Jubliee, and other ships for Princess Cruises, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and more.

At this time, there have been no delays or cancellations announced for any possibly impacted ships, whether they are currently sailing or are scheduled to debut in the next few months.

While new panels cannot be fitted into ships until the safety certification is restored, vessels already sailing did hold all appropriate and valid safety certifications when launched.

Carnival Jubilee Construction at Meyer Werft
Carnival Jubilee Construction at Meyer Werft

It is up to each individual ship’s flag state and ports to determine whether or not a vessel is fit to sail according to their safety requirements, regardless of test results.

The next steps might also include additional testing to ensure valid results, which may show the panels are indeed up to the appropriate safety requirements.

Fires at Sea

Frequent cruise travelers are very familiar with ship safety briefings and muster drills, which always include warnings about how dangerous fire can be on a cruise ship.

The risk of fire is why many different items are prohibited on cruise ships, including candles, hot plates, clothing irons, and electric blankets.

Items with a known fire risk due to overheating, such as certain types of chargers or extension cords, are also prohibited on cruise ships.

Carnival Freedom Cruise Ship Fire
Carnival Freedom Fire

There have been several notable fires on cruise ships since 2020, including the May 2022 fire aboard Carnival Freedom that destroyed the ship’s iconic “whale tail” funnel, a small fire caused by an electrical short onboard Disney Wonder in November 2022, and in May 2023, a fire that caused evacuation aboard P&O Cruises Australia’s Pacific Adventure.

In April 2020, a small fire broke out aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras while the ship was being outfitted prior to her debut, and more recently, in February 2023, a fire broke out on Royal Caribbean International’s Icon of the Seas while under construction at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland.

It is not known at this time whether any of these fires are related to or impacted by Paroc’s insulation panels or other materials.

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