PlanB Consulting

Fire On Board . . . . Where?

One story which has had very little reported about in the news this week was the Carnival Triumph. A cruise ship with 3200 passengers aboard in the Gulf of Mexico which had a fire in their engine room and caused a loss of ALL power to the ship, it took four days to tow the ship into shore, during this time the crew had to feed the passengers with non-perishable food which they had to queue for several hours to receive. The bathroom facilities didn’t work and the passengers had to use plastic bags and due to the smell of sewage and the loss of air-conditioning many passengers took to sleeping on deck under makeshift sheet shelters giving the ship the air of a refugee camp.

One thing which intrigued me about this incident was the lack of news broadcasted about it. Although the meat scandal is still taking the headlines in the UK, I was surprised that this incident has not been on the media news at all. I only heard about it when someone on my wife’s business continuity course mentioned it! I am not sure if this is because the media journalists didn’t think it very newsworthy, or that it was at sea and out of the range of mobile phones and there being no power for satellite phones and internet there was little information coming from the ship, therefore, little information to drive the story.

So lesson number one – if you are to have a disaster make sure it is way beyond the range of mobile phones! There are a number of other lessons and comments on the incident which we can learn.

  1. If you have a disaster where somebody has purchased a product or service, you need to be generous with the compensation and refund. All those on the cruise got a full refund, compensation and money off their next cruise. If you are generous and reasonable with your compensation this will elevate most person issues. Those who will sue will probably sue you regardless of how high the compensation. Being mean and trying to save money on compensation will probably cost you more money in the long term.
  2. In all risk assessments we come back to ensuring there is no single point of failure. Within this ship there obviously was, in that the fire took out the complete electrical system. You would think that power is so critical to a cruise ship that they would have installed a second system. If buildings have standby generators why didn’t this ship?
  3. My final point is about scale. Cruise ships are basically floating hotels, and their luxury and size, I think makes people forget that they are on a ship. Whether you are on a huge cruise ship or a small cabin cruiser then they both suffer from the same risks. They can go onto the rocks, sink or catch fire. Size can often make an organisation or a piece of infrastructure more resilient but still if there is a single point of failure as in this case disasters can still happen!

And if we hadn’t exhausted the list of potential disasters then we need to add meteorites to our list of potential incidents!

About Charlie Maclean-Bristol

Charlie Maclean-Bristol is one of the Founders and Directors of PlanB Consulting. He is also the Training Director of Business Continuity Training Ltd., a UK-based training provider accredited by the Business Continuity Institute. Charlie is a former Business Continuity Institute board member and one of the very few Fellows of both the Emergency Planning Society and the Business Continuity Institute.

A former Infantry Captain in the British Army, Charlie held several emergency planning, business continuity and crisis management positions within the energy and utility industry before founding PlanB Consulting in 2007. Over the past twelve years, Charlie has delivered business continuity consultancy in 6 of the worlds 7 continents, frequently providing full business continuity roll-outs to organisations of all sizes and in all sectors.

Scroll to Top