The Coast Guard released two safety alerts to mariners yesterday, seemingly in response to their ongoing investigation of the fire and subsequent power/propulsion failure on Carnival Splendor on November 8. In the reports, the Coast Guard recommends that ship owners test their fixed firefighting systems, and the procedures in place for using them.
According to the documents, the fire was effectively controlled by the ship’s on-board firefighters using portable extinguishing equipment. But the captain chose to also activate the ship’s fixed extinguishing system, which uses carbon dioxide to “suffocate” a fire — and that system failed. In addition, the system could not be activated manually.
Although the fixed system had been recently serviced and inspected, the Coast Guard reports cite critical maintenance failures (e.g., accumulations of water and corrosion) and incorrect operational instructions in the Fire Instruction Manual. One of the most egregious failures: the panel referenced in the manual looked vastly different from the one installed on the ship: