Flaming Cruise Ships, Batman!

There have been several cruise ship disasters in the last few years. Not just the one in the news now, nor even the ones that made the big network news in the last couple of years. In a web search more showed up than I care to think about.

RMS Queen Mary 2

RMS Queen Mary 2

Original Image

From the wiki, powerplant:

Installed power:
4 x Wärtsilä 16V 46C-CR / 16,800 kW (22,848 mHP),
2 x GE LM2500+ / 25,060 kW (34,082 mHP)
Four 21.5 MW Rolls-Royce/Alstom “Mermaid” electric propulsion pods:
2 fixed and 2 azimuthing

Looking into it a little bit, there is an odd potential connection to China.

This has been an ongoing observation on my part in other areas. Known brands that “go off” a bit after they move some production or materials to being sourced from China. We’ve had “name maker” toys show up with lead paint. We’ve had adulterated ingredients in other goods as well. I tried a can of oysters from Walmart that just didn’t taste quite right. Polar brand. I’d had their kippers before, that are marked “Product of Germany” and were good. Looking at the can of oysters, it said “Product of China”. Instead of the usual green color to the ‘guts’ (due to filter feeding green algae) the color was sort of yellowish… So now I have to read every can of every food product that I buy to make sure none are “made in China” with God only knows what in the can.

So what does all this have to do with Cruise Ships?

Big Engines and Little Engines

First off, I’d started looking for “Why don’t cruise ships have backup / auxiliary generators?” as it seemed to me that if I was carting around a city of 4000 people I’d have the basics able to be powered by the “second generator” away from the main engine room. Yes, the “big engine” needs to simply “always work” and it is reasonable to expect it to do so… but I carry a ‘backup power supply’ for my ’emergency gear’ any time I take my little car out with just one person in it. I have a 1 kW Honda for the home for when power fails. It’s just prudent and something a “Reasonable Man” would do. (A legal term of art).



Often I’ll put a little “jump start kit” in my car. It is about a $40 item and has a built in battery and cables to let you jump start your car. Built in charger, too, so can plug into the hotel room wall socket (or into the inverter when the car is running). It has a 12 VDC “cigarette lighter” type outlet, so can also power the ’emergency light kit’ and the inverter to make 120 VAC for laptop or cell phone charging too.

So for all up, less than $100, closer to about $70; I have “emergency power” that runs both ways, from car to standby power pack and from standby power pack to jump-start car (and from both to 120 VAC for ‘appliances’ and chargers.)

Why, I wondered, doesn’t a multi-hundred-million ship with thousands of people on board not have an ‘auxiliary power plant’?

Well, turns out it does. And that may be part of the problem…

This is from back in 2000, so well before any China connection:


On January 11, 2000 around 2300 hours, Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Celebration had an engine room fire while the cruise ship was approximately 100 miles northwest of Jamaica.

The fire is reported to have started in the auxiliary generator system.

Carnival Celebration was able to get to Montego Bay, Jamaica where all passengers were flown back to New Orleans. The next two cruises were canceled.

So “something happens” in the auxiliary power room… And that’s not the only one. These folks have an interesting list of the ‘big lumps’:


But my concern is the frequency of recent cruise ship engine room fires that have been caused by engine room explosions. To the best of my knowledge, one company, a German maker named Wartsilla, makes the vast majority of engines installed on large ships, but I am not going to blame them just yet because I do not have the ability to verify the specifics of each ship or what actually caused the the individual explosions. In some cases the explosions or fires were not the actual engines, but the control panels used to manage the power systems.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W%E4rtsil%E4 says that Wärtsilä is a Finnish corporation. But it has clearly been acting as an M&A / Rollup company, so who knows how much of what it does is located where, and what it has as major “focus” in terms of nationality (if any).

Quoted List from Wiki:

2012: Wärtsilä acquires Hamworthy plc, a UK-listed engineering company focussed on the marine and oil and gas sectors.
2011: Wärtsilä opens its global logistics center at Kampen, the Netherlands
2010: Majority of the propeller production and auxiliary engine production was moved to China
2009: Wärtsilä joins UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate responsibility initiative
2008: Wärtsilä acquires the global ship design group Vik-Sandvik and Conan Wu & Associates Pte Ltd (CWA), a leading naval architecture and ship design company in Singapore.
2007: Wärtsilä Ship Power was reorganised into five Ship Power customer segments: Merchant, Offshore, Cruise&Ferry, Navy, and special vessels.
2006: The Ciserv-group was integrated into the Wärtsilä Services organisation. Wärtsilä let go the brand names Ciserv and Sulzer;
2005: Wärtsilä acquires DEUTZ-marine large engine service business for the following five years exclusive, thereafter non-exclusive open for Deutz.
2003: Wärtsilä Ltd is caught up in Sweden’s largest-ever bribery prosecution. Wärtsilä found not guilty in all instances in the so-called Gotland case.
2004: Wärtsilä’s Chinese propeller company started production.
2002: The Ciserv-group, led by Pierpaolo Barbone, expanded in Singapore, Denmark, and Canada. Wärtsilä acquired John Crane-Lips, which operates within Wärtsilä under the name Wärtsilä Propulsion.
2001: Wärtsilä sells its holding in Sanitec. Wärtsilä takes ownership of service company Ciserv AB and Sermet Oy.
2000: Wärtsilä NSD and John Crane-Lips sign an alliance. Metra group is renamed as Wärtsilä Corporation.
1999: The split of the Cummins-Wärtsilä joint venture.
1997: In April, Wärtsilä Diesel absorbed the former Swiss-based Sulzer Brothers Ltd. division called New Sulzer Diesel (NSD) to form Wärtsilä NSD. The reference to the name “Sulzer” is until q1-2006 used in the designation of engines Wärtsilä inherited from the absorption of New Sulzer Diesel. Wärtsilä NSD Corporation is created.
1995: Wärtsilä Diesel and Cummins Engine Company Inc. set up a joint venture.
1991: Imatra Steel is created when Ovako AB is split up between its owners, Metra and SKF.
1990: Merged into Lohja Corporation, later renamed Metra Corporation.
1989: Wärtsilä Diesel acquires SACM and Stork Werkspoor B.V. This company is renamed Stork-Wärtsilä Diesel B.V.
1988: A company is set up in India and floated on the Bombay Stock Exchange.
1984: Quoted on the London stock exchange.
1981: Manufactured hovercraft Larus
1978: Acquisition of 51% of the NOHAB diesel business, the remaining shares are acquired in 1984.
1938: Wärtsilä signs a licence agreement and the first diesel engine is built in Turku in 1942.
1965: The company is renamed Oy Wärtsilä Ab.
1936: Acquisition of the Onkilahti engineering workshop in Vaasa.
1898: The sawmill and iron works company is renamed Wärtsilä Ab.
1834: Establishment in the municipality of Tohmajärvi.

End Quoted List.

So one immediate issue would just be that so many companies have been ‘rolled up’ into one, that will act more and more as a monopoly and with less care for product vs price. (No knock on them in particular. That is just what happens in oligopolies and monopolies. The product tends to stagnate or even lose quality while prices rise; in the push for more profit fed by lack of competition.)

But part of what caught my eye was that line in 2004 where ‘propeller’ making moves to China ( most likely ‘propulsor’ as ships use more electrically driven pods and hydraulic drives and fewer big brass rotating things…) then that line in 2010 where not only the “propellers” but the “auxiliary engine” production is in China now too. So we had some Aux Gen fires before moving it to China; any bets about quality going up vs down in the move to ever cheaper production?…

More ships are going to electric motors in “pods” that do the actual propelling and with the engine just being a giant electric generator plant (rather like Diesel Electric locomotives on trains). The “electrical plant” and “electrical panels” are ever more critical and carrying ever more power. From that same link about cruise fires above:

MSC Opera – this beautiful cruise ship built in the STX shipyard in France suffered an engine failure in the Swedish archipelago when it was sailing towards Stockholm just last May. In this case there was no explosion, but there was a failure in the electrical panel that controls the engines. The entire ship lost (electrical) power, meaning there were no working toilets, lights, etc., beyond the emergency power made available through an auxiliary generator system each ship keeps. The ship was towed to Stockholm and the rest of the cruise was cancelled.

In April of 2011 a Mexican cruise ship, the Ocean Star Pacific, had a generator fire when it was sailing off the west coast of Mexico near Mazatlan – no one was injured but the entire passenger contingent had to be evacuated by lifeboat.
The following month, December 2010, the mighty Queen Mary 2 had a “leaky capacitor” in another engine room control panel that resulted in an arc flash that blew the steel doors off of the control room. Fortunately no one was injured, but the ship lost all power and floated adrift off the coast of Spain for about 30 minutes.

Many people also forget that the Norwegian Epic had a main generator engine explosion in the STX shipyard in France just before it was delivered to NCL. That incident required cutting a hole in the hull, taking out the engine and replacing it with a new one – the same steps as were taken in dry dock for the Carnival Splendor.

So looks to me like they are having a bit of a problem with that whole “massive electricity” and salt water mixing thing ;-)

But seriously: It looks like the electrical components are supersized, but not suitably safe nor safeguarded. Then the Auxiliary Powerplant is now made in China and prone to blowing up too.

I’m just not seeing a whole lot to give confidence here…

The engines where we are seeing explosions on these ships are not the kind of engine you have in an automobile or a propeller-driven airplane. Rather, they are electrical generators which create a current that in turn drives the propeller systems with separate motors powered by the electricity generated by the “engine.” You can imagine the amount of electricity that must be generated to turn a propeller fast and hard enough to move the 150,000-ton Queen Mary 2. That ship actually has five separate propellers mounted to external pods below the stern of the ship.

This pod system is now used on most new cruise ships, including the Carnival Splendor and MSC Opera. Strangely, the Norwegian Epic uses the older style “screw-driven” propeller coming straight out of the ship, but those propellers are still driven by electricity – not steam powered as on the old Norway.

I’m beginning to think that maybe there’s a bit of a structural problem here with giant electrical power production being run through less than stellar reliability control panels and with ‘lowest cost first’ auxiliary power equipment. I’d also suspect that the ‘power panel’ equipment was moved with the auxiliary production to ‘low cost sources’; but that needs validation.

What I’ve observed in other “roll up” companies is that a competitor, sometimes even one with a “good name”, starts to ‘expand’ by buying out other competitors rather than actually making better products and more sales. This, then, leads to cost cutting strategies that enable more ‘buy outs’ and this pattern continues until there isn’t a lot of effective competition left. About then, the only route to ‘continued sales and profits increases’ (and, thus, higher stock prices and executive rewards) is to “cheapen the product”. Drug Stores in the USA just went through this a few years back with Rite-Aid driving others out of business with lower prices and lower quality products and services. Rexall, Longs, and a few others driven out or into mergers. Now it’s pretty much just CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid (and even there, there is ongoing merger speculation)



Longs was mergered into CVS, while Walgreens has had it’s own set of mergers. But a decade back or so, it was Rite Aid that was the hot stock on a ‘rollup’ strategy. (Later they hit a pause, had some ‘irregularities’ asserted, and it came to a screeching halt, just long enough for it to be noticed that they were not actually making more sales, just buying them…)

So part of me is wondering if the same process is playing out here, in Monster Engines. Quality and reliability being second place to profit margin and increased ‘sales’ year over year (even if by ‘rolling up’ the competition…)

Starting with the “little unimportant bits”, like maybe auxiliary power plants and control panels… that have been bursting into flames, it would seem…

In Conclusion

As is typical for this kind of ‘dig here’, there is not nearly enough information to make any definitive conclusions. Only enough to have ‘poorly founded speculation’. But that is often all you have to work with for investment / trading decisions. If the best information you have is “crap data”, that’s what you work with. And you can still get some value from it. (Just don’t be married to any particular idea based on crap data… be skeptical even while using it.)

We clearly have a ‘rollup’ strategy being used.
We clearly have a ‘cheapen the costs’ strategy with production moving to India and China. (See the 1988 line about an India company being set up.)
We clearly have an increase in engine / electrical fires and explosions in the transition of drive trains and the increased emphasis on very high power electrical panels.
We clearly have “issues” with auxiliary power not being built as “emergency reliable quality” power.

From all of those, there is one simple conclusion I would reach, and an immediate “corrective action” I’d take as a buyer of large ships:

Have 2 auxiliary power rooms (at least), each separated from the other and from the main engine room. Have 2 different makes of gear in the 2 rooms with isolation between them.

Have one near and for the bridge, navigation, and all other necessary equipment to run the ship (but sized to run kitchens, water, ventilation a/c and sewage as well) and the other for the infrastructure (kitchens, water, sewage, ventilation a/c) but sized to support emergency bridge ops as well. Have each able to ‘cross connect’ to the other distribution grid (but NOT connected and only can be connected via a manual cross connect action to prevent ‘cascade failures’) Normal operations powered from the main engine generator (and a third isolated cross connect…) Have at least 2 small electric ‘station keeping’ motor /pods that can be connected to the emergency generators for “crawling” the ship at a knot or two away from hazards in a power fail of the main propulsion.

Have the vendor of equipment for each of the two auxiliary rooms be someone other than the main propulsion maker. This avoids systemic failure modes… Do NOT integrate the three switch rooms. Only have ‘cross connects’ between them and those normally isolated.

I’ve had the “main propulsion” fail on my boat (winds were not cooperating so the sails were useless. 3 knot current and I could only do about 1 knot) and the auxiliary engine balking (could not get the Diesel to run – turned out the throttle cable had come off). Being below decks working on the engine (frantically) while in a 3 knot drift toward the rocks of Angel Island does not “make my day”… I did get the motor going after getting the cable reconnected and all, but in a ‘many thousand passenger’ ship, I’d like to know I could do a couple of knots to move sideways and miss the island or at least ‘hold off’ of it while awaiting an emergency tug…)

Belt and suspenders AND overalls…

It looks to me like the confluence of cheaper / less defensive design of the whole machine room with cheaper / less reliable electrical components, mixed with a poor understanding of how shared critical parts can take down the whole system.

When sinking some odd $Millions (or Hundreds of $Millions) into making one of these, having a couple of medium sized aux generator rooms would not be a significant cost addition. Having one with Caterpillar Emergency Standby generators of the kind used in hospitals all over the USA would likely result in lower costs, as the “primary” power plant supplier would know that the competition was “in the house”…

I’m left wondering what happened to the ship designers of yesteryear who made highly reliable and ‘takes a punch’ ships. Having a capacitor arc out (as they will do…) and have THAT take out the entire ship propulsion? Just designed to be “on the rocks”, IMHO.

Then again, I’m the kind of guy who would design in two isolated engine rooms with isolated fuel tanks too…

The Queen Mary 2 cost a bit under $Billion to build ( $900 Million) and has a basic design which meets my approach in that it has multiple engines, but seem lacking in the follow through / isolation. That it was taken down by a single capacitor blowing out implies that it is the control panel design that is defective / not safe enough.


Queen Mary 2 is not a steamship like many of her predecessors, but is powered primarily by four diesel engines, with two additional gas turbines used when extra power is required; this integrated electric propulsion configuration is used to produce the power to drive her four electric propulsion pods as well as powering the ship’s hotel services.

So 4 Diesels plus 2 aux turbines. Still could not make it go in an emergency… after one capacitor blows. So all they really needed was a secondary switch room / power conditioning system. I wonder if they put all this gear in one big room with one big power bus… Clearly not thinking in terms of “bullet proof”…

As a computer room designer, we always had dual power feeds with dual power conditioning and distribution systems. Some even have two distinct grid connections (for high reliability sites with big gear) AND standby generators on a third connection. Maybe I ought to apply to be a ship electrical design reviewer…

My Approach: Put 1/2 the Diesels in the PORT engine room and the other half in the STARBOARD engine room. Each powers the pods on their side and has a ‘cross connect’ available to the other side. Put the turbines in the “center forward engine room” with cross connects / added power feed to both sets of pods. Have separate switch rooms for each. Make sure each will fault isolate in the case of surges / shorts from the other, and do so without failure. Stock spares of critical power panel components in the forward locker…

Maybe I’m just too old fashioned and too careful. Or maybe I’ve been drifting at the rocks on the tide / currents and madly trying to get an engine fixed…

Achille Lauro Fire 1994
Al-Salaam Boccaccio Fire 2006
Allure Of The Seas Fire 2012
Aurora Fire 2007
Azamara Quest Fire 2012
Bahamas Celebration 2011
Calypso Fire 2006
Carnival Celebration Bomb 2007
Carnival Celebration Fire 2000
Carnival Celebration Fire 1995
Carnival Ecstasy Fire 2009
Carnival Ecstasy Fire 1998
Carnival Elation Bomb 2011
Carnival Fascination Bomb 2010
Carnival Freedom Fire 2010
Carnival Freedom Fire 2007
Carnival Imagination Bomb 2011
Carnival Imagination Fire 2010
Carnival Inspiration Fire 2007
Carnival Pride Fire 2009
Carnival Sensation Bomb 2007
Carnival Sensation Bomb 2010
Carnival Splendor Fire 11/2010
Carnival Splendor Fire 10/2010
Carnival Spirit Explosion 2007
Carnival Triumph Fire 02/2013
Carnival Triumph Bomb 2001
Carnival Tropicale Fire 1999
Costa Allegra Fire 2012
Emerald Seas Fire 1986
Enchantment Of The Seas 2007
Grand Princess Fire 2008
Independence Of The Seas 2011
Island Princess Bombs 1973
Lakonia Fire 1963
Legend Of The Seas Bomb 2003
Levina 1 Fire 2007
Liberty Of The Seas Bomb 2010
Lisco Gloria Fire 2010
Nieuw Amsterdam Fire 2000
Nordic Empress Fire 2001
Nordlys Fire 2011
Ocean Star Pacific Fire 2011
Pearl Of Scandinavia Fire 2010
Port Of L.A. Bomb 9/11/2006
Prinsendam Fire 1980
Queen Elizabeth/Seawise U Fire
Queen Mary 2 Explosion 2010
Queen Of The West Fire 2008
Regent Star Fire 1995
Royal Princess Fire 2009
Scandinavian Sea Fire 1984
Scandinavian Star Fire 1990
Scandinavian Sun Fire 1984
SS General Slocum Fire 1904
SS Morro Castle Fire 1934
SS Noronic Arson Fire 1949
SS Norway Explosion 2003
SS Mariposa Bomb Threat 1973
SS Saale Fire 1900
SS Yarmouth Castle Fire 1965
Star Princess Fire 10/2006
Star Princess Fire 3/2006
Super Ferry 14 Bomb/Fire 2004
Universe Explorer Fire 1996
Vincenzo Florio Fire 2009
Vistafjord Fire April 1997
Vistafjord Fire February 1997

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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17 Responses to Flaming Cruise Ships, Batman!

  1. Rob L says:

    Airlifting a few large diesel generators to the ship would also have been pretty easy.

  2. I read a while back (but didn’t bookmark it) that ship engine-room fires are a pretty common occurrence, and I recall reading about 1 in 100 as the chances. Most, of course, are quickly extinguished. Apart from cruising being my absolute worst idea of a holiday, it seems there’s quite a high chance of some avoidable breakdown.

    On the subject of Chinese-built stuff having a higher failure-rate, back when I was in Failure Analysis we suddenly had some motor-driver boards fail. We traced the problem rapidly to a change of supplier of the motor it was driving. About 2% of them failed (20,000ppm, where we were achieving 300ppm), blowing the board, but they weren’t reported as failures since they were below the threshold cost. Our boards, on the other hand, were reported. Yes, the new motors were from China.

  3. R. de Haan says:

    Interesting analysis.

    “2009: Wärtsilä joins UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate responsibility initiative”

    After that everything went down hill.

  4. peter_dtm says:

    There is another major issue : Crew levels and competences !

    When I 1st went to sea as a Radio Officer; it was normal to have
    Chief Engineer CEO
    2nd Engineer 2EO
    2 or 3 3rd Engineers 3EO
    couple of 4th Engineers 4EO
    Engineer Cadets
    Electrician/ Electrical Officer (‘leckies)

    All supplemented by ‘Crew’ (some 18 to 25 ‘General Purpose’ sailors [shared between deck & engine room) – already down from some 15 odd Enginer hands)

    For various reasons; the Electriaicans neglected to move into automation – so my job changed to Radio Electronics Officer (REO) — the Electronics bit being all the automation; the ‘leckies looked after the nasty big voltage stuff and electric motors (lots of them on any ship that’s not steam driven). The REO and the 3rd Eng took over from the leckies – who became a dying/dead breed.
    At the same time the crew levels went down as automation did its thing – so up to 2000 and the demise of morse & Radio Officers the crewing level looked more like :

    3EO – picked up the leckies major machine jobs on top of existing work

    REO ( still doing 8 hours radio watchkeeping; automation and electrical duties on top of navigational aid maintenance – radars; echo sounders etc)

    Note no Cadets; no leckies and just enough xEO so that the CEO did not stand a watch….
    Crew is down to <10 GP sailors

    Guess what happened ?

    NO MAINTENACE – no major on board repairs; everything left to Port crews and drydock periods. Port crews visit ships in port & work stupid hours to ger the work done in 14 to 36 hours.

    Now there is no REO either and sometimes no 4EO – just 3 xEO and 8 or so GP sailors.

    OK on passenger ships they do carry considerably more staff ( crew ? crew are sea going personel who maintain and repair the ship they sail on – the ultimate user/maintainers; staff are shore side type people who work 5 days a week 8 hours a day and are NOT user/maintainers ….) but you can bet all the working practices from the non passenger fleets will be in place; the savings in crew costs (salary; feeding; flying to/from ship on leave; training; more training…….) are massive.

    Actually; I'm rather glad not to be at sea any longer; it may appear to be safer – until something goes wrong; when there is neither the depth of knowledge nor the man power available to get things at least jury rigged….

    I mentioned competencies as well as crew levels; well couple of years ago I attended an LNG gas carrier – the engineers had no idea how the automation worked; and would not have been able to change out a cylinder liner mid ocean even if they'd be allowed to ! Oh yes; the ENgine room was nice & clean & shiny – but when you consider that it was 80% fully automated and no one knew how the PLCs worked – or the DCS/SCADA system (that's why I was there …..) then you know you should start to worry …..

    How can 4 men do the work of 8 ? It is not just the automation (I'm a big fan – and now I am a Process and Automation engineer) – yes a lot of the automation has removed the need for all those crew; but when things go wrong at sea; you can't just drive up in a couple of hours with another 15 QUALIFIED blokes to fix things – it's sink or swim time; and if you get wrong; you kill people.

    /rant over !

  5. E.M.Smith says:

    @Rob L:

    It pondered that too. Might be an issue with lashing them against storms and I’m not sure what kind of ‘connections’ could be made to the electrical system (would likely take some ‘monster long’ cables…). So I figured it was likely just too “flexible adapt on site” for our modern litigation driven world…

    In my “Fantasy I’m in charge” world, were I running a cruise line, I’d have an aux generator on a boat hull that could be airlifted via cargo chopper and put on a rope off the stern… power via high voltage (low mass) cable and a transformer on the ship end. Probably using 400 hz inductors to keep the weight down and then an AC/DC/AC rectifier / inverter at the far end… OR I’d have a predesignated “lash down point” with cabling prelaid… Which is what I have at home. Cables ‘in place’ and the generator gets set where the cable can reach / plug in.

    All in all, I’d rather have a built in emergency aux power room… isolated.


    Had one cruise once. It was fun, but I can think of a lot more fun. The cruise was like being locked into a giant really nice hotel… but still locked in… Really liked the shore visits. It ws nice not doing the ‘unpack repack’ to visit different islands.

    Don’t know that I’d ever take another one. Especially given the “You will have NO rights nor legal recourse” contracts and the tendency to burst into flames…

    @R. de Haan:

    The belief in “systems” rather than people is the very root cause. In the past, folks valued their reputation and they would employ ‘good people’ and set them free on a task. Now they employ cheap sources and depend on “ISO-90whatever” to make things good. Doesn’t work.

    The “left brain folks” think that with enough rules and systems they can make it all work, and cheaply. They are wrong, but do not know it.

    The “right brain folks” know how to make it right and just need to be left alone.

    These two are in conflict and it doesn’t work well. But the “left brain folks” insist they are right and tend to rise to positions of power and authority in rule driven organizations like government…


    Looks about right to me…

  6. John Robertson says:

    Something I see repeatedly, in emergency backup installations, is reliance on a single component never to fail.
    Most commonly the automatic transfer switch, very seldom do owners allow money for a manual bypass.
    And as E.M notes quality is not what it used to be.
    The other part of the problem is the variable frequency drives, wonderful technology but, the stresses on electrical components are different, more random, at some frequencies the equipment sounds very unhappy.
    And as noted above, by Peter, the engine rooms no longer have the skill or equipment to repair or jury rig a limp home.

  7. co2fan says:

    I was thinking along those exact lines (single point failures that kill propulsion as well as hotel infrastructure) when the Triumph fire happened. How is that even possible?
    I noted that the Triumph was built in Italy in 1999.
    I’m planning on a Transatlantic on Celebrity’s Silhouette this April. Six sea days. That’s a lot of empty ocean, at least not many rocks and no icebergs.
    This ship was built in Germany in 2011. engines in both ships by Wärtsilä.
    Before your writeup, the Italian vs German origin gave me comfort. (also Greek captain vs. Italian, Costa Concordia, LOL)
    I will go on an engine room tour and ask some questions.
    It’s like flying, the odds of no event are massively in my favor.


  8. Petrossa says:

    The only cruise i ever took turned out to be on a uncertified ship on her last voyage to a wrecking yard. The crew only spoke russian which made communication hard. I remember asking for a hardboiled egg in ‘sign’ language. I got one, so i must be a natural.
    The good thing about it was that the sewage pipes were leaking, so after complaint they moved us to a master suite. I still marvel we arrived everywhere on time and without manning the pumps.

    In any case cured my desire for cruises real good.

  9. nzrobin says:

    I’ve worked in the electric power distribution industry for 40 years and what you’ve described is happening in our area too. I’ve noticed that basic units like transformers and field circuit breakers are made with tank steel that rust out in about 25 years, about half the life of the older units, which achieve 50 to 60 years life. Not only that, the move away from oil impregnated paper to cross linked polyethylene has introduced a similar problem with partial discharges and ‘treeing’. Tomorrow is my 40th anniversary celebration and I’ve been contemplating what to say to the younger engineers in the company. I think I’ll encourage them to look away from the fancy computer stuff, and to think of the basics (which actually have not changed that much). To ask them move away from their computer screens more often, and to go look at the power poles, transformers, circuit breakers and substations.

  10. Another Ian says:

    nzrobin says:
    19 February 2013 at 8:22 am

    I’ve been suggesting a term for this –

    “Empixellated” , to describe those who look at computer screens rather than looking out windows at what is happening in their paddock in the real world

  11. Speed says:

    E.M. Smith wrote, “Now it’s pretty much just CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid (and even there, there is ongoing merger speculation)”

    And Target, WalMart, Costco, grocery stores (Safeway, Albertson’s, Kroger, Publix et al) and many “mail order” pharmacies.

  12. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M.: You are touching sensitive issues… Back in the 1950`s, apart of the then booming science fiction literature, there appeared books on political fiction; in one of these it was told about a possible future, where transnational corporations would own the world assets and control all world governments .
    It was really prophetic, as we remember mergers and aggressive buys which happened in the last years of the 20th century….Now those “kids” could fit in a 10 x 10 feet hotel room, whenever they want to chat among them.

  13. Richard Ilfeld says:

    On the other hand, what is the status of the Chinese navy? Do they have a parallel industry for Military supply?

  14. George says:

    If I didn’t mess up: 4 of these 66 events happened between 1900 and 1960, 2 in that decade, 3 in the ’70s, 4 in the ’80s, 8 in the ’90s, 25 in the ’00s, and 20 (so far) in the ’10s. On the basis of no theory and assuming a linear trend within the decade, we might expect 42.7 (disclaimer re lack of theory, linearity, … :-() cruise ship fires and explosions between now and Jan 1, 2020.

    For conspiracy theorists: 41 (62%) of these events happened since Sep 11, 2001, and 51 (77%) since the first World Trade Center bombing on Feb 26, 1993.

  15. Tim Clark says:

    My wife would love to go on a cruise. She is well aware that I never will, nohow,get over it, ever, and ever, amen.
    Why. Good question. The best I can offer for an excuse, is it’s my personality and the idea of being on a ship causes issues:
    “absolute loss of control”
    distrust in competance of ship staff.
    I can be bored to tears elsewhere without having to associate with the unwashed masses, foreign disease ridden ports and waves.

  16. P.G.Sharrow says:

    @Tim Clark; Same problem here, except I had a long series of :cruises” courtesy of my Uncle Sam’s canoe club. The last thing I want to do is being locked up on a ship in the middle of the Ocean for a week.
    At least generally, a Navy ship is being operated by competent people. A cruiseship operates under third world flag for a reason. Take a cruise, no way! pg

  17. Gail Combs says:

    Late to the party but what the heck.

    At one point I was a certified Quality Engineer. I HATE ISO900… I is not and never was a quality system. It is a management system period. Unfortunately they are now applying it to everything including farming.

    I can also tell you NONE of the companies I worked for was honest. I always had problems with falsification of results in all nine companies yet those same companies thought I was paranoid because I wanted to do incoming inspection.

    A friend in quality who worked in the aircraft industry and like me does not believe ISO certification had some six hatch mark bolts from China. He tested them and found they were made of cheap metal. Seems the Chinese found out that bolts with six hatch marks sold for a much higher price so thats what they put on their bolts. I wonder just how many critical bolts there are through out the world now that are Chinese look-a-like bolts made of inferior metal?

    I am not the only quality engineer who doesn’t like ISO by the way.

    “…Scott Dalgleish, [is] vice president of manufacturing at Spectra Logic Corp., a Boulder, CO, maker of robotic computer tape backup systems. Dalgleish, an ASQ certified quality manager who has worked in the quality profession since the late 1980s, is not happy with the direction that the quality movement has taken in recent years. And he sees the ISO 9000 family of standards as the primary negative influence.
    Among other things, Dalgleish contends that ISO 9000 misdirects resources to an overabundance of paperwork that does almost nothing to make products better, while fostering complacency among top management and quality professionals alike. The recent conversion to the 2000 version of the standard has only made things worse, he says. While ISO 9000:2000 has almost no effect on how good companies operate, it requires huge amounts of time for document revision that could better be spent on real quality improvement, he believes.
    Probing the Limits: ISO 9001 Proves Ineffective

    I’m wondering if there might be a silent majority of Quality readers out there on the topic of ISO 9000. The response to my July editorial, “Eliminate ISO 9000?,” was the heaviest that we have received in some time. I got lots of e-mails from readers about the piece, which reported the views of Scott Dalgleish, a quality professional who has been publicly critical of the impact of ISO 9000 on manufacturers, and has suggested that companies eliminate ISO 9000 altogether from their quality management systems.
    Many of the responses were quite articulate, and some were humorous and entertaining. You can read a sampling in this month’s Quality Mailbag department on p. 12.
    One thing that struck me about the letters I received is that almost all expressed some level of agreement with Dalgleish, particularly on issues related to excessive ISO 9000 documentation requirements. As you’ll see in the Mailbag department, one reader even said that his company has already dropped its ISO 9001 certification with no apparent negative effects.
    What surprised me is that the July editorial elicited no ardent rebuttals in defense of ISO 9000.

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