The Financial Times is reporting that fire safety concerns by a supplier of fire-resistant insulation are the reason behind the recently announced delay of the delivery and entry into service for MSC’s new luxury brand. The company’s new offering known as Explora Journeys had been scheduled to take delivery of its first cruise ship Explora I on July 6 from Fincantieri and celebrate its naming on July 8 followed by the maiden voyage scheduled for July 17.
The cruise company and shipbuilder initially attributed the delays to problems with suppliers and the final fitting out of the vessel. This came after they previously rescheduled the cruise ship’s entry into service from May to July 2023 blaming supply chain issues. Cruise media outlets last week were mentioning the fact that the new ship is the first of a class and the challenges with building new prototypes.
Citing unnamed sources, the Financial Times reports that Finnish-based supplier Paroc, a subsidiary of Owens Corning, which manufactures insullation made of non-combustible stone wool, is advising shipbuilders that two of its products lost their safety certifications after recent tests. The FT report says the products were certified in 2020 for five years but for unspecified reasons were recently retested with one losing its certificate in May and the second one recently also losing its certificate. They are reporting that the supplier has recalled the product.
MSC has been developing its concept for its luxury brand since 2018, ordering four 64,000 gross ton cruise ships from Fincantieri in 2019. The first two ships measure 813 feet in length with accommodations for 922 passengers and 634 in crew.
The FT is quoting Michael Ungerer, chief executive of Explora Journeys as saying, “Certain materials from a third-party supplier do not meet the required safety certifications and we therefore could not take delivery of the ship as planned.” He told the newspaper that the company is working with Fincantieri to resolve the issue. It likely also involves the classification society, which would be responsible for certifying the ship and ensuring it meets the SOLAS standards defined by the IMO.
It is unclear from the reporting how extensively the product was used or in what parts of the cruise ship. Fincantieri has also begun construction of the second ship Explora II. A first section, assembled at the company’s Castellammare di Stabia facility, reached the Fincantieri shipyard in Sestri Ponente early in 2023 with the assembly of the ship underway. The second ship is scheduled to enter service in August 2024.
The cruise industry, other segments of shipping, and other shipbuilders are also working to understand the full scope of the issue. According to the sources the Financial Times spoke with, as many as 45 ships were identified by Paroc as having received the products that lost certification. The newspaper cites the recently delivered MSC Euribia built by Chantiers de l’Atlantique as well as an unspecified cruise ship built by Fincantieri for MSC. The Italian shipyard delivered the MSC Seascape in November 2022 as the last of four ships built for the parent company.
Carnival Corporation told the Financial Times that it believes one of its ships may also have the insulation product. They noted that everything had passed all required certifications at the time of installation but that they are looking into the issue. Similarly, Royal Caribbean Group is listed as a Paroc customer with the company showing a picture of a TUI Mein Schiff on its website. Meyer Werft said none of the product was used on its ships while Chantiers de l’Atlantique told the FT it was working with the classification societies to understand and treat the issues.
Explora Journeys has removed the July cruise from its website. They now show an August 1, 2023, 14-night cruise from Copenhagen, Denmark to Iceland and back as the first sailing. No announcement has been made on when the delivery would happen or revised plans for the naming ceremony.