World's biggest ocean liner does not meet fire regulations

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The Independent Online

The Queen Mary 2, the world's biggest and most expensive cruise liner, does not meet fire regulation standards, it was revealed today.

The Queen Mary 2, the world's biggest and most expensive cruise liner, does not meet fire regulation standards, it was revealed today.

Cunard Line is now making alterations to bathrooms in all of the ship's 1,300 cabins and is increasing fire patrols on the 150,000-ton vessel, which is based in Southampton.

Cunard's parent company, the giant American Carnival Corporation, said the UK's Maritime and Coastguard Agency had brought to Cunard's attention that panels in 900 of the bathrooms on the £500m ship "do not fully meet fire regulation standards".

Carnival said in a statement: "This is despite the materials used conforming to the relevant certification before the ship entered service in January 2004. During this time, there have been no problems with these materials."

The company said that the material under consideration was in a normally low-risk area of the cabin and that the cabins and adjacent corridors are equipped with smoke detectors and sprinklers.

Cunard will nevertheless be installing additional smoke detectors when the 2,600-passenger vessel reaches Southampton from New York tomorrow morning. It will also increase fire patrols.

The company said cabin sprinkler systems will also be extended into the bathrooms. The front panel of the bathroom vanity units will be replaced.

The company said its actions had been endorsed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which was "satisfied that passenger safety is not compromised".

"We expect to be able to finish this work ­ which will cost less than half a million dollars ­ by the time the ship leaves for New York tomorrow evening," Peter Ratcliffe, a spokesman for Carnival, said.

He added: "We are not embarrassed by this. A company's reputation is based on how it deals with problems that can arise. It's business as usual."

Built in St Nazaire, France, the 1,132ft-long ship was officially named by the Queen in a lavish ceremony at Southampton in January, before departing on its maiden passenger voyage to Ford Lauderdale, Florida.

A shadow had been cast over the launch of the vessel by a tragedy in St Nazaire in November last year. A walkway being used by shipyard families on a tour of the liner collapsed, killing 15 people.

At the beginning of May, the QM2 officially took over Cunard's transatlantic duties from the Queen Elizabeth 2 in another colourful ceremony attended by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister.

The Maritime & Coastguard Agency said it was alerted to the need for the alterations to the QM2's bathrooms by the BBC. It confirmed that an investigation was under way to see how the material was introduced into the bathroom units "despite a rigorous quality assurance procedure during construction".

The agency added in a statement: "It has to be stressed that the material under consideration is in a normally low risk wet area of the cabin and that the vessel already has a highly efficient sprinkler system throughout its passenger accommodation. The MCA is satisfied that passenger safety is not compromised."