Rolls-Royce, the troubled engineering group, is facing severe embarrassment and potentially large damages because of problems with propellers it is fitting to the £550m new cruise liner, the Queen Mary II.
The four Mermaid Pods which are fitted to the giant ship are to undergo further tests because the Queen Mary's owner, Cunard, is worried about problems that have emerged on other liners. The most recent have been on the Infinity, owned by Royal Caribbean/Celebrity Cruises, twice withdrawn from service in the last six months because of problems with its Mermaid Pods.
The first time Rolls-Royce said it believed it was linked to the seals. However within weeks of Infinity going back into service it had to be withdrawn again for further tests.
It is now back in service, cruising around Hawaii. However, Celebrity revealed that the cancelled sailings cost it nearly $10m (£6.4m). It is expected to claim much of that back from Rolls-Royce.
Rolls-Royce has sold 49 of the Mermaid systems, but only a few have been installed so far.
The biggest contract is with the Queen Mary, which is the most prestigious liner launched in recent years. The 150,000-tonne boat will be the flagship of the British merchant fleet and is due to make its maiden passenger voyage in January.
Rolls-Royce said it had assured Cunard owner Carnival that the pod problems will be put right in time for the Queen Mary to meet its schedule. However, Micky Arison, chairman of Carnival, issued a warning to Rolls- Royce. "It will be very embarrassing to Rolls-Royce if this is not resolved," he said. "And expensive."
Carnival will this month complete its £5bn merger with P&O Princess Cruises. The combined group has 18 new ships being built.
Many of these have ordered Rolls-Royce Mermaid pods, so the pressure is on for the UK engineer to sort out the problems.
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