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Wednesday, October 11, 2000

 

Infinity will be late
Royal Caribbean says that after carefully reviewing the status of its newest ship, Infinity,in conjunction with shipbuilder Chantiers de L'Atlantique, it has decided to delay the launch date by four weeks. As a result, the ships first three cruises, February 3, 17, and 28, will be rescheduled to March 3, 17, and 28, respectively. Cruises originally scheduled to start on March 10 and 24 will be canceled.

Operating under Royal Caribbean's Celebrity Cruises label, the 1,950 passenger Infinity is a sister to the Millennium--the worlds first gas turbine powered cruise liner. That ship was found to have a vibration problem related to the design of the stern hull. In November, it will enter dry dock to have a buffer attached to the aft part of the hull that's intended to eliminate the bad vibes. Its estimated the fix will take three weeks and it has meant the cancellation of one two-night and two seven-night cruises.

Infinity is scheduled to receive the same modification, though it is unclear whether it is this extra work that is solely the reason for the delayed launch. Like our guests on Infinity's first sailings, I am disappointed by this delay, and I apologize for any inconvenience this will cause them, said Richard E. Sasso, president of Celebrity Cruises. We and the yard build a time cushion into all of our shipbuilding schedules, and up until today, we believed that this cushion would be sufficient.

Royal Caribbean says it is continuing to review the matter with the shipyard and expects the bulk of any costs associated with the delay to be covered by the builder.

Tanker captain held without bail
According to the San Francisco Chronicle a tanker now at the center of a federal criminal probe broke down 12 times on its voyage from Australia to San Francisco last month and was "in such poor condition that the captain prayed for his safety and that of his crew, he told U.S. Coast Guard officers."

According to an affidavit filed by the Coast Guard, the newspaper reports, the captain told investigators that the tanker Neptune Dorado had numerous leaks and other problems when he first came aboard 3 1/2 months ago and that his communications to his superiors about the problems were ignored. The affidavit reportedly reveals that the captain, Kiriakos Daioglou, knew the cracks and leaks could cause explosive conditions in ballast tanks and that he ordered his crew at one point to skim leaked crude oil into barrels that were thrown into international waters.

On Friday, reports the paper, federal agents arrested Daioglou after he allegedly confessed that he ordered log entries falsified to conceal the fact that oil was leaking into the ballast tank -- which creates the potential for a catastrophic explosion. The affidavit was filed after the confession so that investigators could seize evidence, including the ship's log, on board.

Daioglou, appeared in federal court in San Francisco yesterday but did not enter a plea. He was ordered held without bail after prosecutors asserted that he was a flight risk. A bail hearing will be held tomorrow.

Meanwhile, says the newspaper, federal authorities and officials of Tosco Corp. in Rodeo, where the ship remains docked, are working on plans to complete the long-delayed transfer of 580,000 barrels of Australian crude oil.

The 53,000-ton Neptune Dorado was detained last month after U.S. officials found serious safety and environmental violations, including the fact that the ship had no working fire pumps. The ship was deemed so unsafe that the Coast Guard ordered it out of the bay but then agreed to let it make the delivery at Tosco. That delivery was halted last week when inspectors discovered at least three ballast tanks were at risk of explosion because of oil leaks.

According to court documents, reports the Chronicle, Daioglou ultimately admitted that one of the tanks contained 500 tons of crude oil. During the voyage to the U. S., the crew was ordered to dump oil skimmed from another ballast tank into the sea.

The Chronicle reports Daioglou's lawyer, Douglas Schwartz, as calling the Coast Guard's affidavit "Creative Writing 101'' and saying that his client cannot speak enough English to have admitted the misconduct mentioned in the document. Michael Chalos, an attorney representing the Neptune Dorado's operators, Polembros Shipping Ltd., disputed that Daioglou had reported problems with the ship, says the Chronicle story. The paper reports Chalos as saying that the company is supporting Daioglou in his defense of the criminal charges, which carry a maximum five-year prison term and a $250,000 fine.

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