Major Fire Damages Vessel in Japan Shipyard

Princess still accepting bookings on Diamond Princess Inside Passage cruises until damage assessment is completed

By: Theresa Norton Masek

Princess Cruises was still taking bookings on the Diamond Princess last week despite a two-day fire that inflicted significant damage on the vessel as it was being completed at a Japanese shipyard.

The cause of the fire had not been determined as of press time. The 113,000-ton, 3,100-passenger vessel was scheduled to enter service on June 19 in Alaska.

The Diamond Princess is the first of two ships ordered by Princess parent P&O Princess Cruises from the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries shipyard in Nagasaki, Japan.

“The extent of the damage is not as yet known, but appears to be significant,” according to a statement from P&O headquarters in London. “It will take some time to assess the extent of the damage and any consequent delay to the scheduled delivery.”

A Mitsubishi spokesman told Reuters that it was unclear whether the ship could be salvaged.

“Until a full assessment can be made of the damage, we’re not making a decision on how it will impact the ship’s first season in Alaska,” Princess spokeswoman Julie Benson said. “If we need to, we can very easily move Diamond passengers to our new Star Princess, which will operate the exact same itinerary only a day later. And we do have space on the Star Princess.”

The Diamond and Star ships are scheduled to operate Inside Passage cruises roundtrip from Seattle next summer.

P&O Princess said it has contracts with the shipyard and insurance policies to shield the company from major losses in the event of extensive damage or a delay in delivery. Mitsubishi also is insured.

The Diamond Princess, with construction costs estimated at $450 million, was designed as the largest ship in the Princess fleet.

The second ship under construction at Mitsubishi, the Sapphire Princess, is scheduled to enter service in May 2004.

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