(2:40 p.m. EDT) -- The launch of upscale cruise line Explora Journeys' first ship, Explora I, was delayed in early July, following the revelation that some of the panelling installed in the ship had lost its safety certification.
Besides delaying the launch of Explora I -- from July 17 to a new tentative date of August 1 -- industry analysts and cruisers alike immediately began to ask the relevant questions: What other cruise ships could be affected, and what do cruisers need to know?
In May, Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri -- which is constructing Explora I -- was informed that Finnish manufacturer PAROC, which offers fire-resistant panelling for the marine industry, had lost its fire safety certification for one unspecified brand of panel. Later, the company informed Fincantieri that a second type of panelling, also installed aboard Explora I, had also lots its fire safety certification.
The specific types of panelling that have had their certification revoked -- and how much of it is in use aboard Explora I -- has not been revealed.
An article published by the Financial Times indicates that Paroc has identified 45 ships affected by the issue -- but these are not necessarily all cruise ships, as Paroc supplies other forms of marine vessels, like offshore ships, cargo ships and ferries.
Only one other ship fitted with the recalled panels has been identified by name -- MSC Cruises' recently-launched MSC Euribia.
A statement issued by Explora states, "Explora Journeys was only recently made aware before the delivery of Explora I of an issue that some materials used on the ship did not meet the required safety certifications.
"As the safety of our guests and crew is of the utmost priority we took the immediate and responsible decision not to take delivery, even though this meant that we had to cancel the ship’s first sailing to ensure she can be delivered with the highest safety standards and will have all appropriate safety certifications in place."
Carnival Corporation told Financial Times it was aware of one vessel fitted with the affected paneling, but did not name the vessel or its parent cruise line.
Royal Caribbean Group gave a statement to the publication Cruise Week. Said Jonathon Fishman, th company's Director of Corporate and Incident Communications: "The safety of our guests and crew is our top priority. We are aware of concerns involving a third-party vendor and are working diligently to assess if there are any impacts to our fleet.We will continue to ensure we meet and exceed all safety and compliance standards, and if necessary, will take immediate corrective action.”
On Cruise Critic's message boards, readers are acutely tuned into what may -- or may not -- be happening with this issue.
Those set to sail on Explora's maiden voyage -- many of whom are already in Europe -- are understandably frustrated that their cruise vacation won't be going ahead. In the absence of hard information, speculation is filling the void.
For those scheduled to sail MSC Euribia in the coming weeks and months, being the only other ship identified besides Explora I is worrying. However, as some posters have noted, the scope of the danger the loss of this certification by Paroc poses is still as yet undetermined.
"No one knows specifics yet but it could be as simple as misapplication of a certification label, or panel failure at 1 degree less than required," writes Heartgrove.
They have to find out what caused the failure on the most recent test and trace back the change to the batch it was introduced to," writes Brighton Line. "I assume this product's previous testing to this passed so they have good products installed and bad products installed. Heck a ship might even have both from two different production runs."
"If it is indeed a failure of the material to meet the fire code requirements, there would be a minute possibility that the affected ships would need to remove one panel for testing, and go from there, writes chengkp75, a poster who's extensive maritime background is often called upon on Cruise Critic's message boards.
"Even if the panels failed a fire test, unless it was by a significant amount, the only result would be a notation on the ship's class that the panels need to be renewed "as soon as practicable", usually mentioning during scheduled dry dock periods."
If you are sailing on a ship built prior to the last year or two, chances are your ship isn't affected, even if its panelling was made by Paroc. Much like a food recall or a recall by an automotive manufacturer, not all panels will have failed their safety rating -- just ones manufactured during a certain date range or process. What that range is, we don't currently know. But, at the moment, it's safe to presume the issue mainly affects ships that are under-construction or recently launched. Not every cruise line uses Paroc panels, either -- as with any industry, there are numerous suppliers involved.
Ships that were recently launched have had to pass rigorous marine certification processes in order to be able to set sail. If any of the faulty paneling is found, it will likely be removed while the ship is in service. If the usage is widespread, a drydock may be necessary to refit all the affected paneling.
Remember that fireproof paneling is just one element of safety built into modern cruise ships. These include fire-resistant furniture and fabrics, state-of-the-art fire suppression systems and segmented fire zones that can be closed off by heavy fire doors that swing shut in the event of an emergency.
Cruise Critic will update this article as more information becomes available.