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Carnival Triumph secured after breaking loose from dock; man reported missing

By Steve Almasy, CNN
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Thu April 4, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Carnival says ship tied up at cruise terminal
  • One person missing in incident, which came during high winds
  • The ship has a gash in the stern, CNN affiliate reports
  • Problem is the latest in a series of setbacks for the cruise line leader

(CNN) -- The Coast Guard is searching for a man knocked into the Mobile River after high winds hit the area Wednesday, blowing the man's security guard hut into the water and causing the Carnival Triumph cruise ship to break loose from its repair dock.

The call to the Coast Guard came in at 1:45 p.m. CT as near hurricane-force winds smacked the Gulf Coast city of Mobile, Alabama.

An official with the city's fire department said earlier that the missing man and another person were in a guard shack at the BAE Shipyard that was blown into the Mobile River. One man has been recovered from the water.

On the agency's Twitter feed, the fire department said the Coast Guard, Mobile police and the sheriff department's flotilla are now in charge of a "recovery operation." Some of the flotilla's boats are equipped with sonar to find underwater objects.

The Triumph, which was adrift for several hours, was secured at a dock at the Alabama Cruise Terminal on Wednesday night, officials said. Tugboats will remain next to ship as as precaution, Carnival said.

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Carnival spokeswoman Joyce Oliva said all of the company's crew members and contractors on the ship have been accounted for.

Photo: Watching Triumph drift from shore

Wind gusts reached 66 mph Wednesday at nearby Brookley Field, according to the National Weather Service in Mobile, though a Carnival statement said the winds exceeded 70 mph.

The Triumph has been at BAE Shipyard in the Port of Mobile since an engine fire in February left the cruise ship crippled and adrift in the Gulf of Mexico with more than 4,200 people aboard. For four days, tugboats guided the disabled ship into the port as passengers complained about miserable conditions on board.

On Wednesday, it drifted across the shipyard after breaking free. Tugboats kept it from drifting farther down river, the Coast Guard said.

CNN affiliate WKRG reported the cruise ship had a hole on the right side of the stern; Carnival said an initial inspection found limited damage.

Carnival said in late March the ship would be out of service until June 3. In addition to repairs, workers will increase the number of systems and services that the Triumph and other Carnival ships can run on backup power.

Will Carnival keep its customers?

Wednesday's incident was the latest in several headline-making issues for one of the world's leading cruise lines. Four of the company's 23 ships have had problems in recent months.

The cruise line has offered affected passengers refunds and discounts on future cruises.

It faces a class-action lawsuit related to the Triumph's last cruise, when passengers reported that food was scarce, cruise goers sweltered in the heat with no air conditioning, toilets overflowed and human waste ran down the walls in some parts of the ship.

The problems have also prompted one U.S. lawmaker to propose a "Cruise Ship Passenger Bill of Rights."

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, said he was asking the cruise industry to voluntarily sign on to a list of guidelines, including the right to backup power if generators fail and the right to disembark a docked ship "if basic provisions cannot adequately be provided on board."

He also called on the International Maritime Organization to investigate whether cruise lines are following existing guidelines, and whether existing standards are being enforced by countries where cruise ships that serve U.S. passengers are based.

"Cruise ships, in large part operating outside the bounds of United States enforcement, have become the Wild West of the travel industry, and it's time to rein them in before anyone else gets hurt," Schumer said in a statement. "This bill of rights, based on work we've done with the airline industry, will ensure that passengers aren't forced to live in third world conditions or put their lives at risk when they go on vacation."

Carnival reviews ships after incidents

CNN's Chandler Friedman and Joe Sutton contributed to this story.

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