The Resorts World Bimini SuperFast cruise ship has been docked for days at PortMiami, where it will remain until it gets the all-clear from the U.S. Coast Guard.
"[From] our perspective, it was not capable of carrying passengers and being issued a certificate of compliance by the Coast Guard," said Commander and Chief Inspector Janet Espino-Young.
Though the multimillion dollar SuperFast already passed clearances overseas, where it was built and sailed for years, it still must meet the Coast Guard's strict criteria before it can be cleared to transport passengers to and from U.S. ports.
Last Friday, the SuperFast seemed sea-ready, as hundreds gathered on deck for a Bahamian-style party celebrating what was supposed to be its maiden voyage to Bimini, in the Bahamas, at high speeds nearing 30 knots. At that rate, passengers paying for fares starting around $50 would leave Miami and arrive in Bimini in near no time.
"Regardless of the two-hour trip or three-hour trip, it's all about ensuring that the vessel is safe," Espino-Young said.
She leads the group inspecting the SuperFast. During evacuation drills last week, she said, her team found the ship crew unable to move passengers safely onto lifeboats within 30 minutes. There were also tech issues. The SuperFast's emergency power sources gave out, and a system deploying lifeboats from the vessel failed as well.
In light of the Carnival cruise crises last spring, many in Miami agree with the Coast Guard's call to temporarily halt the cruises.
"You don't want to be stuck out at sea without lifeboats or anything like that," said Eric Zahn.
"If you go on a cruise ship, you want to have fun and enjoy it, and not be worried about stuff like that," Alex Schneider added.
Espino-Young said the SuperFast crew is successfully resolving quickly the ship's deficiencies, which also include some fire hazards. A spokesman for Resorts World Bimini said tickets are not yet being widely sold, so passengers have not been majorly inconvenienced, and the company is now shifting concerns towards improving its vessel.
"Resorts World considers the safety of the Bimini SuperFast's passengers and crew our top priority. For this reason, we are working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard to complete all outstanding safety checks prior to launching twice-a-day service between Miami and Bimini," spokesman Aaron Gordon said.
Right now, all eyes are on Resorts World Bimini and its SuperFast for its potential as an economic engine linking Bimini and South Florida. The resort and the ship are owned by the Genting Group. That is the Malaysian casino company that purchased the old Miami Herald building in 2011 and has tried unsuccessfully to build a casino on the site. It still has plans for a project that would include a luxury hotel and condominiums there.
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