USA Today reported today a fire in a generator knocked out power to a cruise ship sailing off the Mexican coast over the weekend, forcing the evacuation of nearly 750 passengers and crew. The Associated Press reports 522 passengers and 226 crew members aboard the Ocean Star Pacific on Saturday were evacuated by catamaran to the Port of Huatulco on Mexico’s West Coast.
Fire aboard a ship is a major safety concern, although they do not happen with regularity, and almost all the reported fires have been limited to specific areas aboard the ship and confined and adequately put out without injuries or deaths. However, there have been instances where there have been serious injuries and deaths due to fire aboard a ship. We previously represented over 250 families who lost loved ones who were aboard a cruise ship named the Scandinavian Star. The cruise ship had been operating in Florida for many years under the popular seaescape name, which were one day cruises to nowhere. Although the ship was subject to inspections and certification by a classification society called Lloyds the ship was found to have serious safety deficiencies, including the lack of proper fire alarms, lighting for when electricity goes off, as well as communication among crew for proper response and rescue efforts.
In another passenger case aboard a Princess cruise vessel, the Star Princess, a fire onboard spread on the balconies of the ship, causing serious injuries to the some of the passengers. The investigation afterward found that the materials on the ship were inappropriate and caused the fire to rapidly spread.
There can be some sense of security to those who travel onboard a ship that there are stringent international regulations, including the Safety of Life at Sea Convention, which addresses fire prevention, detection and response procedures. These regulations have been updated based on the findings of the investigations of the previous fires.
This recent fire reminds us that fire is one of those risks associated with cruising, and it is scary to think about being on a ship in the high seas and a fire develops. The crew does receive stringent fire related training as obviously this is one risk no one wants to see materialize.
The immediate detection and response to any fire is the key, and smoke detectors, alarms, and training of the crew are the key.
Claims for emotional damages may also be available in addition to those for personal injuries from a fire related incident.