Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Fires

This past Sunday, another fire onboard a passenger ship occurred, this one off the coast of Port Richey, which is just north of Tampa, Florida. The fire broke about a half a mile from shore on a shuttle boat operated by Tropical Breeze Casino, causing all of the 50 passengers and crew members to jump overboard and swim to shore.  There were over a dozen passengers who were reported to have been injured and a 42-year-old woman who was killed.

fire1-300x225The 60-foot shuttle boat was on its way to the Tropical Breeze Casino Boat (a company also known as SunCruz at one time) when the captain noticed smoke. After noticing the smoke, the captain turned the boat back to shore.  On his way back, the boat started having engine problems, which had been reported even before the accident in question.  The captain then ordered all 50 people on board to abandon the ship and swim to shore. There was no time to even hand out life jackets. The water, which was 59-degrees at the time, combined with the Gulf breeze actually created a risk of hypothermia for the passengers, some of whom were found face down in the water and would have died had the rescue efforts not been so prompt.

The cause of the fire has not yet been learned. However, according to recent reports, the company has had safety issues for many years. There have been about 29 investigations involving boats associated with their casino boat operation. This included another fire on one of its shuttle boats in 2004, which was caused by poor maintenance and insufficient training.

This past Thursday, a fire broke out in the engine room of the MS Nordnorge, a passenger/ ro-ro cargo ship, while the ship was docked in Norway. City firefighters and crew members helped extinguish the fire. Although the ship did not suffer any serious damage, three of the crew members on board had to be treated for smoke inhalation.

norway-port-300x225I have reported many times on fires at sea and the dangers it creates to both the passengers and crew, as well as the damages it causes to the vessel itself, and the dangers it creates for those who come to the rescue or otherwise are in the vicinity of the fire, depending on how quickly the fire is detected and put out. Obviously, the number one goal is fire prevention, and then fire detection if prevention does not work,

There have been several fires at sea involving major passenger cruise ships, most of which have started in the engine rooms as well. The focus of fire detection must zero in on engine room fires as well as all other areas of the vessel. Many lives have been lost at sea due to fires. A fire at sea poses unique difficulties because you must rely on the crew on board the ship to respond to the fire and extinguish it. Unlike fires on land, you do not have fire rescue coming to the scene within minutes to put out a fire. Therefore, the crew must be properly trained in firefighting. In this situation, the MS Nordnorge was docked when the fire broke out, so city firefighters were able to quickly help to extinguish the fire.

MIAMI, Florida–Fires breaking out on passenger ships is unfortunately not a rare event.  This reported story is about the Zahro Express, a tourist boat in Indonesia. The boat was carrying about 250 passengers to an island north of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta when the boat caught fire.  This tragedy ended by taking the lives of 23 passengers, who are reported dead as a result of this fire. Additionally,  around 17 passengers were also injured and another 17 people are still missing. The fire cause, according to police, was believed to be an explosion in  the engine room. It was accidental and most likely due to some sort of electrical fault.

fire-300x200What regulations this passenger ship in Indonesia was subjected to, what inspection they received on a regular basis, what certifications they had, and what other safety measures were in effect to deal with the possibility of a fire is unknown.  What we do know is that accidents on the water in Indonesia are pretty frequent. Vessels are often overloaded and there are never enough life jackets for all the passengers.

We have previously written about the dangers of fires aboard cruise ships, and how they can be much more deadly than a fire on land because of the inability to have the fire department respond promptly.  A fire at sea leaves a vessel pretty much on its own, with no trained firefighters and limited equipment involved in extinguishing a fire.  A vessel also  has to deal with problems the fire could cause, such as the loss of propulsion or damage to the vessel.

cruiseI have been alerted that another fire has broken out on board another passenger cruise ship, this time on the cruise ship SeaDream I, which is operated by SeaDream Yacht Club. The vessel was sailing in Italy this afternoon when a fire broke out, reportedly from the engine room.  I have been told that the vessel lost power and is currently being towed.

I heard there was a lot of turmoil and that the passengers had to be evacuated at sea onto a high-speed ferry.   Passengers were, understandably so, very scared. I did not hear of any personal injuries. I am only aware that it has been posted in an Italian newspaper so I do not have much more details to report at this time.

However, I can say that I have warned repeatedly about the dangers on cruise ships, which include fires.  There have been numerous fires reported on board cruises.  Although this SeaDream I cruise ship is a small petite cruise ship and does not carry that many passengers, the newer cruise ships are getting bigger and bigger.  They are referred to as mega-cruise ships, carrying over 6000 passengers.

fireA fire at sea poses unique safety risks, risks passengers often do not consider before embarking on a cruise. When a fire breaks out on land, we have personnel who are highly trained in firefighting, responding with sophisticated equipment. When a fire breaks out aboard a cruise ship, we must rely on the crew members, in whatever training the cruise ship company has provided, responding with limited equipment.

Another obvious safety hazard present from a cruise ship fire is the inability to run somewhere for safety. Often times on land a quick escape is easy as there is a place to run to safety. On a cruise ship, there are limited areas where passengers can escape to, short of being evacuated off the ship. A shipboard evacuation of thousands of passengers is an enormous undertaking, which presents many safety hazards in and of itself. Most of us heard about the disaster with the Costa Concordia evacuation efforts.

Another safety issue is the fact that the crew members are often from different nationalities. During a fire, the language barriers that are present aboard cruise ships often make it difficult for the crew members  to communicate with each other, as well as the passengers, in order to safely perform a rescue effort.

Friday night “a small and short-lived engine fire” occurred aboard Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. The ship was on its way back to Port Everglades from St Maarten when the fire broke out at about 7:45 p.m. The fire was immediately extinguished and no injuries were reported. In addition, the fire did not delay the voyage. Sadly this is not the first time this has occurred. During a hearing before the U.S. Senate last month following the Costa Concordia disaster, Ross A. Klein, PhD, who is a leading authority in the cruise area, testified saying that since 1990, 79 cruise ships have experienced a fire.

Only a month ago another Royal Caribbean Cruise the Azamara Quest experienced a fire in its engine room which disabled the ship. In addition, the Costa Allegra also experienced a fire which left it floating in the middle of the Indian Ocean until it could be towed to the Seychelles.

Although none of the fires discussed above resulted in serious injuries or deaths, this is not always the case. Our firm previously represented the families from the Scandinavian Star who lost loved ones in a fire aboard a cruise ship. 159 people died.

CBS News reported yesterday that the cruise ship Azamara Quest that is part of Miami, Florida-based Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. suffered an engine room fire. Smoke spread through the cruise ship quickly causing passengers to put on life vests and gather for roll call. Though many were fearful because of the recent Costa Concordia event when it became clear that the fire was quickly extinguished passengers began to party.

Passengers began to enjoy barbecues on the deck and free drinks. People didn’t complain and instead remained upbeat.

“It was unfortunate, but the crew was totally, utterly amazing, taking care of us, making sure we were safe, pulling double duty,” said passenger Krasnick.

fire-1568096It was reported that today, March 30, 2012, a fire broke out aboard the cruise ship Azamara Quest. It’s reported that the fire happened at approximately 8:19 p.m. on Friday.

Azamara Club Cruises, who operates the Azamara Quest, issued a statement saying: “On Friday, March 30, at approximately 8:19 p.m. ship time, Azamara Quest experienced a fire in the engine room. The fire was contained to the engine room and was quickly extinguished.”

It is reported that there were no injuries to any passengers but unfortunately, five crew members were injured. The captain mustered all the guests at their assembly stations and it was reported that the cruise ship was operating on generator power until full power could be restored to the engine room. This meant that for about 24 hours the ship was left adrift in the Philippine waters. Luckily, the waters were relatively calm, not subjecting the passengers to the rough conditions at sea.

Ocean-Star-Pacific.jpgUSA 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.

06-03-starprincess-burnt.jpgIn 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.

Carnival-Splendor-Fire.jpgThe big and beautiful Carnival Splendor was all of a sudden being towed to San Diego back in November when a fire broke out in the engine room which disabled several of the ship’s systems. The more than 3,000 passengers, who planned on be on the Mexican Rivera tanning, all of a sudden were on a powerless monstrous ship. Some passengers referred to it as a hell cruise.

Passengers were without air conditioning, hot food, flushing toilets and telephones for several days. Of Course, not what the 3000 plus passengers expected when they stepped foot on the ship. Visions of the Rivera were on the passengers’ mind, not that they would soon be getting towed due to a fire onboard the ship.

A fire onboard a vessel can be devastating and very dangerous. Our firm handled a case involving a fire onboard a passenger ship that resulted in hundreds of passengers and crew being killed. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured aboard the Carnival Splendor.

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