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.
I 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.
I previously represented families of over 250 passengers that were killed during a fire on a cruise ship. The investigation revealed that this particular ship did not have properly trained crew, did not have proper fire detection systems on board, and lacked numerous safety procedures to implement in case of a fire.
I am currently representing a family who lost their parents during a fire that happened on board an Amazon River cruise. The parents decided to take an Amazon River cruise and book it through a United States company that marketed the cruise, and in fact represented to the public that it owned the ship, and that the ship was a newly built ship that complied with all the applicable regulations. The representations were relied upon by the parents, as well as the other passengers on board, to believe that they booked a cruise for the Amazon River that would be safe and backed by a well-established United States company. After the fire that broke out in the parents’ cabin and killed them due to the smoke inhalation because of lack of appropriate response by the crew, the Peru Navy investigated the incident and concluded that contrary to the representations, the ship was in violation of applicable safety regulations, and that the crew had not been appropriately trained with respect to fire protection and response.
The importance here is to understand that fires at sea can be devastating. There could be thousands of passengers on board the ship, who must rely on the ship’s fire detection systems and the ship’s crew to respond to the fire appropriately. Issues of evacuation could be also quite challenging depending on the location of the vessel and how severe the fire is.
In the Amazon River cruise case, the cabin contained flammable materials, which was a violation of the regulations. A fire can spread quickly, becoming quite deadly. A fire can also shut down the major operating systems of the vessel, putting the vessel at the mercy of the seas, which in of itself is a very dangerous situation.
We must rely on governmental authorities to have in place strict laws and regulations for ships regarding fire prevention, detection, and response, and rely on these governmental authorities to make sure that the ships are complying with regulations which need to be very strict and explicit to prevent any major disasters at sea, and to avoid the loss of lives.
We are a maritime law firm in Miami that represents individuals injured at sea, and family members who have lost loved ones at sea.
Source: Cruise ship MS NORDNORGE fire, Norway