Fire Safety on Cruise Ships

A fire is a scary danger. A fire aboard a cruise ship is even scarier. The recent fire aboard the cruise ship Hurtigruten’s MS Nordlys reminds everyone that no one is immune to the potential danger of fire. However, with proper precautions and safety measures the danger can be greatly minimized.

Early during the morning of September 15, 2011, a fire broke out on the Nordlys. The ship was headed towards Ålesund, a port on Norway’s western coast, when the fire began in the engine room.

If people are to safely survive a fire, properly trained personnel must be ready to immediately respond. Onboard the Nordlys, people were immediately evacuated. Around 100 passengers were set afloat in lifeboats. The rest of the 207 passengers and 55 crew members unloaded when the ship docked, shortly after the fire began.

Witnesses report that the evacuation went smoothly, and Hurtigruten says, “All guests have been safely evacuated.” Unfortunately, even the efficient evacuation was not enough to save everyone aboard. Two crew members, chief engineer Geir Terje Isaksen and apprentice Steffen Ulvatne were claimed by the fire. Nine other crew members sustained injuries.

The Nordlys, herself, suffered significant damage. The fire ruptured her hull. A significant amount of water entered, and she at one point was listing 22 degrees to the port. Salvage teams are working on the vessel, and progress is being made.

This tragedy serves as a reminder of the power of the sea. Even within the safety of a port, a cruise ship caught fire. Hopefully this travesty will cause people to continually pursue perfection in fire safety, while remembering those who were lost to the fire.

Modern cruise ships are well-equipped to handle an emergency such as this, but improvements can always be made. Equipment must always be maintained. Personnel must be constantly refreshed on protocols. This event could have been much worse, but thankfully the emergency response and evacuation was efficient.

About Waks & Barnett, P.A.
Based in Miami, Waks & Barnett attorneys work with clients in Florida, throughout the United States and around the world. The firm’s attorneys practice in the areas of personal injury, accidents and wrongful death, with a specialization in admiralty and maritime law.

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