Zenith Cruise Ship Disabled Due to Fire Near Venice

Zenith Cruise Ship FireEarly this morning a fire broke out in the engine room of the Zenith cruise ship, formerly operated by Celebrity Cruises and now operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises owned Pullmantur Cruises,   

The fire started at approximately 03:48 AM today while the cruise ship sailed from Ravenna to Venice with 1672 passengers on board.

The engine room was damaged to the point that the ship was disabled and had to anchor 17 miles off Venice.  The ship had to be towed by 4 tugs to Venice this afternoon. 

The Zenith was built 1992 and flies the flag of convenience of Malta. 

The incident will add to the controversy of the increasing presence of cruise ships in the lagoon of Venice which has been the site of protests from local Italian community groups and environmental activists.  

It is also the latest cruise ship fire in a string of fires which have disabled ships lately including the recent fire aboard Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas and the Carnival Triumph among others.  

I last saw the Zenith two years ago when it was docked in Royal Caribbean's new port in Falmouth Jamaica (photo below next to Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas; smokestack later painted blue).

There is remarkably little news in the U.S. press regarding yet another disabling cruise ship fire even though the ship is operated by  Pullmantur Cruises which is owned by Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises.

Anyone with information about the Zenith fire, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

June 26 2013 Update: A Spanish newspaper reports:

Josep Cortiella, one of the Spanish passengers on board, told Catalan TV news channel 3/24 that they had gone to the ship's bridge "in pyjamas" and stayed there until 8am.

The passengers had nothing to eat, he explained, except some sandwiches.

Cortellia claimed that the ship's authorities "didn't know what to do."

Pullamantur Zenith Cruise Ship 

Credit:

Top: vesseltracker.com via Maritime Bulletin.com

Bottom: Jim Walker

A Look Back: The Carnival Ecstasy Fire of 1998 at Miami Beach

Carnival Cruise Ship Ecstasy FireThe media's microscope is focused on Carnival right now following the large number of recent engine and propulsion problems involving the Carnival Triumph, Dream, Elation & Legend and the Carnival-owner P&O Cruises' Ventura cruise ships.   

The defenders of the cruise line are responding to the PR mess by insisting that such incidents are "rare."  But you will find no historical perspective, and no reference to a data-base of any type.

Business Insider posted an article today: "A Photo History Of Carnival Cruise Ship Disasters."  There were a couple of interesting photographs of the fire which erupted aboard the Carnival Ecstasy in 1998 as the cruise ship was trying to said out of Government Cut at Miami Beach.  The two photos below, via Reuters, I have never seen before.

Carnival's passengers and crew members were extremely lucky in that incident. The ship's on-board system did not suppress the fire, which charred the entire stern of the ship. But the incident occurred near the port. Other vessels were able to quickly respond and eventually extinguish the fire. If the fire had occurred just an hour or two later on the high seas and away from the fire boats, the Ecstasy would have burned down to the hull.

The Business Insider article contains a link to the NTSB report of the fire, which is interesting reading.

I was disappointed that the article did not mention the deadly Star Princess cruise ship fire in 2006. This cruise ship was operated by Carnival-owned Princess Cruises. This fire is an important piece of evidence in the history of cruise ship fires. You can see some photographs in our article "Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?"    

Carnival Cruise Ship Fire - Ecstasy

Carnival Cruise Ship Fires - Ecstasy

Carnival ecstasy Cruise Ship Fire

Photo Credit:

Photos nos 2, 3: Business Insider / Reuters

Photo no. 4: ForeignPolicy.com

Dead Ships & Endangered Passengers - Cruise Lines Ignore International Maritime Organization Guidelines

Yesterday the New York Times published an insightful article about the failure of the cruise industry to design their cruise ships with redundant engine systems such that if one set of engines is knocked out by a fire or explosion, another set of engines in a separate compartment would provide power to the cruise ship.

Entitled "Lack of Backup Power Puts Cruise Passengers at the Ocean’s Mercy," the article explains that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) proposed guidelines calling for cruise lines to to equip cruise ships with backup engines and generators. The redundant engine systems and back up systems are are needed not only to maintain electricity, refrigeration, and toilet operations, but to Carnival Triumph Engine Room Firemaintain power to prevent the ship from pitching violently in strong waves.

Just yesterday I spoke with a retired Coast Guard officer about what happens when a ship at sea loses all power. He expressed concern of how the cruise ship would be evacuated if the vessel loses power. There would be no way to lower the lifeboats!  

The newspaper explains that pursuant to the IMO recommendations, any cruise ship built after July 2010 is required to have redundant engine systems. But the cruise industry largely chose not to add backup systems to new cruise ships.

The IMO, a United Nations organization, has no authority to impose sanctions when cruise lines ignore the IMO's guidelines.

A naval architect, Larrie Ferreiro, is quoted in the newspaper explaining that a cruise line can design the ships either to put more equipment or more people on it: “The more passenger cabins you can fit into that envelope the more revenue you can get." Only 10% of the cruise ships have redundant systems, according to the NY Times.

In the unregulated world of cruising, this means that 90% of the cruise ships out there may become "dead in the water" when an engine room fire breaks out. That places passengers and crew at unnecessary risk of injury or death at sea.   

 

Photo Credit: Carnival Triumph engine room - US Coast Guard   

Fire Reported Aboard Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas

Adventure of the Seas Cruise ShipA passenger aboard the Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas cruise ship states that an engine room fire broke out ten days ago.   

According to a comment on the Cruise Critic message board, the incident occurred on November 13th while the Adventure of the Seas was making the crossing across the Atlantic. A fire on board caused the cruise ship to lose power and electricity for about two minutes. Alarms sounded intermittently. Some passengers smelled or observed smoke. Later, some passengers were later told that a "power surge" caused an engine fire while others said the captain mentioned switching over to a second set of engines.

Apparently no one was injured and the ship continued on its way.

Other than this mention of the alleged incident on Cruise Critic, there are no other references to a fire on the Adventure of the Seas which I have located.

Although the incident sounds minor, there is nothing insignificant about even a small fire in an engine room of a large cruise ship with several thousands of passengers aboard in the middle of the ocean.

There have been over 80 cruise ship fires in the last two decades.  Read about some recent cruise ship fires here.

Anyone else have any information?. 

Fire Destroys Turkish Cruise Ship

Didim Mavis Cruise Ship Fire A small cruise ship in Turkish waters, transporting 100 passengers, burned to its hull after a fire ravaged the ship today while cruising off Turkey's Aegean coast. 

The Didim Mavisi, which cruises the Aegean islands,experienced a fire shortly after departing from the Aegean district of Ayvalık today.

The fire reportedly broke out in the cruise ship's galley as the ship cruised near the coast of Sarımsaklı. According to the Anatolia News Agency, the fire quickly spread as the captain directed the vessel to a nearby cove.

All passengers and crew were safely evacuated as other boats came to the distressed vessel's aid. Some passengers jumped from the deck and swam ashore.

 

Didim Mavis Cruise Ship Fire

 

Photo Credit: 

Top ensonhaber.com

Bottom t24.com.tr

 

Fire Breaks Out On Rhine River Cruise Ship

Newspapers in Germany are reporting that a fire broke put on a river cruise ship with 134 people on board this morning. The ship is the Dutch-owned Regina Rheni. The ship was mostly filled with British tourists. 

The fire quickly spread and forced the passengers to the top deck. The newspaper accounts indicate that the 102 passengers and 32 crew members were in "grave danger." There are inconsistent reports of injury. Around a dozen passengers suffered smoke inhalation and four were hospitalized. The cause of the fire is still unclear.

The passengers were mostly elderly.  

It took three hours to extinguish the fire.

A month ago, a fire erupted aboard another river cruise ship, the MS Gerard Schmitter, while it was sailing from Amsterdam to Strasborg, requiring a similar evacuation.

 

Regina Rheni - River Cruise - Rhine River

Photo credit: Welt Online

Please note that the photograph above is not of the river cruise ship (the Regina Rheni) which caught fire. Rather it is a photo of another river cruise ship, Tauck's MS Swiss Sapphire, which was in the vicinity of the Regina Rheni and came to its aid. The Regina Rheni's passengers were evacuated to the Tauk vessel, where the crew provided them with food, blankets and warm drinks.  The  MS Swiss Sapphire then transported the passengers to Dusseldorf, where they disembarked and were met by authorities who provided additional aid.

The MS Swiss Sapphire continued on the rest of its journey, and is now back on its regular schedule.

 

Cruise Ship Fires: Miami Herald Works Overtime to Rehabilitate the Cruise Industry's Reputation

On Monday, the Miami Herald published an article "Cruise Ship Fires Uncommon, Experts Say." The article was ostensibly about the Azamara Quest cruise ship fire, which is just the latest disaster to plague the cruise industry. The Miami Herald's article was actually the latest puff piece by a newspaper preoccupied with placing the cruise industry in the best possible light. 

The article's headline "Cruise Fires Uncommon," was attributed to various people who the newspaper suggested were "experts" on the probability on how often such fires occur.  The problem with this claim is that none of the three individuals mentioned in the article are experts in cruise fire statistics.  All of them are either employees, friends or business partners of the cruise industry.

Cruise Ship Fire - Sun VistaThe Herald quoted Lanie Morgenstein, who is a cruise line media spokesperson.  She manages the Twitter account of the cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Organization. 

The news paper also cites a representative of a fire-fighting company which is under contract with Royal Caribbean Cruises, and an editor of a cruise business publication who says "as a regular cruise ship passenger, I’m not worried about this."  Great, but how about explaining a factual basis for this nonchalant attitude?  

The Herald didn't cite to any cruise fire statistics.  How often do fires occur on cruise ships? The cruise industry and the Miami Herald won't tell you.  Shouldn't that be the point of the article?  

The Herald cites no facts but tells you that cruise fires are "uncommon." What is "common" or "uncommon" is a relative concept.  It's ultimately a personal opinion based on an objective, rational and factual analysis of the issue. The Herald didn't contact any true "experts" with a historical understanding of how often fires break out on cruise ships.

Just last month, Ross A. Klein, PhD, an international authority on the cruise ship industry, testified before the U.S. Senate, following the Costa Concordia capsizing.  This is the third time that Professor was invited by our U.S. Congress to analyze the safety of the cruise industry.  He discussed the number of cruise ship fires (as well as collisions, sinkings, and so forth) which have occurred over the years.  He submitted comprehensive statistics and analysis of such incidents, from "minor" incidents to large scale disasters.  Are cruise ships, as the industry often claims, the safest mode of commercial transportation he posed?  

Professor Klein submitted an analysis of various events at sea:

  • Cruise ships that have sunk, 1980 - 2012: 16;
  • Cruise ships that have run aground, 1973 - 2011: 99;
  • Cruise ships that have experienced fires, 1990 - 2011: 79;
  • Cruise ships that have had collisions, 1990 - 2011:  73; and
  • Cruise ships that have gone adrift or have had other issues that could be seen to pose a safety risk, 2000 - 2011: 100. 

Cruise Ship fire - Princess Star PrincessSeventy-nine fires on cruise ships since 1990? That's more than three / almost four a year.  "Uncommon?"  I suppose so as long as it doesn't happen to you or your family while on a cruise.  But don't ask that to the five crew members with smoke inhalation injuries, one in critical condition, who were injured in the Azamara Quest fire last Friday.    

The Herald ignored these statistics and didn't mention the injuries to the Quest's crew. It discussed only the last three "disabling" fires since November 2010: Royal Caribbean's Azamara Quest and Carnival Corporation's Costa Allegra and Carnival Splendor.  

The Herald omitted several other recent "disabling" cruise ships fires, included the December 2011 fire aboard the Bahamas Celebration cruise ship which sailed from South Florida to the Bahamas and experienced a "potentially disastrous situation" after a fire erupted in the engine room causing the cruise ship to lose all power. It was hauled into the harbor in Freeport by tugboats.  

The Herald also ignored a potentially catastrophic gas turbine fire on the twelfth deck of the Queen Mary 2 in October 2011 where passengers were afraid that they were going to have to get in lifeboats in 20-25 foot seas in the Atlantic.   

This is not the first time that the Miami Herald has hooked up with the cruise line PR people.  There is a long tradition of friendship between the Herald and the cruise lines.  The Herald's former publisher and chairman was a member of Carnival's Board of Directors.  And Carnival has been a sponsor of its travel, food and wine shows for years.  

Last month, the same Miami Herald reporter, Hannah Sampson, who wrote the don't-worry-about-cruise-fires article served up a happy-go-lucky PR piece after interviewing Carnival CEO Micky Arison who had been in hiding after one of his cruise ships, the Costa Concordia, killed 32 and terrorized thousands of other passengers and crew in January.

Ms. Sampson is the "tourism writer for the Miami Herald." Her probing questions revealed this insight into the disaster: "We as a company do everything we can to encourage the highest of safety Cruise Ship Fire - Star Princessstandards . . We continue to offer a great vacation value, a great product, a safe product at a fantastic price . . . People should avail themselves of that product."

Ah, what's good for Carnival is good for Miami tourism.

32 dead and some poor souls still missing in the capsized cruise ship - and the Herald is helping the richest man in Florida, multi-billionaire Micky Arison, sell cruises?

The Herald chose not to interview Professor Klein despite his substantial experience, expertise and impressive credentials.  Instead, we have a tourism reporter interviewing a cruise line PR representative who tweets for the cruise lines.

79 cruise fires since 1990.  4 disabling fires in the last 6 months.  

Are cruise fires "uncommon?"   You decide.

 

If this issue interests you, consider reading: "Ten Year of Cruise Ship Fires:  Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?" 

*It was pointed out to me that the Herald changed the original title of the article from "Cruise Ship Fires Uncommon, Experts Say" to "After Another Cruise Ship Fire, Cruise Safety Back As An Issue."  

Azamara Quest Cruise Ship Catches On Fire Near Borneo

An Azamara cruise ship, the Quest, reportedly caught fire in the Sulu Sea, between the Philippines and Borneo.

The story was first mentioned on Twitter by Simon Browning, a reporter for BBC Radio 4, whose twitter handle is @simbrowning.  Around 9:24 AM this morning, Mr. Browning tweeted: "hearing reports a cruise ship is on fire in Borneo - that there is chaos on board #Cruise #Borneo its full of western tourists.

The blaze reportedly occurred in the engine room on the Quest which departed on Monday for a 17-night cruise Azamara Quest Cruise Ship Firefrom Hong Kong to Singapore. Azamara is owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., which is based in Miami.  

A cruise spokesperson stated: “On Friday, March 30, at approximately 8.19pm ship time, Azamara Quest experienced a fire in the engine room. The fire was contained to the engine room and was quickly extinguished."

The cruise line states that passengers mustered at their fire assembly stations.  No passengers were reportedly injured although the cruise press release is silent regarding injuries to crew.  The cruise line states that the ship is "currently running on generator power," although there is no information whether the vessel can cruise to a port under its own power.  There is also no information about the weather conditions.

We have written many article about cruise ship fires over the years.  Deadly cruise ship fires occur more frequently than the cruise industry is willing to admit. Consider reading: "Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?"

It will be interesting to hear first hand accounts from the passengers, whether the fire was "quickly extinguished" and how the crew handled the emergency.

Were you on the cruise?  Please leave a comment or send us photos or video.

March 30, 20121 / 11:30 PM Update:

We obtained a copy of an email (below) from the Navigation Officer aboard the Quest cruise ship to the Philippines Coast Guard indicating that one crew member, Juan Carlos Rivera Escobar, was in "unstable condition" following the cruise ship fire.

It is disappointing that the cruise line would state that all passengers are uninjured and not mention the injuries to this crew member.  

The last know coordinates of the stricken Quest ship per the email are Lat: 7' 35'N / Long: 119' 59' E.

The email indicates that the vessel is "not under command." 

This information comes not from the cruise line but from newspaper sources on twitter.

Azamara Quest Cruise Ship - Cruise Ship Fire 

Credit: Miquel Ortilla

March 31, 2012 Update / 1:00 AM Update:

The Azamara facebook page finally indicates that many crew members were seriously injured in the fire, as we suspected:

"Unfortunately, five crew members onboard the ship suffered smoke inhalation during the fire. The crew members are being treated in our medical facility. However, one crew member is more seriously injured and requires additional and urgent medical attention that can only be provided in a hospital. Once the ship arrives in Sandakan, the crew member will be immediately transported to a local area hospital."

The facebook page includes contact information for families:

1 - 888 - 829 - 4050 from the US and Canada.

1 - 408 - 916 - 9001 outside the US.

The Royal Caribbean operators will take calls only from families.

Newspaper / media inquiries must email corporatecommunications@rccl.com

April 2, 2012 Update:  The Quest limped into port in Sandakan, Malaysia and have high praise for the captain and crew.  The seriously injured crew member was finally taken to the hospital.

Tina Fey's Honeymoon Ruined By Cruise Ship Fire?

Yesterday was a rather strange day.  I received  a couple of calls and emails asking for information about a cruise ship fire which ruined the honeymoon of Tina Fey. 

Tina Fey?  The comic, I asked?  You mean the Saturday Night Live star with the great impressions of Sarah Palin?  The star of NBC's 30 Rock??  On her honeymoon on a cruise ship which caught fire, I asked???  Yes, that's right the inquiring minds insisted, mentioning something about "reading Tina Fey - Cruise Ship Fire - Honeymoonabout it in the newspapers."

Hmm.  The last cruise ship fire I am  aware of involved the Mexican cruise ship, the Ocean Star Pacifica, earlier this week.  A generator fire knocked out power to the cruise ship, forcing the evacuation of its passengers and crew.  Certainly a celebrity like Tina Fey would not be caught dead slumming on a 41 year old Mexican cruise ship.  Maybe she sailed on a super luxury ship like the Silver Cloud  or the Seabourn Sojourn but certainly not an old tub like the Ocean Star.   

So I googled Tina Fey and cruise ship fire and sure enough, there were a dozen "articles" about the topic.  But the "newspapers" were all gossip rags like STAR magazine which published the  "breaking story" "Fey's Honeymoon Cruise Was Wrecked By Fire," which gave this account:

Comedienne Tina Fey will always remember her honeymoon for all the wrong reasons - the cruise ship she and her husband were sailing home to New York from Bermuda on caught fire.

The actress/writer admits the voyage had been a lot of fun until she found herself standing by a lifeboat about to abandon ship.

Fey recalls, "The ship was on fire, so we had to go and stand by our lifeboats... and we really had to stand women and children in the front, men in the back, and I remember holding hands with my husband, thinking like, 'Oh my gosh, we're gonna be one of those people on the news that died on Seth Meyer - Cruise Ship - Saturday Night Livetheir honeymoon...' and he said he was thinking... 'It's gonna be so hard for her when they bring the lifeboats down and she stays with me'.  I was thinking, 'It's gonna be so hard for him when I get on that lifeboat.  But it all worked out.'

This account intrigued me even more.  Tina Fey is a joker but certainly she would not joke about something as serious as a cruise ship fire with passengers about to abandon ship. 

So I did a little research, and found out that the incident did occur although it certainly was not "breaking news."  The fire occurred in June 2001, and involved Royal Caribbean's Nordic Empress.  

The Nordic Empress was sailing back from Bermuda to New York following a 7 day cruise. The fire erupted when the cruise ship was about 140 miles northwest of Bermuda.

The Royal Caribbean PR people said that the fire "was quickly extinguished by the ship's crew and Adam Sandler - Going Overboard - Cruise Shipits sprinkler system." 

The Coast Guard investigation revealed that the fires in the engine room were not completely extinguished for three hours.  The damage caused the vessel to be adrift for seven hours. (The country of Liberia, where the cruise ship was flagged, invited the U.S. Coast Guard to conduct the inspection).

You can read the marine casualty report here, and you can review an excellent summary of the incident by the Professional Mariner here.

Saturday Night Live (SNL) has entertained the public with some funny skits about cruise ships over the years.  Seth Meyer did a funny bit about Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.  Adam Sandler starred in a unfunny movie called "Going Overboard." 

But unlike her co-stars on SNL, Tina Fey went through the real deal - a fire which disabled the cruise ship and caused over 1,500 passengers to stand at their muster stations on the deck at night ready to abandon ship - only to now laugh about it ten years later.