Cruise Ship Fires

Cruise Ship Fires
SS Norway May 25, 2003

Cruise Ship Explosion on SS Norway Norwegian Cruise Line

Cruise Ship Ferry Fires
Cruise Ship Explosions
Passenger Ship Fires

Cruise Ship Fires
Cruise Ship Bombing
Cruise Ship Terror Attack
Cruise Ship Bomb Threats

 

 

 

SS Norway May 25, 2003

Cruise Ship Explosion on SS Norway Norwegian Cruise Line

At 0637 hours on May 25, 2003, the Bahamas-registered passenger vessel S/S Norway, with 911 crew members and 2,135 passengers on board, suffered a boiler rupture in the aft boiler room. The accident occurred about an hour after the vessel had moored in Miami, Florida, at the end of a 7-day Caribbean cruise. As a result of the accident, 8 crew members sustained fatal injuries, 10 suffered serious injuries, and 7 received minor injuries. No passengers were injured.

The Norway, owned and operated by Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), was a conventional welded, steel-hulled liner, certificated for unrestricted international voyages. The ship met the regulations of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1960 (SOLAS 60), and the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966. After various upgrades in 1980, the vessel met the standards of the 1974 SOLAS Convention (SOLAS 74).

The Norway was built by Chantiers de l'Atlantique (Penhoët-Loire) in Saint-Nazaire, France, and originally sailed under the French flag as the S/S France. When launched in 1960, the France was the longest oceangoing liner in the world. The France operated primarily in the trans-Atlantic trade from the time of its construction until 1974. In 1979, the liner was sold to Klosters Rederi A/S, one of Norway's oldest shipping companies. Klosters had the vessel overhauled for its Caribbean cruising operations, which was run by its subsidiary, Norwegian Caribbean Lines. Klosters renamed the vessel the S/S Norway in 1979 and registered it in Norway. Beginning in 1980, the Norway operated on Caribbean cruises that originated at Miami, and in 1987, the vessel was reflagged to the Bahamas flag. In October 2000, Star Cruises, 6 NCL's parent company, announced that the Norway would be relocated to the Asian market, a decision that was later reversed.

About 0400 hours on May 25, 2003, while the Norway was inbound through the channels leading to the Port of Miami, the engineering watch changed. The second engineer, who was going off duty, said that he told his relief that there was nothing out of the ordinary to report about the boilers and that “all conditions were normal.”

At 0529 hours, the Norway moored at its berth at piers 1 and 2 on Dodge Island, the bridge watch ordered “finished with main turbines,” and the engineroom watch began to shut down the propulsion system in preparation for the ship's port stay. The vessel's four main propulsion boilers were located on the engine deck (deck No. 2), in the next-to-aftermost main vertical zone.

By 0600 hours, the Norway was secured alongside the pier and crew members were starting the in-port routine, which included rigging gangways, discharging garbage, fueling, provisioning, offloading passenger baggage, and disembarking passengers. In the aft engine/boiler room, the watch was reduced from seven to six crew members when one of the second engineers received permission to leave before the end of the watch. On the Biscayne deck (deck No. 5), the second engineer was monitoring the boiler gauges and instruments in the engine control room aft of the boiler room. He later stated, “All was normal.” No alarms were indicated, and he heard only “normal engine/boiler room sounds.” At the time, boiler No. 21 was not operating and boiler Nos. 22, 23, and 24 were operating and providing steam to vessel systems. The remaining five boiler room watchstanders were in the aft boiler room or in spaces next to it.

About 0637 hours, a boiler ruptured in the aft boiler room. The second engineer in the engine control room and other crew members said that they heard a “bang” and felt the vessel shake. Some crew members said they thought that something had struck the side of the vessel; others said they thought that a bomb had detonated. The second engineer who had gone off watch said that he was outside on the Olympic deck (deck No. 11) when he heard the bang, looked up to see “lots of black smoke from the aft smoke stack,” and knew that “something had gone very wrong in the boiler room.”

Boiler No. 23, located on the starboard side of the boiler room, had ruptured. The boiler contained about 20 tons of water operating at a temperature of about 528º F under a pressure of about 60 bar (870 pounds per square inch [psi]). In the normal atmospheric pressure of the aft boiler room (14.7 psi), the pressurized hot water rapidly expanded in volume about 1,260 times into steam. The expanding steam, mixed with smoke, soot, and debris, swept through the engineering spaces, fatally injuring four engineering crew members who were on watch or on duty in or near the boiler room, as well as four other crew members who were in the crew living spaces on the starboard side of the Caribbean deck, next to the boiler room.

Because of the height of the boilers (about 30 feet), the aft boiler room space extended from deck No. 2 to deck No. 4 (Caribbean deck). The Caribbean deck was the first level having living quarters—in this case, crew rooms forward, immediately outboard, and aft of the boiler room. The boiler casing continued upward through the remaining decks, allowing the exhaust from the boilers to vent to the outside air through the aft smokestack.

As the steam rose through the aft boiler room, it broke through the bulkheads on the starboard side of the Caribbean deck (No. 4) and the Biscayne deck (No. 5), breaching the crew accommodation areas and scalding six crew members in their rooms or in the corridors of the accommodation spaces. Seven crew members were preparing to rig a garbage gangway out the side port of 12 the Biscayne deck when the steam entered the corridor near them. They sustained thermal burns on 6 to 20 percent of their bodies before escaping the scalding vapor by jumping overboard toward the pier, which was about 8 feet below the Biscayne deck. Three crew members who jumped from the side port landed in the water and four landed on the pier; one suffered a broken leg when he landed on the dock. A crew member on vessel security detail at an aft gangway on the Biscayne deck suffered minor burns from the smoke and steam before he escaped down the gangway to the pier. In the 15 minutes immediately after the boiler rupture, about 125 crew members exited the ship using the Biscayne deck gangway.

At the time of the boiler rupture, a Miami-Dade police officer on routine patrol of the pier was within 100 feet of the Norway's side port. He said that the blast momentarily stunned him, but that he recovered and immediately reported the accident and the injured crew members on the pier and in the water to his command, which alerted area response agencies. The police subsequently secured the pier area and did not allow anyone other than city response personnel to board the Norway, including crew members who had fled the ship and later attempted to reboard.

Because of the height of the boilers (about 30 feet), the aft boiler room space extended from deck No. 2 to deck No. 4 (Caribbean deck). The Caribbean deck was the first level having living quarters—in this case, crew rooms forward, immediately outboard, and aft of the boiler room. The boiler casing continued upward through the remaining decks, allowing the exhaust from the boilers to vent to the outside air through the aft smokestack.

As the steam rose through the aft boiler room, it broke through the bulkheads on the starboard side of the Caribbean deck (No. 4) and the Biscayne deck (No. 5), breaching the crew accommodation areas and scalding six crew members in their rooms or in the corridors of the accommodation spaces. Seven crew members were preparing to rig a garbage gangway out the side port of 12 the Biscayne deck when the steam entered the corridor near them. They sustained thermal burns on 6 to 20 percent of their bodies before escaping the scalding vapor by jumping overboard toward the pier, which was about 8 feet below the Biscayne deck. Three crew members who jumped from the side port landed in the water and four landed on the pier; one suffered a broken leg when he landed on the dock. A crew member on vessel security detail at an aft gangway on the Biscayne deck suffered minor burns from the smoke and steam before he escaped down the gangway to the pier. In the 15 minutes immediately after the boiler rupture, about 125 crew members exited the ship using the Biscayne deck gangway.

At the time of the boiler rupture, a Miami-Dade police officer on routine patrol of the pier was within 100 feet of the Norway's side port. He said that the blast momentarily stunned him, but that he recovered and immediately reported the accident and the injured crew members on the pier and in the water to his command, which alerted area response agencies. The police subsequently secured the pier area and did not allow anyone other than city response personnel to board the Norway, including crew members who had fled the ship and later attempted to reboard.

In the meantime, on board the Norway, some of the injured crew members made their way to safety, including two men who took shelter in the main galley on the Atlantic deck (deck No. 6). The galley staff on duty immediately called the bridge to request medical help, thus alerting the bridge watch about the crew injuries. Within 5 minutes of the rupture, the bridge watch ordered the fire watch and emergency teams to muster. Ten minutes later, the master made a public address directing the passengers to their lifeboat muster stations. Table 1 chronicles the documented emergency response actions by shoreside agencies and shipboard personnel.

After the accident, the shoreside response agencies and NCL critiqued the emergency response activities of their personnel and made procedural changes based on the findings of their reviews. A discussion of their actions is found in the “Postaccident Actions by Parties” section of this brief.

The damaged Norway was towed to Germany, arriving in Bremerhaven on September 23, 2003. The ship remained moored at Bremerhaven awaiting a decision on whether it would be repaired and returned to service or taken out of service. In March 2004, NCL announced that the Norway would not be returned to service and transferred ownership of the vessel to its parent company, Star Cruises, for eventual scrapping. The Norway was the only steam vessel operated by NCL.

Cruise Awareness Buzz!