Nordic Empress Fire, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Fire near Bermuda – On Friday, June 15, 2001, at approximately 2036 hours, Nordic Empress was making her way from Bermuda to New York City at 17 knots per hour when a major fire broke out in the engine room. The Nordic Empress was approximately 140 miles from Hamilton Bermuda when the fire broke out with 1566 passengers and 650 crew members aboard.
Six minutes after the discovery of the fire, a fine mist of extinguishing water was sprayed on each engine. Passengers were told to go to their cabins, get their lifejackets and report to their muster stations.
Fifteen minutes later the fire was extinguished. Nine minutes later a flashback took place, with the number three engine on fire. Some time later, electrical cables are on fire. Around midnight, passenger were permitted to enter the lounge on the boat deck. At 0138 hours the fire is completely out, 8.5 hours after it started. Then, at 0220 hours, passengers and crew were permitted to go to back to their cabins. It wasn’t until 0330 hours that firefighters and equipment were given the order to stand down .
After power was restored the cruise ship sailed back to Bermuda, docking at St. George in Bermuda late in the evening on Saturday, June 16. Passengers were disembarked at St. George and flown home.
The United States Coast Guard concluded, “During post casualty inspections of equipment and safety systems it was discovered that the Halon gas supply for the
purifier room was depleted some time before the fire. The purifier room is located on the same level (00) of the main engines but in a different compartment. The room contains numerous centrifuges and heating equipment for the management of fuel supplied to the main engines and generators. Senior officers where unaware of this latent unsafe condition and unable to explain when or why the release occurred.”
Further, the cause was listed as failure of two screws, which were unequal in size, contrary to specifications, holding the fuel line flange. Due to improper tightening and the ill-fit, the screws vibrated loose, long before they failed, as they rubbed against the flange, causing the fuel line to separate, resulting in fuel being sprayed on the hot engine, producing a fire.
In a nutshell, failure to properly inspect and maintain equipment, jerry rigging parts.
This cruise was also notable for having comedienne Tina Fey and her husband Jeff Richmond aboard who had been married on June 3. The couple were on their honeymoon. Tina Fey is best known for her mocking performance as Vice-President wannabe Sarah Palin on the satiric, comedy, sketches show, Saturday Night Live.