Cruise Ship Fires

Cruise Ship Fires
Queen Of The West Fire April 8, 2008

Majestic Cruise Line - Queen Of The West Cruise Ship Fire

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Queen Of The West Fire April 8, 2008

Majestic Cruise Line - Queen Of The West - 1 Cruise Ship Fire

The Northwest Rivers Cruise was about 1,000 miles round trip and would take the vessel through a total of eight lock systems along the route (figure 3).

The Queen of the West, is a three-story paddle wheel cruise ship. She was to stop at towns along the way for day excursions and transit to its next destination at night.

There were 124 passengers and 53 crew member aboard when the fire broke out. At this posting, three crew members are being treated for smoke inhalation.

All passengers and 25 crew members were evacuated from the cruise ship. The remaining 28 crew members stayed aboard the stricken vessel while it was towed to Maryhill State Park river bank for evacuation around 0500 hours.

On Monday, April 7, the Queen of the West spent the afternoon in Stevenson, Washington, before departing for an early Tuesday morning arrival at Umatilla, Oregon. On the evening of April 7, the ship transited The Dalles lock at mile marker 1921 and proceeded upstream (east) through a section of the Columbia River called Lake Celilo, located between The Dalles and the John Day Dam locks.

About 2330 hours, the chief mate arrived in the pilothouse on board the Queen of the West to relieve the watch. At 2345 hours the vessel's riding captain entered the pilothouse. Shortly thereafter, the watch officers overheard radio traffic between the John Day Dam lock personnel and the crew of a towboat named Challenger. The Challenger crew indicated that the towboat was 45 minutes upstream of the lock with a tow, and the lock operator was preparing to flood the lock to receive them.

On board the Queen of the West, the riding captain immediately radioed the lock stating that the Queen of the West was about 30 minutes away and requested that the lock stay down for them. The lock operator and the Challenger crew agreed that since the Queen of the West was closer, she would enter the lock first.

In addition to the regular vessel master and the regular chief engineer, the Queen of the West was carrying another captain and a chief engineer, each with previous experience on board the vessel. The additional captain and chief engineer were designated as “riding” staff, on board to assist in training engineers and officers who had just started in new positions. On the accident voyage, the “riding captain” was standing watch alongside the new chief mate.

Following this radio conversation, the riding captain instructed the chief mate to increase the hydraulic pressure to the vessel's propulsion system from 2,400 pounds per square inch (psi) to 2,600 psi to increase speed6 and thus expedite the ship's arrival at the lock entrance. The chief mate increased the pressure cautiously as it was his first time manipulating the throttle, and both the riding captain and the vessel master had warned him of the possibility of pressure spikes on the hydraulic propulsion system when transiting through shallow waters. The chief mate later

The upper lock gate was damaged on February 29, 2008, and the gate, awaiting final repairs, was not yet working properly. The riding captain told investigators that, because of the damaged gate, lock transit time had increased to over 2 hours from the normal 45 minutes.

On the Queen of the West, vessel speed was a function of propulsion hydraulic system drive pressure; adjusting the pressure changed the vessel speed. When the paddle wheel turned at a rate of 8 or more revolutions per minute, hydraulic pressure was carefully monitored by the pilothouse watch. The “full speed” hydraulic system pressure, and therefore maximum vessel speed, was obtained at the 2,800 psi system limit pressure.

The deck officers stated that the hydraulic system pressure typically varied with water depth. When encountering shallow water at a fixed throttle position, the vessel speed reduced and the hydraulic drive system pressure increased; when transiting back over deeper water the vessel speed increased and the hydraulic pressure correspondingly decreased.

The engineer told investigators that when he initially increased the pressure to gain speed, he briefly saw the digital pressure gauge spike through 3,000 psi. He heard a “beep” from the control panel before the pressure settled back to about 2,600 psi. The Queen of the West continued toward the dam. The navigation team increased the pressure to 2,740 psi, which equated to about 14.5 rotations per minute of the paddle wheel and a speed of about 10.6 mph. About 0010 hours, the first engineer radioed the pilothouse to report that he had paralleled an additional generator and was about to power the bow thruster to prepare for transiting the lock.

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