Another Shipboard Fire Rocks the Cruise Industry

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Life saverFires on ships are one of the most dangerous situations to occur specially at sea when you cannot call the local fire department for help. Unfortunately there are too many fires. Most of them never get reported since they are put out before anything bad happens.

It has only been a month since a fire broke out on Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas and four months since the Carnival Triumph fire debacle rocked the nation, but now, another cruise ship fire has called into question the dire lack of safety onboard lines.

This time, the fire ignited onboard Pullmantur Cruises’  Zenith cruise ship. The fire broke out on June 25 just before 4 a.m. in the vessel’s engine room as it was sailing around Italy with over 1,600 passengers and 600 crew members. Although it was put out quickly and no injuries have been reported, the fire knocked out power on the ship, causing it to anchor roughly 17 miles from Venice.

We have yet to learn what actually caused the fire. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the ship is 21-years-old. Perhaps it did not have any of the newer ships’ equipment to detect or contain fires – not that these newer technologies prevented fires on cruise ships anyway. Or maybe it was the result of a crew member’s negligence.  All of these are factors that can contribute to major cruise ship accidents, including fires.

Pullmantur Cruises is headquartered in Spain but its parent company was bought out by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. in 2006. Knowing it had just experienced a fire of its own onboard the Grandeur of the Seas, one would think Royal might want to invest in a safety check of all its vessels to make sure another fire incident doesn’t occur.

Although Royal did a pretty good job of handling the fire situation on the Grandeur of the Seas, the whole point of maintaining safety policies and procedures onboard vessels is to AVOID an accident from occurring in the first place. Sure, Royal may have taken swift action to get passengers on the Grandeur of the Seas to safety and flew them all back home at no cost (plus gave them a refund for their cruise and future cruise credit), but this doesn’t take away from the fact that cruise ship fires shouldn’t be happening at all.

While none of the passengers onboard the Zenith have reported any serious accidents or crimes following the fire, one guest noted that he was inconvenienced by the incident, having to leave his cabin in the middle of the night in his pajamas and had to remain on the ship’s bridge for about four hours.

The passenger, Josep Cortiella, told reporters with Spanish News Station Channel 3/24 that there was also little to eat, aside from a few sandwiches. Sounds a lot like the Carnival Triumph situation following the February fire, which also occurred in the vessel’s engine room. He also added that crew members didn’t seem to know what to do in the emergency situation.

Yet, others praised the work of crew members and other Italian rescue forces that helped in the aftermath of the fire to get everyone to safety.

The Zenith was eventually towed to Marghera, Italy and the passengers were taken to the airport in Venice for a safe return home. The line chartered six airplanes and 40 buses to take the passengers home, and have noted they will be giving   passengers a full refund, including all their expenses, and  a 25% discount on a future cruise.

Meanwhile, technicians are examining the damaged vessel to determine what exactly caused the fire. However, this isn’t the first time an incident like this has befallen the Zenith. Back in 2009, a fire broke out on the ship damaging the stern while the vessel was docked in  Stockholm, Sweden.

The vessel had been transporting over 2,300 people onboard the Zenith at that time and initial reports suggested two crew members were injured after inhaling smoke from the fire. The fire was allegedly put out after 10 minutes but those 10 minutes were enough to lead passengers and crew members into a panic. Local police even reported seeing people jumping from the vessel into the water to escape the ravaging flames.

This marks the third major cruise ship fire this year. Hopefully something will be done by the major cruise lines to put an end to these life-threatening incidents once and for all.