Just yesterday, on October 2 at 10:45AM GMT, a ferry — Regina Seaways, operated by Danish ferry operator DFDS and carrying 335 persons — was traveling between the ports of Kiel and Klaipeda in Lithuania, when an explosion in the engine room set the ferry aflame.
According to reports, crew members aboard Regina Seaways sent an immediate distress call to authorities when the engine room exploded and a fire developed on-board the ferry. As the ferry was stranded in international waters — close to Lithuania, Poland, and Russia — rescuers in all three countries responded to the distress call. Lithuania took the lead, sending a military helicopter and four military ships to the ferry to assist with fire extinguishing and passenger evacuation.
Though passengers had been directed by crew to gather at the muster stations for an evacuation, crew members successfully suppressed the fire and ensured that there was no continuing safety issue. Passengers were therefore allow to stay aboard Regina Seaways and wait for tugboats to arrive and pull the stranded vessel to its ultimate destination.
As of this time, there are no reported injuries, though an investigation into the cause of the engine room explosion is ongoing.
We are relieved to learn that all passengers and crew members are safe, and we are pleased by the quick and effective crew response given the circumstances — passengers were immediately directed to the ferry muster for evacuation, rescue authorities were notified, and fire suppression procedures were carried out without delay.
Still, we are disturbed that Regina Seaways was in such poor condition that there was an explosion in the engine room. Engine room equipment is critical to the functioning of the vessel, and the presence of fuel makes it likely to result in an out-of-control fire. Had the fire not been suppressed in the incident at-issue, there may have been substantial injuries or even death. If any passengers or crew members sustained losses in the fire, they would almost certainly have an actionable claim for damages against DFDS.
Even where crew members are able to successfully suppress an engine room fire, the vessel being stranded may itself expose the passengers to serious risk of injury. In the present case, weather forecasts indicated gale force winds, rain, and thunderstorms. Had this incident occurred further away from shore, it’s possible that the vessel may have been overturned or otherwise damaged in the storm before military assistance arrived.
Ship Engine Must Be Properly Maintained and Adequate Fire Suppression Procedures in Place
Ferry operators must maintain their vessels in a reasonably safe condition for passengers and crew members. This entails frequent inspections of engine room equipment to ensure that there are no defects or other hazards that could cause an explosion or fire. If a maintenance issue is discovered, it must be corrected. Failure to do so could expose the ferry operator to significant damages (should an accident occur as a result).
When there has been an engine room explosion and/or fire, crew members must be given the fire suppression equipment — and training — necessary to safely put out the blaze and secure the vessel. Crew members in the present case responded admirably to the engine room failure and subsequent blaze (though fire response adequacy is often a problem with cruise ship and ferry crews).
We Can Help
Here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., our attorneys have over a century of combined experience advocating on behalf of injured passengers (and their family members) in a range of maritime and admiralty disputes against vessel operators. We have handled numerous claims in which the vessel operator has failed to implement adequate maintenance and fire suppression procedures, thus exposing passengers to a heightened — and unreasonable — risk of injury or even death.
In the present case, the ferry accident took place in the Baltic sea, just between Lithuania and Poland. Though our firm is located in Florida, our attorneys have extensive experience litigating claims arising from incidents in internal waters, and have secured favorable verdicts in courtrooms worldwide.
If you or a family member has suffered injuries in a ferry explosion or fire-related incident, then you may be entitled to significant compensation. We encourage you to contact us today to speak to one of the skilled maritime lawyers at Lipcon for assistance.