Cruise Ship Fire Destroys MV Ocean Countess

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Life saver It’s been a while since our firm reported on any major cruise ship fires. This year has been seen more fires than others, starting with the unforgettable Carnival Triumph accident, which left the vessel filled with over 3,000 people stranded in the Gulf of Mexico. The fire started in the engine room, and wiped out the power on the ship. Luckily, no one sustained injuries, but the victims were all forced to endure horrifically unsanitary conditions until the ship was towed to shore.

Several fires have followed the Triumph accident, and now this week, our maritime attorneys have learned about a serious incident involving a Majestic International vessel. The MV Ocean Countess, formerly the Cunard Countess, caught fire this weekend for unknown reasons near Greece. Ironically, the ship had been in dry doc k for quite some time and was supposed to return to service next year, but it’s highly unlikely that the ship will set sail again anytime soon  – if ever.

Footage of the blaze was captured, showing the ship becoming engulfed in smoke and flames.  At 17, 593 gross tons, the Ocean Countess isn’t one of the larger ships in service, but it is still big enough to make quite an impression on the high seas and large enough that the spread of a fire can be devastating to those onboard.

The damage to the vessel was pretty extensive, though luckily, no one was injured. The Ocean Countess has quite a history, and though it’s unlikely the ship will be salvaged, no one will forget the impact it has made in the cruising industry. The vessel was the first cruise ship to sail from the cruise terminal in Liverpool, England.

Only able to carry 800 passengers, the vessel is by no means a modern ship, but will be missed by all who have sailed on it.  Could this disaster be more than just a standard cruise accident? Could it be a metaphor for what’s currently going on in the industry?

These days, you don’t see very many ships being built that accommodate for any less than 2,000 passengers. Some of the ultra luxury lines like Silversea and Oceania have small vessels in circulation, but they are geared toward a very select crowd and are known to engage in cruise vacations that are more for exploring remote locations that require small vessels to pass through. When we think of the newest ships on the market, we think of Royal Caribbean’s Allure and Oasis vessels or the new Norwegian Getaway. The new ships are extremely large and capable of transporting over 3,500 people. That’s the trend we are now seeing in the industry and it doesn’t look as though it will be changing anytime soon.

Gone are the days of small passenger cruise ships, so the fire is a bit metaphorical for what’s popular and in-demand for cruise companies these days. Who knows, maybe Majestic International will roll out with a new, bigger, better version of the Ocean Countess, but it’s more likely these small ships will be overtaken by their mega ship counterparts.

But just because a ship is bigger doesn’t mean it’s better. Large ships can malfunction just like small ones, and accidents can be all the more devastating because there is more mass and a greater number of people onboard. A fire in a large ship may spread faster and small equipment issues may not be as easily detected because of the sheer size of a vessel. It will take a lot more time to inspect a mega ship than a small one, that’s for sure.

Despite the recent advancements in maritime safety technology, the newest ships still don’t have full safety coverage, which is just inexcusable. We can only hope that the industry will prioritize safety features above the glitz and the glam.