On the morning of May 23, 2000, while the Netherlands-registered passenger ship Nieuw Amsterdam was en route to Glacier National Park with 1,169 passengers and 542 crewmembers on board, a fire broke out in a crew cabin. A premature effort to extinguish the fire by officers lacking proper gear and backup contributed to the spread of fire and smoke. The fire did not spread beyond the deck of origin; however, the untimely closing of fire screen doors allowed the smoke to migrate up eight decks, creating hazardous conditions in crew and passenger accommodations. Properly outfitted and equipped shipboard firefighting teams subsequently extinguished the fire. One passenger sustained smoke inhalation injuries requiring evacuation to a shoreside hospital for additional medical treatment. Property damage to the vessel was estimated at more than $360,000.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the fire on board the Nieuw Amsterdam was the unauthorized use of an electrical appliance that had been left unattended and plugged into an electrical outlet in a crew cabin. Contributing to the extent of the fire damage and spread of smoke was a breakdown in firefighting command and control by the vessel's master and senior officers.
As a result of its investigation of this accident, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following recommendations:
To the U.S. Coast Guard:
- Submit the lessons learned from the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation of the Nieuw Amsterdam accident, in particular, the need for proper firefighting management and the need to control the spread of smoke to the International Maritime Organization's Working Group on Large Passenger Ship Safety for their consideration.
To Holland America Lines, Inc.:
- Revise shipboard training and drills for your masters and other officers to include emphasis on their management responsibilities during a fire emergency and the principles of command and control of onboard firefighting activities.
- Revise shipboard procedures for controlling smoke to incorporate proactive measures that ensure the rapid clearing of passengers and crew from decks and that prevent the migration of smoke.
- Devise and practice drills that feature different scenarios that test the abilities of officers and crew to respond to varying smoke conditions.
- Review and revise, as necessary, your safety oversight procedures for assessing the effectiveness of your training and drills for firefighting command and control and the effectiveness of your procedures for controlling the spread of smoke during a shipboard fire.
To American Classic Voyages, Carnival Corporation, Inc., Crystal Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Orient Lines, P&O Princess Cruises International, Ltd., Radisson Seven Seas Cruises, Regal Cruises, Renaissance Cruises, Inc., Royal Olympic Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., and Silversea Cruises, Ltd.:
- Review the circumstances of the May 23, 2000, fire on board the Netherlandsregistered passenger ship Nieuw Amsterdam, in particular, the unauthorized use of electrical appliances by the crew and the company's smoke control management policies and procedures. Based on your review, make changes, as appropriate, to improve fire safety on your ships.