The National Transportation Safety Board today determined that a breakdown in the firefighting command and control of the master and senior officers contributed to the extent of the fire last year on board the passenger vessel, Nieuw Amsterdam. The fire broke out while the ship was en route to the Glacier National Park, Alaska. There were no fatalities but one passenger required medical evacuation due to smoke inhalation. As a result of the fire the ship suffered about $360,000 in property damage.
Early on May 23, 2000, a fire broke out in the crew cabin area of the Nieuw Amsterdam. The ship's chief officer and chief engineer abandoned the existing firefighting plan and attempted to extinguish the fire without proper gear or backup. The officers' inappropriate actions directly contributed to the spread of fire and smoke. The ship's onboard firefighting teams, properly equipped and trained, eventually put out the fire, but not before smoke had migrated throughout the ship creating hazardous conditions on several decks. The Safety Board concluded that the probable cause of the fire was the unauthorized use of an electrical appliance left unattended in a crew cabin.
As a result of the investigation, the Board recommended that the U.S. Coast Guard submit the lessons learned about 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.
The Board made several recommendations to Holland America Line Westours, Inc., for revising emergency training and drills and for improving smoke control procedures. The Board also recommended that the company revise its safety program audits to include shipboard assessments of firefighting management and smoke control.
The Board recommended that 13 cruise lines and their subsidiary operating companies review the circumstances of the Nieuw Amsterdam accident and change their own policies and procedures, as appropriate, to improve fire safety on their ships.
The Board's final report may be accessed on the NTSB's website at www.ntsb.gov in several weeks. In the interim an abstract containing a complete listing of the report's recommendations is available on the website's News and Events page. Printed copies of the report may be purchased later this spring from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) (800) 553-NTIS.