Passengers receive fire scare on-board Bahamas Celebration
By Cleopatra Murphy
Freeport News Reporter
The Bahamas Celebration avoided a potentially disastrous situation after a fire erupted in the engine room of the ship some four miles off Grand Bahama early Monday morning.
Shortly after 8:00 a.m. yesterday the vessel could be seen being hauled into the harbor by tugboats.
Seven-hundred-seven passengers and a crew of 300 plus were on-board the ship as it came into the harbor where a fire truck and an ambulance were stationed.
Agent for the ship, Eddie Wahn was on the scene yesterday morning where he noted a call came in shortly after 6:30 a.m. about a small fire in the engine room, adding that generator number three had caught fire.
"We have six generators on- board. It was only one of them, so it was confined to that one generator," he said.
Wahn said the fire crew on- board immediately began to fight the fire, which was completely out before the ship arrived in the harbor.
The fire was ultimately contained within 25 minutes and nobody on-board was injured.
Wahn said the ship's engine was deliberately shut down, which was why it had to be tugged in.
"Smoke obviously came out of the stack, but for safety all of the crew and passengers were led up to deck nine, which is the outside deck right on top," he said.
Wahn added that the local fire department reacted quickly arriving within 20 minutes of receiving a call.
Passenger on-board The Bahamas Celebration, Greg Hil-bert said the incident was an unsettling experience.
"It was kind of traumatic. They moved everybody all around the boat and we were here to meet my mom who lives on the island and it was kind of nerve-racking," he said.
Hilbert said the ship had no power and was using an emergency generator, adding that he was nervous because people were saying it was a big fire, however, it turned out to be not that bad.
"Some people were angry because you had to leave your cabin early by 7:30," he said.
Another passenger aboard the ship noted that while passengers were ultimately assured that the fire was not serious, some grew frustrated by the wait, when investigations by police and officers from the fire department delayed debarkation because they thought they would miss their tour busses.
While there was initially no explanation as to what caused the fire, during a press conference on-board The Bahamas Celebration Monday afternoon, president of Celebration Cruise Lines, Charles Kinnear revealed that one of the generators threw a rod through the side of the engine.
"A piston rod broke and went through the side of the engine. It's not a very uncommon thing. It does happen. It happens in your vehicles at home as it does on large engines so this is not an unusual event," he said.
Kinnear said it resulted in a fire because of the combination of the engine being open to the atmosphere, diesel and oils pumping into the engine compartment, and with hot steal hitting it a fire erupted.
"I have to give some very, very big kudos to both our engineering department and of course the captain and the bridge team for keeping the ship safe at all times," he said. "Never were the passengers or the ship in immediate danger, so they did a great job getting us to safety here in the port and, actually the fire was out before we even got here."
He said although the fire was confined to one space, equipment damage might have occurred to the other engines.
"The one space is where four of our generators are kept and in order to put out a fire you need to use water, you need to use things that just don't do very well with electrical equipment," Kinnear said.
"We did not only receive some damage from the fire itself, but we also have to be very careful about restarting the other generators because
they may have water in them and it may damage them, so we are being very, very careful at this point before we start anything," he said.
Kinnear added that because of that the ship's departure may have been delayed to late Monday night or early this morning.
Although the cost of damages could not immediately be determined, he said the engine would require a complete overhaul and a lot of cables that had melted needed to be replaced, noting that cabling is expensive.
Captain Jens Hoyeye added that on-board they were warn-ed of the fire after an alarm was received from the auxiliary engine room.
"Our procedure is that we have an on scene command. This is our safety officer and he would be right in place within a minute and he could report that we had fire, which we had to take care of," he said.
Hoyeye added that the fire was never a huge threat.
"It was what we call a minor fire and it never, ever went so long to be a severe fire. We didn't have any seriously critical situations on-board. So we are extremely happy for that," he said.
Chief fire officer, Doyle Burrows, who was at the Freeport Harbor yesterday morning added that the fire was controlled when the department arrived on the scene.
"The fire crew on-board was able to bring the fire under control quickly and to extinguish the fire and so we want to commend them for the job they did on-board in fighting that fire," he said.
Doyle added that several weeks back the department had participated in familiarization tour of the ship, which gave them an idea of what to expect.
"It was solidified this morning to see how well we would respond to each others call and it was executed very well thanks to all the parties involved," he said.
The Freeport News learned late last night that the vessel did not sail Monday evening; however, operators expect to depart Grand Bahama sometime this morning.
© 2011 The Freeport News