Cruise Ship 'Nordlys' – Fire Flare-up Enigma

By George Backwell at September 18, 2011 10:05
Filed Under: General

Cruise ship Nordlys on a regular Hurtigruten scenic Norwegian coastal passage from Bergen to far-North Kirkenes with 262 passengers and crew on board, reported fire in the engine room last Thursday morning, 15, September not far (fortunately) from scheduled first port of call Ålesund, Norway, where she limped in to dock with smoke billowing from the funnel.

Cruise Ship Nordlys About to Enter Ålesund: Photo credit – Olav Helge Matvik/Norwegian Coastal Administration


Olav Fjell  CEO of Hurtigruten described the fire as a tragedy (the chief engineer and a young assistant engineer were killed and a dozen or so injured). Which clearly it was, although had this major fire occurred later in the voyage, say with the ship beyond North Cape, a far greater disaster might have ensued. At all events, the fire raged on dockside in Ålesund until it was extinguished mid-afternoon, leaving the flooded hull with a threatening 22 degree list and shore pumps working at full stretch. The actual cause of the fire must remain the subject of speculation as will be seen, but first a brief outline of the ship’s construction and the machinery in the devastated engine room,

Nordlys  Main Particulars

Nordlys, with a LOA of 121.8 m is a 11,204 gt passenger and car ferry constructed under the supervision of DNV in the Stralsund shipyard of Volksverft GmbH and delivered in 1994. Main propulsion is by  2 x 6-cylinder MAK 6M552 four-stroke diesel engines producing 12,240 BHP to drive twin KAMEWA CP propellors, and also in the engine room are 2 x  KRG-8 type diesel generators by BMV.

A well-found ship, Norway’s Westcon Power and Automation AS  say the vessel was dry-docked in their shipyard for successful classification surveys and routine repairs earlier in the year.

The Cause of the Fire – Conflicting Reports

There are conflicting reports on the immediate cause of the fire. Norway International Network and other news media reported that Ålesund police suspected there had been an explosion in the engine room (which was borne out by a crew member) although they thought it not to have been caused by sabotage or a terrorist attack.

On the other hand, according to The Norway Post Online (when by Saturday afternoon rescue experts declared that its was safe to enter the vessel) Norway’s Naval Investigations Board began their first inspection onboard Nordlys.  The leader, Elisabeth Juel Ramos reportedly said there was no sign of an explosion in the engine room, but that it appeared that a fierce fire had started around the main starboard engine. A complete investigation is to be made when the ship is docked, in the nearby Fiskarstrand Yard.


Comments (3) -


The Fire detecting  equipments should  always be check daily to know if it is working properly( automatic or manual).  This is to be done by the safety officer on board (3rd or 2nd officer). No matter where the accident was either on the engine room or deck, the blame is always to the Captain (Master), command responsiblity.

R. Agustines

Reynaldo Agustines |     9/20/2011 9:48:42 PM #

Could there have been a crankcase explosion of the starboard engine? I suppose the cause of this tragedy will not be known until full inspections etc are carried out. For a fire to spread at the speed it did must mean that there was a potent ignition force and a plentiful supply of fuel to feed the fire. Were there crankcase oil mist detectors fitted and what system of fire supression was fitted in the engine room.

John Price
Retired Technical Manager

John Price |     9/22/2011 5:24:57 AM #

Usually with DNV classification fire suppression systems would be CO2 manually operated, this obviously relys on intervention which may have been impossible in this case. If an Aerosol system had been employed such as Pyrogen then the system would have self initiayed at high temperature providing some suppression and possibly lessening the impact of the explosion, but certainly reducing if not entirely extinguishing the fire.

I agree with John Price, the use of more sensitive and targeted detection would have assisted in reducing the possibility of explosion. We will of course not know until reports and inspections have been finalised

Carl Shuker
Fire Systems Specialist

Carl Shuker |     9/28/2011 3:49:05 AM #

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