INSIGNIA        CRUISE        SHIP        FIRE



Aboard a ship at sea or in a port of call, a fire can be quite devastating, often altering countless lives forever and resulting in serious damage to a vessel as well as a heavy financial impact. No matter how safe we try to be, periodically the sea takes its toll in lives and ships.

Such was the case with the cruise ship INSIGNIA of the Oceania Cruises. The 17 year old cruise ship was a product of the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in St. Nazaire, France having been laid down and entering service in 1998 as the R ONE. When launched her dimensions were a comfortable 30,277 gross tons. Please note that a gross ton, despite its wording, is not a weight measurement, but rather a volume measurement. To be simple a single gross ton is basically about 100 cubic feet of enclosed space aboard a vessel of any description. Her length overall from stem to stern comes in at 593 feet seven inches. At her widest she’s 83 feet 5 inches and she draws 19 feet 5 inches of water.

She sailed as the RENAISSANCE, along with seven other identical sisterships, until the operating company, known as the Renaissance Cruise Line, went bankrupt. She was then renamed the REGATTA. In the past two years [Spring 2011–Spring 2013] the ship had been under a charter to Hapag–Lloyd Cruises The ship was then overhauled in May 2013 following the charter. The Norwegian Cruise Line is the parent of Oceania Cruises.

On December 07th the INSIGNIA cleared the port of San Juan on a ten day Eastern Caribbean cruise whereby she would stop at several tropical ports of call before returning to Miami on the 17th.

At around 08:30, just an hour after docking on the morning of Thursday, December 11th 2014, the fifth day of the cruise, some passengers claimed that they heard an explosion and then a serious fire broke out in the INSIGNIA’s engine room while she was alongside berth 5 in Port Castries, St. Lucia. The ship’s general bells went off. It took about 0 hours and 00 minutes to be extinguished.

When it was finally out three crew members and two contractors had been seriously affected requiring hospitalization. One of the three crew members and both contractors later succumbed to their injuries which were described as respiratory distress and smoke inhalation.

Her 684 passengers were rapidly evacuated to the safety of the dock and none were harmed. In the log book the cruise had been officially terminated at 09:15.

The ship’s current operators, Oceania Cruises, sent a company support & technical team along with their new President and Chief Operating Officer, Jason Montague, in to assist with the details for her passengers and crew comfort and to determine the immediate disposition of the vessel. An investigative team consisting of key crew members, local, company officials will start determining the fire’s cause and the steps needed to get her back into service.

Shoreside fire officials got the call at 09:25 that there was a fire on board and rushed to the scene along with the Air & Sea Port Authority officials. Since the fire had been pretty much contained within the engineering spaces below, the passengers were allowed to return on board to gather up their things. During this process the ship lost its power and the passengers were immediately moved to their muster stations. A short time later they were disembarked and were temporarily housed in the ferry terminal adjacent to the cruise terminal. However everyone was told that they would receive a full refund as well as a 50% credit on a future cruise with Oceania. 

Now with the loss of power occurring, it was clear that the rest of the cruise was to be cancelled and the decision was made to repatriate the passengers as soon as possible. And of those crew members who might not be needed for a bit, they too would be sent home as determined. A bus brought the passengers the contents from their cabin safes only as well as their passports. From there the hundreds of passengers were taken to the local airport, a good distance away to the south. Oceania was able to have the airport remain open all night. Despite the fact that hey had no luggage, just the clothing on then consisting basically of shorts and bathing suits, the passengers remained quite calm throughout the ordeal and awaited more details. In the early evening a ton of hamburgers and fried chicken arrived for the stranded passengers from the other cruise ships in port. In Miami the passengers were given $100 per person and arrangements continued to get them home, many to the cold cities up north. Oceania Cruises stated that once power was restored on the INSIGNIA, the company would get their luggage and keys delivered to their homes. 

An American contingent of 4 experts from the U.S. Coast Guard, the N.T.S.B. and the C.S.I.N.C.E. are en–route to the disabled ship. Since the INSIGNIA is registered in Majuro of the Marshall Islands, the authorities there are allowing the expertise of the American team to investigate incident since a good number of the on board passengers are American. 

The next cruise, a 24 day voyage scheduled to leave Miami for the Caribbean and South America on the 17th of December was cancelled. Passengers on that trip will get a full refund plus a 25% cruise credit through the end of 2016. The January 10th cruise from Miami is still to be determined pending an ongoing investigation and shipyard repairs. 

On Monday, December 22nd the INSIGNIA arrived in San Juan for shipyard repairs. On Tuesday, December 23rd Oceania Cruises announced that their INSIGNIA will resume service again on Sunday, March 22nd 2015 in the port of Singapore. The first three segments of her modified 180 day world cruise had to be cancelled because of the extensive damage suffered in St. Lucia on December 11th. Although the fire was primarily confined to the engine room, the surrounding areas and equipment must be surveyed and replaced as needed. The fire related loss, spanning at least 102 days from December 11th to March 22nd, is expected to top the $21 million USD mark. This is expected to affect the Norwegian Cruise Lines 4th and 1st quarter earnings [2015 – 2015] by an estimated $ 0.05 per share. NCL is the parent company of Oceania Cruises. 

For the already booked passengers who decide to join the INSIGNIA in Singapore and continue with their scheduled voyage, a full refund will be returned for the unused days along with a 25% credit with the line on a future cruise.




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