On this day in cruise history, nineteen years ago today on Monday July 20, 1998 Carnival Cruise Lines cruise ship Carnival Ecstasy was sailing off Miami Beach, Florida when a fire broke out. (see video below)
The cruise ship had 2567 passengers aboard as the ship left Miami, Florida for a Caribbean cruise.
Crew were welding a laundry folding machine called a Mangle. An arc from welding equipment landed on lint nearby and ignited. The crew attempted to put the fire out, and were unsuccessful as they were driven away from heavy smoke.
The Coast Guard contacted the master of the ship around 5:30pm, and asked if they were alright, and needed any assistance. The captain indicated the ship’s fire brigade was handling the situation, and refused assistance.
But, 30 minutes later as the USCG watched on the port webcam more smoke and then flames were engulfing the entire stern of the ship. Coast Guard and other fire-fighting vessels were dispatched to the ship’s location, 2.7 miles northeast of Miami Beach in spite of Ecstasy’s captain. Read more at our Cruise Ship Fires website.
After the fire the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) did a thorough investigation into this cruise ship fire. The NTSB report states as follows, “The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of fire aboard the Ecstasy was the unauthorized welding by crewmembers in the main laundry that ignited a large accumulation of lint in the ventilation system and the failure of Carnival Cruise Lines to maintain the laundry exhaust ducts in a fire-safe condition. Contributing to the extensive fire damage on the ship was the lack of an automatic fire suppression system on the aft mooring deck and the lack of an automatic means of mitigating the spread of smoke and fire through the ventilation ducts.
The major safety issues discussed in this report are as follows:
- Adequacy of management safety oversight;
- Adequacy of the fire protection systems;
- Adequacy of passenger and crew safety; and
- Adequacy of engineering system design.
As result of its investigation of this accident, the Safety Board makes recommendations to the U.S. Coast Guard, American Classic Voyages, Carnival Corporation, Inc., Carnival Cruise Lines, 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., ABB, Inc., and the International Association of Classification Societies.
To the U.S. Coast Guard:
During control verification examinations, review a drill scenario in which one or more main vertical zones are inaccessible and evaluate the procedural effectiveness of the crew in crowd control, crisis management, lifejacket distribution, and passenger accountability. (M-01-1)
To Carnival Corporation:
For the ships in your fleets, revise the safety management system to include processes for preventing unauthorized flame cutting, grinding, or other activities that might ignite a fire. (M-01-2)
For the ships in your fleets, develop plans to account for passengers and crewmembers in common emergency scenarios, in particular, a situation involving the inaccessibility of one or more main vertical zones and/or muster stations. (M-01-3)
To Carnival Cruise Lines:
For the ships in your fleet, engineer, design, and implement system modifications to mitigate the spread of fire and smoke from the laundry rooms through ventilation ducts to other areas of the vessel. (M-01-4) Examine the propulsion systems on the ships in your fleet and, if necessary to ensure redundancy, modify the arrangement of the auxiliary voltage circuitry to the high-speed breakers where a single source supplies both port and starboard propulsion systems. (M-01-5)
Revise the safety information disseminated to passengers to include actions to take if they encounter smoke or fire and/or if their muster station is not available. (M-01-6)
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 Cruise Lines, and Silversea Cruises, Ltd.:
For existing vessels with ventilation system arrangements similar to Carnival Cruise Lines’ Fantasy Class ships, install an automatic method or system to mitigate the spread of smoke and fire from laundry spaces through the ventilation ducts to other vessel areas. (M-01-7)
For existing vessels with mooring deck design arrangements similar to Carnival Cruise Lines’ Fantasy Class ships, install fire detection and suppression systems on mooring decks that carry high fire loads and presently have no automatic fire protection. (M-01-8)
In the construction of new passenger ships, use qualitative failure analysis techniques to identify system components whose failure might cause a complete loss of propulsive power and take action to mitigate identified problems. (M-01-9)
Install emergency call systems in passenger staterooms and crew cabins so that people trapped during a fire emergency will have a means of signaling their location. (M-01-10)”
Video: July 1998 Miami ship fire