Cruise Ship Evacuation Risk


Port Authorities and the municipalities which are interdependent with them face challenging scenarios should there be a need to evacuate a cruise ship. Incidents involving cruise ships are becoming more common. Port Authorities and municipalities are faced with the reality that they cannot control or predict this form of dynamic risk and are faced with managing the consequence once there is a failure or intentional event on a cruise ship in Port or in the waters near to a municipality. The following incidents illustrate the realities associated with the ensuing chaos of a passenger ship scenario, as well as, the potential impact to the “Brand” established by the municipality and Port Authority.


In February 2013, a Carnival cruise ship known as “Carnival Triumph” caught fire due to a leak from a fuel line in the engine room, near the bottom of the ship. The ship was eventually towed into the Port of Mobile, Alabama. This fire caused the ship to lose power resulting in no air conditioning, lack of food and no drinking water, and no running water or working toilets. The ship was stranded at sea for approximately five days while passengers were forced to use biohazardous waste bags as the bathroom, sleep outside their cabin rooms on the ships deck because of leaking toilets, and last four days with no cooked food.”It was chaotic. People were in dire need of help, we were standing in line for food for five hours,” said by Debra Oubre, 59, who was a passenger aboard the ship. Oubre is part of a group of passengers aboard the ship who are suing Carnival Cruise Lines for the damages.
In reports from the Carnival Cruise Line, diesel generator No. 6, the one that wound up catching fire, had been overdue for maintenance for a year prior to this voyage. The generator was often not in compliance with the safety laws of the sea, known as SOLAS, according to the ship’s engineer.
Costa Concordia Sinking:
On January 13th, 2012, the Costa Concordia struck a rock just off the coast of Isola del Giglio in western Italy. The collision tore a 50m gap in the port side of the ship causing the engine room to flood. This led to a loss of propulsion and loss of electrical systems. The ship ended up resting on its starboard side in shallow water off the coast. The most recent death toll, from data from May of 2015, has reached 32 people out of a total of 4,200 people that the ship was carrying including passengers and crew. The community of Isola del Giglio in Tuscany was challenged to receive the4,200 evacuees with no notice. The sinking of the Costa Concordia has had a serious impact on the image or the tourism industry in Italy; because of this, Italian officials are suing the owner of the Costa Concordia cruise ship for a total of $275 million.
BCFerries – Queen of the North:
On March 22nd, 2006, the Queen of the North, a roll-on/roll-off ferry owned by BC Ferries ran aground and consequently sank near Gil Island which is south of Prince Rupert, British Columbia. There were approximately 101 passengers on board at the time of the incident. The ship took about 1 hour to sink allowing time for most passengers to evacuate. 99 passengers were evacuated and found refuge in Hartley Bay, BC. Two people died during this incident and their bodies were never recovered. A final report of the incident concluded that the ship failed to make the required course changes to avoid running aground. The ship’s captain Karl Lilgert was the person navigating the ship that night. Evidence from Karl Lilgert’s trial that preceded in 2013 shows that he failed to make a crucial change in the ship’s course.
St.Lucia Cruise Ship Fire:
On December 11th, 2014 a fire broke out in the engine room of the Oceania Insignia as the ship was docked at Port Castries in St. Lucia. Out of a total of 600 passengers aboard the ship one crew member and two contractors were killed during this incident as they got caught in the blaze and another passenger was hospitalized with respiratory problems from smoke inhalation. The SLASPA (St. Lucia Air and Sea Port Authority) and the St. Lucia Fire Service responded to the incident and effectively contained the fire. During the incident there were tremendous challenges in the evacuation, accountability and management of evacuees. The ships owners did not have a plan that dove-tailed. All passengers were provided full refunds for their trip and were all arranged with charter flights to Miami. Each guest received free accommodations in Miami until arrangements were made to return each passenger home.
For Port Operators and municipalities these incidents are not preventable. It is critical though, that the planning and response community is prepared to manage the consequences of receiving thousands of passengers and crew. Interdependencies between the plans of the cruise ship lines, Port Authority, municipalities, Red Cross, and other government agencies must be validated through regular exercises. Evacuation, land based shipboard firefighting, Command and Control, health services, security and management of evacuee reception centers are just a few of the challenging elements to a passenger ship scenario. Planning and interoperability will save lives and streamline response. Economic impacts of a response that is not integrated are high for all parties. Like most community risk, investment is required to prepare and the entity creating the risk should be providing the resources and leadership to ensure the risk is mitigated.



About the author:

Mark leads the ESI team in conducting risk assessments, training, program, and plan review, exercise scenario development, exercise facilitation, and evaluation as well as compiling final After Action Review documentation and recommendations. Under Mark’s leadership, there have been six (6) Federal research and development projects conceived and executed by the ESI team. Service has been provided for various critical infrastructures, such as Port Saint John, Point Lepreau Generating Station, Canaport Liquefied Natural Gas, Saint John Energy, as well as corporations like Atlantic Potash, Mead Johnson Nutrition, and the Mosaic Company.