A luxury cruise ship operated by Compagnie du Ponant was evacuated after an engine room fire while sailing north of the Falkland Islands early Wednesday morning.
The 264-passenger vessel LE BOREAL was cruising from Grave Cove, Falklands to South Georgia when the alarm sounded shortly after 2:00 A.M. last night.
There were no reported injuries to passengers or crew from the fire, which has been extinguished, according to Ponant.
Ponant and UK TV reports state that LE BOREAL’s passengers were transferred to her sister ship L’AUSTRAL, which also was cruising in the region, and are being taken to the capital of the Falkland Islands Port Stanley from where they will be flown home.
The Falkland Island’s Government Emergency Services responded to the emergency, collaborating with local vessel agents and British Forces South Atlantic Islands Emergency Services, HMS Clyde, an offshore patrol vessel also changed course in order to assist in the evacuation.
An investigation into the fire has been launched. The remainder of the LE BOREAL’s cruise has been cancelled.
The UK Ministry of Defence posted more detail of the rescue mission including the north-westerly gale placed the ship in real danger of grounding on Cape Dolphin, East Falkland.
It was reported that the Captain ordered the ship, with all 347 passengers and crew, to be abandoned. Working closely with the Falkland Islands Government, British Forces carried out a major search and rescue plan.
“Two Royal Air Force Sea King Search and Rescue helicopters were scrambled, along with two other support helicopters, a C130 Hercules and a Voyager aircraft for command and control. The Royal Navy patrol vessel HMS CLYDE was despatched to the scene, as were Dutch tugs which support British Forces in the Falkland Islands.”
“In an operation coordinated from Mount Pleasant, Royal Air Force Search and Rescue helicopters, supported by British International and Bristows helicopters, successfully winched 79 people from the deck of the LE BOREAL and from two life rafts in the water. All of these evacuees were brought to the British Forces Base at Mount Pleasant where they received care, clothing, food and medical attention. HMS CLYDE assisted two further lifeboats with over 200 evacuees on board, ensuring they were brought to safety.”
” The vessel itself is now in a stable condition and two Dutch Tugs, under contract to British Forces, are now assisting to bring the vessel alongside in the Falkland Islands for a detailed assessment of her condition.”
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “This successful rescue in the Falklands this morning demonstrates how our Armed Forces are always ready to help those in peril. The swift action taken by Royal Navy and Royal Air Force crews, working with civilian counterparts, saved many lives and prevented this developing into a human tragedy.”
Commander British Forces South Atlantic Islands, Cdre Darren Bone, said: “We responded with everything we had yesterday to assist in what was an extremely complex and hazardous rescue operation in difficult conditions but I am delighted that we can report all of the passengers and crew of the vessel are safe and well and the vessel itself in a stable condition. This was a huge team effort involving close liaison with the Falkland Islands Government and I am enormously impressed with the reaction by all the British forces involved, it was an exemplary performance all round.”
MARTIN COX - Founder and publisher of MaritimeMatters, inspired by maritime culture and technology growing up in the port of Southampton. He works as a photographer in Los Angeles, and his works has been exhibited in LA, San Francisco, New York, London and Iceland. Martin is the co-writer of the book “Hollywood to Honolulu; the story of the Los Angeles Steamship Company” published by the Steam Ship Historical Society of America. The Los Angeles Maritime Museum has commissioned artworks and collected his photographs.