Fatal Fire On MS NORDLYS — Updated (2)

Update: September 28, 2011 by Kalle Id

The fire-damaged Hurtigruten coastal vessel NORDLYS was towed to Fiskerstrand Verft shipyard this Monday, where she is now drydocked. The cause of engine room fire is still a mystery, but the source of the leak in the hull has now been made clear.

The ship’s stabilizer fins, that should be retracted when NORDLYS was brought along side, were left in the “out” position and thus the stabilizer forcibly pushed into the hull and this caused a 37 cm x 7.5 cm (15 inches x 3 inches) rift on the side of the ship. This relatively small hole appears to have been the cause of the dangerous 21-degree list the ship developed. The hole was eventually plugged not by magnetic mats that received much media attention (and proved completely superfluous when the ship was inspected at dry dock) but by wedges of wood calked up by margarine.

The damage caused to the NORDLYS by the fire and the partial flooding has proven less extensive than originally thought, restricted almost entirely to the engine room and the crew staircase.  There is virtually no damage to the public areas.

Although Hurtigruten have not yet reached a decision on which shipyard will repair the NORDLYS, it is likely she will be back in service between January and March 2012. This may be a problem for Hurtigruten, as a new contract for operating the Norwegian coastal service comes into effect from the start of 2012, demanding that during the winter months there must be eleven ships in service, instead of ten ships under the terms of the current contract. Unless an agreement is reached with the Norwegian government, if the NORDLYS is not ready by the beginning of next year Hurtigruten will have to find a suitable ship to charter for the period of 2012 while the NORDLYS remains out of commission.

Update: September 19, 2011 by Martin Cox

Following days of intense and nail biting efforts to prevent the NORDLYS from capsizing at her berth in Aalesund, Norway, the ship has been brought back to a 7 degree list.  This list is a deliberate choice as there remains much water on board.  At one point, the list increased beyond the critical 20 degrees, to a maximum of 21.7, but with more pumps installed, the ship was saved from rolling over.  The Norwegian police are not entirely convinced that it was an explosion that caused the fatal fire, however it spread with great speed catching the crew off guard.  The CEO of the Hurtigruten Group is reported to have stated that he does not believe that the leak was connected with the fire. Meanwhile, as several vehicles inside the ship remain intact and the passengers’ belongings remain in their cabins, the investigation continues. Later today, the coastal vessel is expected to be towed to dry dock.

Sept 15: An engine room fire broke out on Hurtigruten’s MS NORDLYS off the coast of Norway on Thursday morning. The Norwegian-registered ship was carrying 262 people and many were taken off in lifeboats before the ship arrived in Alesund, some 230 miles north-west of Oslo. Two crew members have died and at least 16 people were reportedly injured as the blaze forced rescuers to evacuate more than 200 passengers from the NORDLYS.

MS NORDLYS listing pierside September 16, 2011.

Police believe there was an explosion before the engine room fire, but no cause has been reported. Media pictures showed thick black smoke belching from the funnel and aft vents as the vessel approached the quay in Alesund. All 207 passengers have been rescued. (The ship can carry almost 700 passengers.)

By the afternoon, the ship was tied up and a spokeswoman for the rescue services in southern Norway, Borghild Eldoeen, stated, “The fire is under control now but we have a problem with the ship taking on water, so right now they are working on stabilising the vessel.” Three rescue workers who were pumping water from the ship were slightly injured and treated for inhaling smoke fumes. The ship continues to list.

MS NORDLYS. Photo © Aldebaran under Creative Commons license

The MS NORDLYS, built by Volkswerft GmbH in Stralsund, Germany in 1994, is one of several Hurtigruten vessels that ply the Norwegian coast on a popular 1,500-mile cruise between the southwestern city of Bergen and Kirkenes, above the Arctic Circle. The line carries both tourists and locals between coastal cities and hamlets.


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