Could Norwegian Pearl Have Caused Europe's Weekend Power Outage?

November 6, 2006
A massive power outage that began late Saturday and spread from northern Germany to Morocco is, according to European news reports, attributed to Norwegian Cruise Line's still-under-construction Norwegian Pearl.

Really! Turns out that -- in a move orchestrated by Meyer Werft, the ship's builder, and German utility company E.ON (NCL itself was not involved) -- a 380,000-volt power line was switched off to allow Norwegian Pearl to sail safely under the line as it traveled from the shipyard, in Papenburg, Germany, to its berth on the North Sea. The temporary shut-down was meant to be a safety precaution.

Alas, the loss of power there is thought to have overstretched other lines and created a domino-like weakness that knocked out power for up to 90 minutes, with effects that, beyond simply cutting off electricity to homes, also halted trains and trapped people in elevators. According to an Associated Press report, E.ON estimates that some 10 million folks were affected, including people in Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, Croatia and Morocco.

The power cut had no impact on Norwegian Pearl.

News reports mention that E.ON issued a statement, saying "such switch-offs have been undertaken repeatedly in the past without any problems. It is still unclear where and how the acute fault occurred half an hour after the switch-off. E.ON is working flat out to obtain a detailed analysis."

--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor