NTSB Rules on Fire

August 22, 2001
An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board into last year’s fire aboard Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam reveals it was caused by “unauthorized use of an electrical appliance left unattended in a crew cabin.” The fire, which occurred while the ship was headed to Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park, broke out in the crew cabin area. But what compounded the damage -- costing an estimated $360,000 and resulting in one passenger’s being evacuated due to smoke inhalation (though no fatalities) -- was according to the NTSB report, that “the ship's chief officer and chief engineer abandoned the existing firefighting plan and attempted to extinguish the fire without proper gear or backup. The officers' inappropriate actions directly contributed to the spread of fire and smoke.” Ultimately, the NTSB says, “the ship's onboard firefighting teams, properly equipped and trained, eventually put out the fire, but not before smoke had migrated throughout the ship creating hazardous conditions on several decks.” The NTSB recommended that Holland America Line Westours, Inc. revise emergency response efforts in the wake of the fire and also suggests the same for other cruise lines. Incidentally, the ship has since been sold to U.S. Lines and is sailing Hawaii as the Patriot.