Power Outage on QM2 Found to Be Result of Explosion

December 4, 2010


(11:52 a.m. EST) -- It's hard not to worry about cruise ship safety these days. A fire onboard Carnival Splendor managed to cripple the massive vessel, a Ryndam passenger got access to an off-limits area of the ship and released the ship's anchor mid-cruise, and now it's come to light that a brief power outage on Cunard's Queen Mary 2 this September was actually the result of a dangerous explosion.

Passengers onboard QM2 on September 23 were aware only of a brief power outage, but a report by the U.K.'s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) that was published yesterday details the incident and its causes more completely, as well as issues strong recommendations to cruise lines and other ship owners to prevent similar events from taking place.

Cruise Critic member violetta58 was onboard the impacted cruise and reported on Cruise Critic's message boards, "Awoke to a power cut throughout the ship at 4:36 in the morning. No engines and we were just drifting off the coast of Barcelona. Power came back on after 15 minutes in the staterooms and about 1 hour later we slowly started to move." The ship arrived in Barcelona, the next port of call, and remained in port longer than expected. The captain "only said they need to check systems afterwards, so no reason for the actual power cut given."

However, according to the MAIB report, the situation was more serious than passengers knew. "The cruise liner RMS Queen Mary 2 was approaching Barcelona when one of 12 capacitors in a harmonic filter failed, accompanied by a loud explosion. The explosion resulted in extensive damage to the surrounding electric panels and caused the vessel to black out." The report goes on to say that the explosion was forceful enough to damage steel doors and casings and buckle stiffeners on the bulkhead of a compartment within the aft main switchboard room. No crewmembers were in the area at the time.

The MAIB's investigation reveals that the capacitor had "deteriorated gradually," yet monitoring devices did not detect the problem. An investigation into the cause of the failure is ongoing.

Cunard spokeswoman Jackie Chase told Cruise Critic that the line "has noted and implemented the recommendations made to shipowners by the MAIB following an investigation into a failed capacitor on board Queen Mary 2 last September."

These recommendations, according to the MAIB report, include inspecting the capacitors for signs of problems, ensuring that cooling and ventilation systems are operating normally, testing monitoring devices and checking for cleanliness of exposed conductors and chaffing damage on high voltage cables.

--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor