Expert Suspects 'Low Water' Caused Cruise Ship Hull Breach

June 25, 2014
britannia river boat

(2:16 p.m. EDT) -- A hull breach that flooded river cruise ship MS Britannia in the Netherlands on Sunday (June 22), and forced the evacuation of 194 passengers and crew may have been caused by the ship running aground in low water, according to a spokesman for the Dutch Emergency Services.

An investigation into the cause of the accident is still underway, and Nicko Tours -- the tour operator for Britannia -- said there is still "no hint what happened."

But Robert Spijkerman, spokesman for the North and East Gelderland Safety Region told Cruise Critic that police and investigators think low water levels in a tributary of the Rhine was to blame for the accident.

"Maybe it was a rock [the ship hit], they don't know," Spijkerman said.

According to Spijkerman, "a big noise" was the first evidence that the ship was in trouble, shortly followed by water inundating the ship's lower decks.

"A lot of people were already in their cabins asleep … and the captain went to shore with the ship and the evacuation started … But on the first floor, there was already water. And people were getting their legs wet (wading through the water)."

Britannia was successfully evacuated early Sunday morning with no injuries to passengers or crew, and the investigation into what caused the ship to take on water began later the same day.

Spijkerman said two divers discovered a hole in the ship's hull near the stern and made a temporary fix with reinforced steel plates. Britannia was moved to dry dock in Amsterdam, he said, with one tug pulling and another pushing to keep the ship stable.

A Nicko Tours spokesperson said the company has chartered another cruise ship, MS Vienna, to run Britannia's scheduled cruises. Britannia is owned by Swiss-based Fleet Pro, Ltd.

--by Jamey Bergman, UK Production and River Section Editor