Emerald Belle in shipyard

(1:50 p.m. AEST) – A shipyard fire has caused “significant” damage to Emerald Belle that will delay the vessel's launch, which was scheduled for April.

Emerald Belle is the newest ship to be built by Emerald Waterways (known in its native Australia as Evergreen Tours).

“At 12:30 a.m (UTC+1:00) Sunday morning, the owner of the Den Breejen Shipyard was alerted to a fire on the Emerald Belle,” said Glen Moroney, chairman of the Scenic Group, and owner of the cruise line. “Despite the efforts of firefighters, who were quickly at the scene, the damage is significant. We are grateful and relieved that nobody was onboard at the time and most importantly, there were no injuries to any shipyard worker or firefighters.”

Sister line, Scenic, also had a ship under construction nearby but it was quickly moved away so damage was contained to some exterior paint.

The cruise line issued the following statement: “Although the Emerald Belle's construction was well along (as it was due to launch in April) the firefighting system onboard was not yet operational. At this point there is no confirmed cause of the fire but a full investigation by the yard and firefighting authorities is being carried out.”

With several Emerald Belle's cruises expected to be affected, the company's operations and reservations teams are seeking to accommodate booked passengers on similar departures on other Emerald or Scenic ships. Travel agents and passengers will be notified in the next few days to discuss options. The line has established dedicated web pages for U.S., Canadian, Australian and U.K. passengers to provide regular updates on the affected sailings.

--By Louise Goldsbury, Australia Editor