Fire breaks out on ship in Glacier Bay

Posted: Tuesday, May 23, 2000

The 704-foot-long Nieuw Amsterdam caught fire in Glacier Bay today.

After about 45 minutes, the blaze was put out by the ship's crew, and the ship continued its cruise down Tarr Inlet, a section of the bay about 50 miles north and west of Gustavus.

Erik Elvejord, spokesman for Holland America Lines, said none of the 1,201 passengers or 566 crew were injured during the fire, which Elvejord said is believed to have been ignited by an electrical malfunction.

Darrell Wilson, a Coast Guard spokesman, said the fire was confirmed out at about 11 a.m.

``No reported injuries,'' he said. ``But they said there was extensive damage.''

According to Lt. CMDR. Ray Massey, Another Coast Guard spokesman, one passenger did get light-head from the smoke, fell and bumped his head. That passenger, he said, was to be treated onboard the vessel.

A four-person Coast Guard team was being flown out to Glacier Bay this afternoon to check the damage to the cruise ship, Wilson said. If that team determines the vessel is safe and there is no risk of the fire starting again, he said, the Nieuw Amsterdam will be allowed to go on its way.

As a precaution, Elvejord said, passengers were gathered on the ship's lifeboat deck. After the fire was out and the smoke cleared, they were allowed to return to their cabins, he said.

Then, the ship continued its seven-day Vancouver, British Columbia,-to-Seward cruise, Elvejord said. It will stop for a Coast Guard inspection at Glacier Bay's Bartlett Cove.

At about 1:30 p.m. today, he said everything was shipshape.

``Right now it's cruising in Glacier Bay,'' he said. ``We're cruising as usual. ``There's really no safety or operational problem as far as we're concerned.''

Elvejord said that some 30 crew cabins were damaged by the fire, and as many as 100 crewmen will have to find another place to sleep.

After the Coast Guard checks the ship, Elvejord said, the Nieuw Amsterdam is expected to continue to Seward with a one-day crossing of the Gulf of Alaska.

In July 1996, during a fire aboard the 618-foot-long Universe Explorer. five crew members died of smoke inhalation and another 69 others aboard were injured as the ship traveled from Juneau to Glacier Bay.

The National Transportation Safety Board found that the fire spread from its origins in the ship's laundry room because the Universe Explorer didn't have sprinklers, doors were roped open and there was no internal radio system.

That vessel was owned by Florida-based New Commodore Cruise Lines Inc.

The Nieuw Amsterdam is being sold in October to American Classic Voyages. That company is paying $114.5 million for the ship.

Holland America will replace the Nieuw Amsterdam with the Amsterdam - a 1,380-passenger liner due to be delivered in the fall.

``Nieuw'' is the Dutch word for ``new.''

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