Azamara Club Cruises’ 30277-ton Azamara Quest reported an engine room fire late on Friday 30, March 2012 while on a 17-night sailing between Hong Kong and Singapore. The fire was contained to the engine room and quickly extinguished. Five crew members are reported to have been injured, one seriously. Passengers were initially mustered and the ship ran on back- up generators ensuring power had been provided to the vessel, airconditioning and all other guest facilities had been quickly restored by the ship’s engineers so basic comforts could be provided to the ships guests and crew.
There were 590 passengers onboard of varied nationalities; the ship arrived safely in Sandakan Malaysia on Monday. It drifted into dangerous waters known to be infested by pirates and needed a navy escort into Sandakan to ensure passenger and crew safety. Azamara Club Cruises have since announced that its current cruise had been cancelled with no confirmation of how many future cruises may be impacted. Most guests are reported to have been flown to Singapore where a number of holiday options had been offered by the line for guests to continue with their holiday plans.
It is yet another incident that has plagued the industry in recent months starting with the Costa Concordia incident on 13 January, Costa Allegra’s engine room fire in the Indian Ocean a matter of weeks later and now the latest incident involving the Azamara Quest. The industry is now bracing itself for no further bad news. With the Centenary anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic only a week away, there are programs featured on TV that capitalize on the interest in the Titanic story, that focus on the safety of ships at sea in general and in particular, involving collisions and fires that are not complimentary to the industry and question the industry’s preparedness and the ability to handle such incidents. Images of ships with extensive fire damage, or billowing smoke with passengers and crew scrambling to get on life rafts sends out wrong signals to tens of thousands of passengers in the UK that may be contemplating a cruise holiday in the coming months/ years making them understandably nervous.
As much as the industry overall has demonstrated a very strong safety record with less than 60 passengers having lost their life on ships in the past decade, whilst more that 170 million passengers were carried during the same time, the industry’s safety record has always not been adequately communicated. It will now take a period in which no further adverse news occur to get these already understandably nervous travellers to consider a cruise as a very safe travel option.
With the latest incidents such as the Costa Concordia and Costa Allegra and now the latest incident involving the Azamara Quest never too far from the headlines and now bringing out of archives incidents that have happened with ships at sea in the past and beaming those images on TV screens to potentially millions of current and potential cruisers makes the task of rebuilding the industry’s recently tarnished image just a bit more challenging for not only the lines themselves but the cruise industry in general . The industry has always shaken off one-off events and it will do so again, its resiliency over the years has been remarkable.