An engine fire on a small cruise ship occurred Monday morning in Glacier Bay, resulting in nearly 70 passengers and crew being transferred to a much larger cruise ship nearby by a lifeboat, according to the U.S. Coast Guard and the disabled boat’s owner.
No significant injuries or environmental impact were reported.
The engine fire occurred at 7:23 a.m. on the 178-foot Wilderness Discoverer, according to a press release by UnCruise Adventures, which owns and operates the vessel. The boat has capacity for 76 guests and additional crew.
“We are relieved to confirm that there have been no injuries resulting from the fire,” said Capt. Dan Blanchard, UnCruise Adventures’ owner and CEO. “Our highly trained crew promptly extinguished the fire using established emergency protocols, and CO2 was successfully deployed for everyone’s safety.”
The initial call by crew aboard Wilderness Discoverer was made to Coast Guard officials in Juneau at about 7:30 a.m., according to a Coast Guard press release. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, according to UnCruise Adventures.
The Sapphire Princess cruise ship passed the Wilderness Discoverer near Gilbert Peninsula at about that time and while “they were already adrift,” the tour boat didn’t seem to be in distress, Dan Reilly, a passenger aboard the Sapphire Princess cruise ship, told the Empire Monday morning.
However, Reilly said, shortly after passing the Wilderness Discoverer the captain of the Sapphire Princess said the ship was turning around to help the smaller vessel.
“The Sapphire Princess dispatched one of the large enclosed lifeboats — it’s a fairly large lifeboat and it’s jet powered — and that boat went over and took on board (passengers and crew),” Reilly said.
According to the Coast Guard, 51 passengers and 16 crew were transferred to the Sapphire Princess, which has a capacity of 3,670 passengers and crew.
“Eleven crew members remain aboard the Wilderness Discoverer and are scheduled to rendezvous with the tugboat Taku Wind, who will tow the vessel to Ketchikan,” the Coast Guard press release states.
Reilly said an oil boom was deployed along the smaller vessel,possibly due to a fuel or oil leak, but he said it did not appear the boat sustained serious structural damage.
“I’m looking at the ship now and it’s just sitting there,” he said at about 11:30 a.m. “It doesn’t look like it’s down in the water.”
Two Coast Guard ships along with a helicopter were deployed to the area to assist with the rescue.
“Our primary concern is ensuring the safety of the passengers and the crew,” said L.t. j.g. Maximilian Carfagno, command duty officer at the Sector Juneau command center. “The quick launch of our assets and the teamwork among the Sapphire Princess helped in the timeliness of this rescue.”
In addition to the rescue of passengers from the disabled ship disrupting the Sapphire Princess’ itinerary Monday, one passenger from the larger ship was medevaced by helicopter in an unrelated incident, according to Coast Guard officials.
Reilly said the Sapphire Princess was released from the scene at about 3:15 p.m., but the length of time spent there meant the ship skipped the scheduled scenic trip through Glacier Bay as it continued its seven-day cruise to Anchorage.
UnCruise Adventures, in its press release, stated the company is trying to minimize inconvenience to passengers resulting from the incident.
“The cruise line will be providing full refunds to all passengers affected by the incident, and providing hotels and flights home for those affected,” the release notes.
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