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Posted on Sunday, September 17, 2000 - 03:52 pm:   

Over 20 injured in Channel collision
2000 cruise ship passengers escape serious injury, but cargo ship is still ablaze
More about channel collisions

News Unlimited staff and agencies
Guardian Unlimited

Tuesday August 24, 1999

Coastguards were battling a major fire on board a cargo vessel in the English Channel today after it collided with a luxury cruise liner with over 2,000 people on board.

Passengers who had paid up to £2,500 for the cruise on the Norwegian Dream spoke of their fears after the collision at around 1am off Margate in Kent, which caused several containers to crash on to the deck of the liner.

Over 20 people were injured when the Panamanian-registered container ship Ever Decent caught fire and collided with the Norwegian Dream.

Deputy prime minister John Prescott today praised the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the emergency services for acting promptly after a Norwegian cruise ship collided with a cargo vessel in the channel early this morning.

"No lives were lost among more than 2,000 people and those involved in the rescue are to be congratulated," he told ITN. The Department of Transport was in contact with the Bahamian authorities and was prepared to help in any investigation into the accident, Mr Prescott added.

"We have always been concerned about this stretch of water and we co-operate closely with the French authorities. We are forever reassessing all safety measures in the Channel."

The Ever Decent cargo ship was sailing to Zeebrugge from Thamesport at Chatham on the River Medway in Kent. She set sail last night at 8pm and would have had to cross the main channel shipping lanes to get to the Belgian port. Under International Maritime Organisation regulations, the vessel would have been required to travel at right angles across the lanes to minimise the time it was in them and the risk of a collision.

NCL Holding, the Norwegian cruise firm cancelled the rest of the cruise for repairs to its damaged liner. "Repairs will be made to the Norwegian Dream, and the 12-day cruise due to start on August 24 has been cancelled," the company said in a statement.

The Norwegian Dream docked in Dover with a gash in its bow, damage to its bridge, and carrying a number of containers that had spilled off the Panama-registered Ever Decent in the impact. NCL said earlier that the collision had been "minor" and that there had never been any danger to passengers, crew or the ship. Coastguards reported minor injuries to three of 2,400.

None of the cruise passenger, mainly Americans, were thought to be seriously hurt, Norwegian Cruise Line said.

"We weren't sure if it was going to sink. When I heard the bang I really pictured another Titanic and started running to the deck," said Arielle Adelman, 16, from New York.

The 50,000-tonne Bahamanian-registered cruise ship docked at Dover this morning after suffering serious damage in the collision. The liner's bow was heavily stoved in, with a large gash torn in the metal. A lifeboat on the starboard side of the ship was also damaged and two containers throw onto the Norwegian Dream from the Ever Decent were still perched precariously on the bow deck.

Fire continued to blaze in containers aboard the 52,000-tonne cargo ship, which was listing heavily some 12 miles off Margate under a noxious cloud of smoke. 25 crew of the Ever Decent had remained aboard to fight the fire.

The vessels collided some 20 miles north east of Margate shortly after 1am as the crew of the Ever Decent tackled the blaze. A marine emergency was declared and an operations room set up at the Coastguard's Southampton headquarters.

An air exclusion zone was set up around the collision scene and shipping in the area - the busiest seaway in the world - was warned to stay clear as pollution experts assessed the damage, including any threat to beaches on the Kent and Essex coasts.

Geir Aune, President of Norwegian Cruise Lines Holding, said: "The container ship was in the process of by-passing the Norwegian Dream. Norwegian Dream completed the cruise according to the normal itinerary without any assistance and arrived on schedule in Dover early this morning.

"No serious injuries occurred and nobody was transferred off the cruise ship. The officers and crew on the Norwegian Dream handled the situation according to procedures and the passengers, crew and ship were not at any time in danger. A full investigation is under way and more information will be given later this morning. The sailing scheduled for departure will be determined by noon."

John Chambers, from Carlisle, Cumbria, said he "thanked God" that the sea was calm and the weather was mild when the collision occurred.

"I was fast asleep. We just heard the loud bang and vibration and we got up, dressed and got our lifejackets on and went to the muster station. We were there for about an hour to see if we needed to abandon ship or not. "I think all the passengers were very calm and seemed to behave very sensibly. We didn't really know what was happening. It was very mild and calm so we thanked God for that. We could see in the distance one of the ships that was on fire and other ships were there that were coming to help."

Useful links:
Norwegian Cruise Line
Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Marine Accident Investigation Branch

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