Original Owner of Blue Lady (SS Norway) to pay $13 million to explosion victims & $1 million as fine
Judge Federico Moreno also levied a $1 million fine against the Miami-based cruise line.
A follow-up hearing will be held in June, 2008 to consider additional restitution issues.
S S Norway (Blue Lady) is currently beached in Alang, Bhavnagar, India, where its main structure is still intact. The Supreme Court of India is still seized with the ship in question as it has admitted a clarification application in the aftermath of September 11, 2007 order.
Norwegian Cruise Line Limited (NCL) has been charged under federal shipping laws with grossly negligent operation of the SS Norway (Blue Lady), thereby placing the lives and property of persons on board the vessel at risk, and thereby leading to the death of at least one individual., in violation of Title 46, United States Code, Section 2302(b).
A Complaint For Civil Injunctive Relief has also been filed against NCL. The Civil Complaint reflects that NCL agreed to plead guilty to the companion Criminal Information and pay a criminal fine. NCL has agreed that, as operator of the former NCL vessels, it will assume legal responsibility for carrying out certain procedural and safety reviews under the auspices of an independent consultant, to ensure that NCL has in effect safe practices in vessel operations, a safe working environment, and proper safeguards against identified risks. The review will specifically include consideration of procedures related to the maintenance. Operation, and inspection of all boiler systems on NCL vessels. The Department of Justice release notes that "S.S. NORWAY, itself, has been permanently removed from maritime service."
The National Transportation Safety Board recently released the results of its investigation into the S.S. NORWAY casualty in which it concluded that a weld on a seam of a high-pressure drum fractured, releasing almost 20 tons of high temperature water, which immediately flashed into steam and swept through the engine spaces and some adjacent crew berthing areas, resulting in the death of eight crewmembers and the injury of others. No passengers were injured. The report noted that the failed system had a history of fatigue cracking, corrosion, and pitting. The Board Report concluded that the ultimate failure of the boiler system was failure of adequate care in the maintenance, operation, and inspection of the S.S. NORWAY’s boilers.
Rear Admiral Robert S. Branham, Commander Seventh Coast Guard District, stated that
"The boiler explosion aboard the SS NORWAY was a preventable tragedy. It is appropriate that the corporation be held accountable for their negligent maintenance procedures. Hopefully, this case will send a message to the maritime industry that marine safety should be the paramount consideration in maintaining their vessels."
While the investigative efforts of the US Coast Guard Investigative Service might be commendable, the acts of omission and commission by Indian authorities in letting SS Norway (Blue Lady) enter Indian waters, in letting it beach with impunity and misleading the Supreme Court of India is condemnable.
An official statement from the cruise line reads: "The court ordered amount of restitution [$13.75 million] formalizes the funds already paid, in full, by the company three years ago to those involved. We are hopeful that resolution of the recent misdemeanor charge will bring this unfortunate incident to a conclusion."
The Indian Supreme Court heard the SS Norway (Blue Lady) clarification matter on 22 January, 2008 and asked the Additional Solicitor General to file its report in ten weeks. The report has not been filed as yet.