New cruise ship with troubled history sinks at German shipyard

The Dutch salvage company Smit is working to refloat the 72,000-gt cruise ship Pride of America, after the vessel sank at its dock at Lloyd Werft Bremerhaven GmbH shipyard in Germany on Jan. 14.

Pride of America rests on its bottom at Lloyd Werft’s shipyard in Bremerhaven, Germany. The Smit barge Giant 2 helped to stabilize the ship as salvage operations began. Pumps placed aboard removed water at the rate of about 5,000 tons per hour.
   Image Credit: Christian Eckardt photos

Lloyd Werft is completing the construction of Pride of America for Norwegian Cruise Line, which intends to operate the ship in the Hawaiian Islands. Originally the ship was to be built for American Classic Voyages, but after that U.S. company went bankrupt in 2001, NCL bought the partially built ship and had it towed across the Atlantic to the German yard in 2002.

Work on the ship was just a few months from completion when the sinking occurred. A gale caused water to leak into the engine room of Pride of America, according to Bremerhaven police reports quoted by the Reuters news agency.

At about 0300 on Jan. 14, Pride of America settled to the bottom, listing at 15º, with water in three of the ship’s 15 decks, according to NCL. A security guard realized there was a problem with the vessel and sounded the alarm, allowing 200 workers to leave the vessel without injury, according to Werner Lüken, managing director of Lloyd Werft.

Lüken said the cause of the incident would not be known until the vessel is refloated.

On Jan. 15, a Smit team, including a salvage master, nautical experts and 15 divers, arrived at the shipyard. There were at least two holes in the vessel’s hull to be patched, according to Lars Walder, a Smit spokesman.

Since construction work was still under way, the biggest challenge of the salvage involved blocking openings in all the internal spaces. “They were still working on the insulation and the pipes; it’s not just a matter of closing the doors to the compartments,” Walder said. “That’s the reason everything flooded so fast.”

Walder estimated that it would take at least a week and a half to close all the internal openings before pumping could even start. Smit will likely bring a floating crane in so that the vessel does not shift during pumping.

“You have to be careful when you start pumping that you do it in a controlled manner,” he said.

The incident will delay the planned April delivery of Pride of America, forcing NCL to substitute the 77,104-gt Norwegian Sky for Hawaiian Island cruises that were supposed to begin in June aboard Pride of America. Three East Coast cruises planned for Pride of America from Boston, New York and Miami have been canceled, according to Susan Robinson, spokeswoman for NCL. Robinson said she could not say when Pride of America will be ready for sailing, but the ship will still be destined for Hawaii when completed.

Image Credit: Christian Eckardt photos

Norwegian Sky will undergo a multimillion-dollar remodeling in May, be re-flagged as a U.S. vessel and renamed Pride of Aloha. NCL’s parent company, Star Cruises, brought in its 75,338-gt cruise ship Superstar Leo to take over the summer Alaska cruises that were scheduled for Norwegian Sky.

The troubled Pride of America, which came to NCL after the bankruptcy of American Classic Voyages, has left another bankruptcy in its wake. On Feb. 10 it was reported that Lloyd Werft had filed for insolvency at a court in Bremerhaven. After Pride of America sank at its dock, NCL refused to make a multimillion-dollar payment to Lloyd Werft that had been scheduled for the end of January, according to published reports. The Bremen state government has guaranteed a $12.7 million bank loan for the shipyard, to allow the shipyard to remain open.

The construction of Pride of America began at the Northrop Grumman Ship Systems’ Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., as part of Project America, a federally funded program. The terms of the program gave American Classic Voyages a 30-year monopoly to operate as the only U.S.-flagged cruise line in the Hawaiian Islands, as long as the cruise line built two vessels at American shipyards.

The U.S. Maritime Administration (MarAd) had promised as much as $1.1 billion in loan guarantees under its Title XI program if AMC had gone on to build three vessels. However, when AMC went bankrupt in October 2001, MarAd halted the loan guarantees, and work on Pride of America stopped.

In August 2002, NCL purchased the partially completed hull and all materials for the second vessel in order to revive Project America. The hull and all related materials were towed to the Lloyd Werft shipyard in November 2002.

By Professional Mariner Staff