Bahamas report clears captain in 'rogue wave' case
An investigation into the Norwegian Dawn’s freak wave incident last month found no negligence on the part of Capt. Niklas Peterstam or Norwegian Cruise Line.
‘There is no evidence that any real or perceived urgency to arrive at New York earlier was a factor in the handling of the ship or that Norwegian Cruise Line did anything but support the captain’s on-scene decisions. The captain’s actions have been found to be prudent and appropriate throughout,’ said the director of The Bahamas Maritime Authority in a report on the Bahamian-flagged ship.
New York media reported that Norwegian Dawn was rushing back through a storm so the ship could appear in a scheduled television shoot for Donald Trump’s ‘The Apprentice.’ At the time, NCL denied the captain was under pressure to hurry back and said safety was the company's priority.
The Bahamas Maritime Authority's investigation was aided by having ‘extensive contemporary data which had been recorded electronically on the ship.’
Forecasts for the voyage had predicted gale-force winds but during the passage the weather worsened, reaching Storm Force 11 with seas estimated at 10-12 metres high. According to the Bahamas probe, Capt. Peterstam implemented the Severe Weather Contingency Plan in advance of the impending weather and advised the ship’s arrival in New York would be delayed by at least 24 hours. He also alerted the crew and passengers of the forthcoming severe weather and updated passengers, NCL and shore authorities of the ship’s progress at four-hour intervals.
‘The captain took appropriate action to reduce the effects of the weather on the ship and its passengers, including deviating from the voyage plan to run more to the east for deeper water off the continental shelf, reducing speed, altering to a more comfortable course, and using the ship’s stabilizers,’ the Bahamas report said.
The freak wave of April 16 hit at about 0615 and knocked out some glass windbreak sections and the associated teak handrails, which struck and shattered the windows of two forward-facing cabins, resulting in their flooding. The Bahamas report noted it was later shown that the penetration of the welds holding the aluminium supports for the glass windbreak and the handrail had not been adequate when the ship was built and the failure of the welds caused the supports to break loose, releasing the glass and teak sections.
After the incident, Capt. Peterstam turned the ship to run with the weather so that an assessment of the damage could be made and temporary repairs carried out, the report said. He recommended that the ship divert to Charleston, which was on his new track. The Charleston pilot boarded at about 1530 on 16 April. While in Charleston, some passengers displaced by the flooding chose to stay on board to complete the voyage to New York. The rest, along with some additional passengers, decided to disembark.