An engine room fire was reported aboard a bunker barge in Civitavecchia, Italy, on Monday, May 9, 2022, while the barge was refueling Celebrity Constellation. Port authorities and rescue crews responded, and the fire was quickly contained without damage to the cruise ship.
Fire Aboard Refueling Barge
According to reports, the fire was first radioed in from the refueling tanker Punta Azzurra at approximately 3:45 p.m. local time, while the barge was alongside Celebrity Constellation for refueling operations.
“Today the operations room of the Civitavecchia Coast Guard received a Mayday call via radio from the commander of the tanker Punta Azzurra, alongside the cruise ship Celebrity Constellation during the refueling phase,” Civitavecchia Port Authority reported.
The fire was reported to be in the tanker’s engine room, and onboard fire crews responded immediately to the dangerous situation.
Rescue operation and safety protocols were further coordinated by the operations room of the Civitavecchia harbor master’s office, which included the assistance of two tugboats, pilots, mooring crews, and the Civitavecchia Fire Brigade.
The flames were quickly extinguished even as the barge was disconnected from Celebrity Constellation and moved to a safe distance. Thermal imaging cameras and other equipment was used to verify that the fire was completely out, and the barge was taken to quay 23 for mooring and subsequent safety inspection.
The barge will remain docked and not in use until the inspection is complete and the cause of the fire is determined. Punta Azzurra was built in 1986, and has safely and successfully refueled many different vessels, including hundreds of cruise ships, since it was first launched.
Cruise Ship Undamaged
The Millennium-class Celebrity Constellation was docked in Civitavecchia on May 9, during her current 13-night, one-way sailing from Barcelona, Spain to Ravenna, Italy. The ship initially departed Barcelona on Tuesday, May 3, and will arrive in Ravenna on Monday, May 16.
No changes to the ship’s itinerary are expected due to this incident, and Celebrity Constellation was not damaged nor were any injuries reported.
This is not the first time Celebrity Constellation has been involved in a potentially disastrous incident. In October 2018, the ship broke free of her moorings in La Spezia, Italy, and collided with the nearby Costa Magica. Fortunately, the damage was minimal and there were no injuries.
Celebrity Constellation has now departed Civitavacchia and is en route to her next port of call, which will be Taranto, Italy, on Wednesday, May 11.
Civitavecchia is a popular port of call in Italy, as the port is just an hour’s drive from Rome. When this incident occurred, three other cruise ships were also docked in the port: Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Gem, Costa Cruises’ Costa Toscana, and Silversea Cruises’ Silver Dawn.
Royal Caribbean International’s Brilliance of the Seas arrived later in the day, well after the fire was safely extinguished.
The Dangers of Refueling Operations
Refueling a cruise ship is always a dangerous operation, but crews aboard both the cruise ship and the refueling vessel are highly trained to handle the situation safely and to react appropriately to any emergency.
Aboard a bunker barge, multiple safety precautions are in place whenever a vessel such as a cruise ship needs refueling.
This includes proper spacing between vessels for hose length and fuel flow, safe access between vessels for crew members and refueling technicians, and predelivery safety checks. During refueling, multiple delivery measurements are taken and changes are made in fuel flow rate based on tank level. As the operation ends, lines will be properly cleared before disconnection, and fuel delivery will be confirmed.
For passengers on a cruise ship, refueling operations do not significantly impact onboard activities. Sections of the deck nearest the barge may be closed, and no smoking will be permitted aboard the ship until refueling is complete.
Thankfully, this incident was quickly controlled and on injuries onboard the cruise ship or refueling tanker have been reported.