Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest vessel, the first-in-class Norwegian Prima, broke free of her moorings on the afternoon of July 15, 2023, while docked in Zeebrugge, Belgium.
The ship’s gangways were dragged and fell into the water, but no guests or crew were injured in the incident, which is attributed to windy conditions that pushed the ship away from the dock.
Norwegian Prima Breaks Free
During exceptionally windy weather while docked in Zeebrugge, Belgium on Saturday, July 15, 2023, Norwegian Prima broke free of several mooring ropes and began drifting away from the pier. The ship moved enough so that both gangways, first forward and then aft, were dragged and fell into the water.
No guests or crew members were on the gangways at the time, and there were no injuries related to the incident. This occurred at approximately 2:45 p.m.
Three tugboats assisted with bringing the 143,535-gross ton cruise ship back to the dock, where she was again tied up to berth securely. High winds attributed to the incident, pushing against the 20-deck ship and putting additional stress on the mooring ropes.
Norwegian Prima was docked in Zeebrugge from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time, during which steady windspeeds ranged from 6-18 knots (7-21 miles per hour / 11-34 kilometers per hour). Gusts reached as high as 43 knots (50 mph / 80 kph), and it was during one of those gusts that the mooring lines broke.
At the time, most cruise passengers were ashore enjoying the last port of call of the 10-night “Northern Europe: Island & Norway to London” sailing. Norwegian Prima had departed Reykjavik, Iceland on July 6, and already enjoyed ports of call in Iceland, Norway, and Holland before the call in Zeebrugge.
Guests on the pier at the time the lines broke were held ashore until Norwegian Prima was safely secured again and new gangways were in place. The sunken gangways will be retrieved later, and the entire incident is being investigated by the port.
The ship left the village on Belgium’s northern coast Saturday evening, and arrived on time in Southampton for debarkation on Sunday morning. The next sailing, an 11-night “Northern Europe: Iceland, Norway, & Belgium” itinerary returning to Reykjavik, is not impacted.
Norwegian Prima will remain in Europe offering Northern European sailings through September, when the ship will offer a few Mediterranean sailings before repositioning to Galveston for the winter months. From there, she will offer 7-night Caribbean itineraries visiting popular ports of call in Mexico, as well as Roatan in Honduras and Harvest Caye, Norwegian Cruise Line’s private island destination in Belize.
Ships Breaking Loose
Norwegian Prima is not the first cruise ship to break loose from a dock due to high winds. In February 2023, MSC Cruises’ MSC Musica briefly broke free from being docked in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when wind gusts were reaching nearly 25 miles per hour (40 kilometers per hour / 22 knots).
Cruise lines often cancel ports of call when high winds are predicted. This may happen during hurricanes or tropical storms, or just when local weather conditions may be too dangerous for secure docking. The location of the dock, sheltered harbor options, wind directions, and other factors are all taken into account when judging the safety and suitability of docking conditions.
Ships at tender ports also frequently cancel port visits when windy conditions make it unsafe to operate the smaller boats.
A ship’s size is also an important factor in judging whether wind conditions are safe for docking or not. Larger ships with more decks above the waterline are more likely to be impacted by strong winds that can push a vessel away from the dock, or even push it into the dock in a way that may damage the ship or the pier.
Norwegian Prima is not the largest ship in Norwegian Cruise Line’s fleet, but the ship’s tall profile can challenging to maneuver in windy conditions. The ship can welcome as many as 3,099 guests at double occupancy, and the ship’s captain will always keep passenger safety at the forefront when considering docking conditions.