A crew member was injured by an explosion Wednesday morning on a cruise ship docked in Portland. John Terhune/Staff Writer

An explosion in a cruise ship’s engine crankcase Wednesday morning ignited a fire that injured one man and forced the evacuation of about 200 passengers and crew.

The injured male crew member suffered burns and was taken to the hospital. His condition was not known Wednesday night.

The explosion and fire damaged equipment in the engine room of the cruise ship Ocean Navigator, which had been docked at the Ocean Gateway Pier on Portland’s waterfront, Coast Guard Lt. Commander Ryan Koroknay said in a phone interview Wednesday evening.

Koroknay, who was at the scene late Wednesday afternoon, said investigators were still trying to sort out whether the ship was seaworthy. Passengers will not be allowed back aboard until that is determined.

“We don’t know what’s operational. A determination still has to be made on how and when the ship will be able to leave. It’s hard to tell,” Koroknay said.

Ocean Navigator is operated by American Queen Voyages and was scheduled to begin a 10-day cruise from Portland to Saint John, New Brunswick. Ocean Navigator can accommodate up to 200 guests and offers spacious, ocean view suites and staterooms, according to the company’s website.


Koroknay said he was informed by the ship’s owners that arrangements were being made for passengers to be put up in local hotels Wednesday night, and for those who did not want to remain in Portland to book a flight out.

The ship had 128 passengers and 82 crew members aboard, Portland fire Chief Keith Gautreau said Wednesday morning. They were all taken off the ship and waited in the nearby terminal while authorities responded.

Gautreau said the explosion occurred in the engine room around 7:25 a.m. Employees saw smoke and called for help. The ship had just docked Wednesday morning and was scheduled to spend the night in Portland before leaving Thursday.

U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Frank Kulesa, the chief of response operations, said the fire was contained to the engine room. All ships use generators for power when docked.

The Coast Guard, Portland Fire Department and Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office are investigating the fire and whether the ship is safe.

Officials said the cruise line will be responsible for making sure passengers have food and housing sorted out if they can’t get back aboard.


Gautreau said some of the crew members may not be American citizens, so U.S. Customs and Border Protection was on the scene to handle any potential issues.

“If you think about it, this chain-link fence is no different from the wall down in San Antonio,” Gautreau said. “These are the challenges that Customs is dealing with.”

According to Vessel Finder, an online marine tracking system, the ship is currently sailing under the flag of the Bahamas.


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