MS Scandinavian Star

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Name: MS Massalia
Owner: Nouvelle Compagnie de Paquebots (Paquet)
Route: Marseille – Málaga – Casablanca
Builder: Dubigeon-Normandie
Yard number: 124
Launched: 19 January 1971
Completed: 1971
Identification: IMO number: 7048219
Name: MS Stena Baltica
Owner: Stena Cargo Line Ltd
Port of registry: Nassau,  Bahamas
Acquired: 1 October 1983
Fate: sold
Name: MS Island Fiesta
Owner: Stena Cargo Line Ltd
Port of registry: Nassau,  Bahamas
Acquired: November 1984
Fate: chartered
Name: MS Scandinavian Star
Operator: Scandinavian World Cruises
Port of registry: Nassau,  Bahamas
Route: Tampa, Florida – Cozumel, Mexico Mexico
Acquired: December 1984
Out of service: 1990
Fate: sold
Name: MS Scandinavian Star
Owner: Vognmandsruten
Operator: DA-NO Linjen
Route: Oslo, Norway Norway – Frederikshavn, Denmark Denmark
Acquired: 1990
Name: MS Candi
Owner: Vognmandsruten
Acquired: 1990
Out of service: 1990
Fate: laid up (1990–1994)
Name: MS Regal Voyager
Owner: International Shipping Partners
Acquired: February 1994
Out of service: 1997
Fate: sold
Name: MS Regal V
Acquired: 2004
Fate: scrapped
General characteristics
Tonnage: 10513 GRT
Length: 142.24 m (466.7 ft)
Beam: 22.2 m (73 ft)
Draft: 5.5 m (18 ft)
Installed power: 2 * 16 cylinder Pielstick diesel, 11.770 kW
Speed: 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)

MS Scandinavian Star, originally named MS Massalia and also known by other names (see infobox), was a car and passenger ferry built in France in 1971. The ship was set on fire in 1990, killing 159 people.[1]


M/S Massalia was built by Dubigeon-Normandie S.A. in 1971 and delivered to Compagnie de Paquebots who put her on the route MarseilleMálagaCasablanca and also cruises in the Mediterranean Sea. In 1984 she was owned by a number of companies and named Stena Baltica, Island Fiesta and finally Scandinavian Star, a name given to her by Scandinavian World Cruises who chartered the ship and put her on cruises between Tampa, Florida, and Cozumel, Mexico.


In 1990, she was sold to Vognmandsruten and put on DA-NO Linjen's route between Oslo, Norway, and Frederikshavn, Denmark. As the ship had changed from a casino ship to a passenger ferry, a new crew needed to be trained in just 10 days. Master mariner Captain Emma Tiller, interviewed for the National Geographic Channel's documentary series Seconds from Disaster, stated that 6 to 8 weeks would be a reasonable period to train a crew for a ship this size. The documentary went on to explain that many of the crew could not speak English, Norwegian or Danish, thus further reducing the effectiveness of the response to the emergency.

During the night of 7 April 1990, at about 2 a.m. local time, two fires broke out on deck 3 in the passenger section of the ship. The subsequent investigation into the disaster discovered that the second fire was deliberately set (the first fire started about 15 minutes earlier and may have been started deliberately as well). Though the bulkheads were made of asbestos, the melamine resin laminate used as a decorative covering was extremely flammable and fed the fire, allowing it to spread throughout deck 3. These laminates also produced hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide when burned, which contributed to many of the deaths on board. As deck 3 also contained a car storage area there were large fans that were used to remove exhaust fumes. These fans sucked up the smoke and rapidly spread it throughout decks 4 and 5 of the ship.[citation needed]

When the captain learned of the fire, he attempted to close the fire doors on deck 3 to prevent the fire from spreading. The fire doors did not close automatically, and needed to be closed manually by pressing the button near the doors. As the doors were open, the fire was able to travel along the length of the ship. Later the captain ordered his crew to turn off the air conditioning system as it was feeding air to the fire. Unfortunately, by doing so smoke was able to enter cabins VIA the door vents and suffocate trapped passengers. Some who did wake up tried to seek refuge from the smoke in closets, bathrooms, etc but there was no escape in their rooms. Those who tried to escape found themselves in confusion as the thick smoke, maze of corridors and confusion amongst the crew made escaping the fire difficult. The captain ordered the alarms to be activated, told everyone to abandon ship, and sent out a mayday request. Most people could not hear the alarms over the general noise and confusion on the ship, and many did not wake up. The captain and crew ultimately abandoned ship before all the passengers had been evacuated, leaving many still on board the burning ship even after it was towed to the harbor (allegedly the captain and crew were unaware how many passengers had escaped).[citation needed]

Many passengers had difficulty escaping from the fire for several reasons:

1) Many people did not hear the alarms because of the distance between their cabins and the alarms plus the confusion and general noise of the ship, therefore some passengers did not wake up.

2) They could not find their way out because the thick smoke made it nearly impossible to find the nearest escape routes.

3) The smoke contained poisonous hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide fumes, causing unconsciousness and quick death.

4) The many Portuguese in the crew did not speak or understand Norwegian, Danish or English, were unfamiliar with the ship, and had never practised a fire drill, so they could not communicate with each other or the passengers, and did not know how to respond to the fire. In fact, only a few crew members even thought to put on breathing masks before they entered the smoke filled corridors.

5) On Deck 5, where most of the passengers died, there was a confusing maze of hallways that led to two exits on opposite sides of the ship. This was especially tough because the thick smoke would have made finding these exits impossible.

The ship was towed to Lysekil, Sweden, where the fire department managed to put out the fire in 10 hours. As a result of the fire 158 people died (approximately one third of the people on board); another victim died two weeks later from his injuries. 136 of those killed were Norwegian.[citation needed]

The Scandinavian Star had had another fire prior to 1990. On 15 March 1988, while sailing for SeaEscape on a Caribbean cruise, a fire started in the engine room when she was about 50 nautical miles (90 km) northeast of Cancun, Mexico. The ship was carrying 439 passengers and 268 crew members. The ship lost power and her fire fighting oxygen system malfunctioned (it would have let the firefighters breathe while fighting the fire). The inability of the crew members to communicate with each other and with passengers was a serious concern and created confusion during the fire fighting and evacuation activities.[2]

Police investigation[edit]

A police investigation initially cast suspicion on a Danish truck driver, previously convicted for arson.[3]

A 2013 report prepared by a private group called "Stiftelsen Etterforskning Av Mordbrannen Scandinavian Star" (Norwegian for "Foundation for Arson Investigation Scandinavian Star") claims however that the suspected truck driver was killed by smoke resulting from one of the first two fires by as much as 24 hours prior to the last fire being started.[4] The 2013 report claims that nine members of the crew, having joined the ship in Tampa, were most likely responsible for all of the six fires started on the Scandinavian Star. This also included smashing open the supposedly break-safe windows of the ship to fan the fires. The arsonists in the crew also sabotaged the fire crew's efforts to put out the fire. The likely motive was insurance fraud, as the ship was insured for twice its value shortly before the fire broke out. The theory is that these nine were hired by the ship's owners to ignite the fire. Ownership of the vessel at the time of the fire proved difficult to establish. The name of the nine suspected members of the crew are pending release during further investigation in Norway.[5]

After the 2013 report, the police have created a work group which will be active until the end of 2013. The work group will come with a recommendation whether a new investigation should be opened.[6]


The burnt ship was towed to Copenhagen, Denmark on 18 April 1990, arriving two days later[7] and remaining there for several months. On the 11th of August 1990 she was towed to the United Kingdom, first arriving at Hull[8] before moving onto Southampton on the 10th of September 1990; the vessel was renamed Candi by simply painting over part of the original name.

In February 1994 she was sold on auction to International Shipping Partners.[9] She was renamed Regal Voyager, sent to Italy for rebuilding and later chartered to Comarit Ferries and put on the route between Tangier and Port Vendres.

In 1997 she was registered for St. Thomas Cruises and put on a route between Port Isabel and Puerto Cortés for Isabel Cortes Ferry Service. Chartered to Ferries del Caribe in 1999 and put on the route Santo Domingo – San Juan.

The ship was laid up in South Carolina in 2003, then sold to Indian shipbreakers in 2004 and renamed to Regal V. She arrived at Alang on 14 May 2004, and the work to get her broken up started five days later.


MS Scandinavian Star memorial

On 7 April 2006, a memorial was inaugurated in Oslo, near the Akershus Fortress. It features a mother with her child and a large commemorative plaque with the names of all the victims of the fire.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Solheim, T.; Lorentsen, M.; Sundnes, P.K.; Bang, G. & Bremnes, L. (1992): The “Scandinavian Star” ferry disaster 1990 – a challenge to forensic odontology. International Journal of Legal Medicine 104: 339-345.
  2. ^ NTSB report on the fire, and from the U.S. Coast Guard radioman who copied and worked the Search and Rescue case.
  3. ^ Ny «Scandinavian Star»-gjennomgang: Mistenkte var død ett døgn før siste brann - Scandinavian Star - VG
  4. ^ Ny «Scandinavian Star»-gjennomgang: Mistenkte var død ett døgn før siste brann
  5. ^ Fagfolk: - Mannskap stiftet Scandinavian Star-brann - Scandinavian Star - VG
  6. ^ Politiet vil granske «Scandinavian Star»-saken - Aftenposten
  7. ^ "M/S MASSALIA 1971". Retrieved 24 April 2010. 
  8. ^ "SCANDINAVIAN STAR". 1990. Retrieved 24 April 2010. 
  9. ^ Asklander, Micke. "M/S Massalia." (in Swedish). Retrieved 26 April 2012. 
  10. ^ "Scandinavian Star". 13 June 2009. Retrieved 24 April 2010.