QE2 Captain, Local Pilot Say Liner Moving at Safe Speed Before Grounding
BOSTON (AP) _ The Queen Elizabeth 2 was moving fast, but not too fast, when it hit bottom earlier this month, its captain and the local pilot guiding the cruise ship at the time testified Monday.
The 937-foot luxury liner had increased speed to 24 knots the night of Aug. 7 before striking submerged rocks off the coast of southern Massachusetts. There were no injuries, but 1,815 passengers were evacuated at sea.
Twenty-four nautical miles per hour equals about 28 mph. The ship suffered extensive hull gashes and is in drydock here for repairs.
Coastal pilot John Hadley, who was brought aboard the QE2 to navigate through a relatively narrow passage near Martha’s Vineyard, said he normally would pass through the area slower with such a large ship, but he felt secure because of the QE2 has an excellent crew.
″I considered it the standard operating procedure of the vessel,″ Hadley said at a Coast Guard hearing. ″The QE2 is probably the epitome of bridge management.″
Nautical charts indicated a depth of 39 feet in the area, ample for the cruise ship whose hull extends 32 feet below the surface under normal conditions.
Divers for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found uncharted rocky outcroppings over the weekend thought to be those struck by the ship. They lie at a depth of about 35 feet.
Hadley testified that the QE2 can dip 3 feet further below the surface in some ocean conditions.
The liner was bound for New York City from Martha’s Vineyard, a resort island.
The QE2′s crew was using British admiralty charts, which use information from the NOAA, which last surveyed the grounding area in 1939.
Capt. Robin Woodall also defended the 24-knot speed at the hearing on Monday. Both men were recalled after appearing last week and for the most part repeated earlier testimony.
Woodall said he boosted the ship to 24 knots because ″we were going to need that kind of speed further out (in the ocean) for the trip to New York.″
When asked if the QE2 usually traveled so fast, Woodall said: ″We are experienced in it.″
Monday’s hearing was the last until Aug. 26, when the panel will hear from NOAA divers and other officials surveying the accident area.
Cunard Lines has canceled eight trans-Atlantic crossings and two other cruises. No estimate of damage or losses has been made.