Public Domain License, Non Commercial.  Source: Scandinavian Star-ulykken - 1990, by Finn Eirik Strømberg, F. E., Aftenposten, NTB scanpix. ( CC BY-NC 4.0.
21 Nov 2022

Survivors and families of victims sue Denmark over the 1990 Scandinavian Star fire


On April 7th 1990, a fire started on the ferry Scandinavian Star. Now, 30 years after the incident, 29 survivors and relatives of the victims, are suing the Danish government for failing to perform a Port State Control before the ferry went into service. 

There are likely many reasons as to why the fire claimed 159 deaths on board the ferry. According to a Wikipedia article, the original suspicion of arson has since then been disputed.

Regardless of the origin of the fires, investigators found that unsafe synthetic building materials, insufficient volume of the fire alarms and improper design of the emergency exits were the main reason that 159 of the 383 people on board could not evacuate in time.


The Scandinavian Star fire changed International Maritime Fire Safety Code 

The incident raised a number of issues relating to fire protection and evacuation on passenger ships. The International Code for Fire Safety Systems of the International Maritime Organization's International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea was comprehensively amended after the disaster, in 1992.

Now, three decades later, families of the victims and survivors of the fire are still attempting to seek compensation fpr their losses. 

The lawsuit was first reported on by Danish newspaper Politiken.DK, and the story was later picked up by Danish Television News

Each of the claimants are seeking damages between 250,000 and 750,000 Danish crowns, which their lawyer Mads Pramming believes will amount to a total of around 200 million Danish Crowns. 

The lawsuit was initiated after a legal investigation,  commissioned in September 2022 , by the Danish Ministry of Business concluded that the Danish Maritime Authority should have performed a Port State Control before bringing in the ferry into service in Denmark and for further traffic in Scandinavian waters. 

According to the International Maritime Organization, "a Port State Control (PSC) is the inspection of foreign ships in national ports to verify that the condition of the ship and its equipment comply with the requirements of international regulations and that the ship is manned and operated in compliance with these rules".

When the incident occured, the ferry was travelling between Oslo and Fredrikshavn in Norway. 


Cause of ferry fire still not known

The origin of the Scandinavian Star fire is a mystery to fire investigators. has previously reported that the Norwegian parliament has ruled out foul play as the cause of the fire. In the 2018 CTIF article, a video showing graphics describing the fire development, is also displayed. 

It was long speculated that the ferry fire was started by an act of arsen by the shipping company as an insurance fraud, or that other foul play was involved. The speculations - which were partly rooted in the violent fire and rapid development on board - were finally been put to rest.


Photo Credit:  Public Domain License, Non Commercial.  Source: Scandinavian Star-ulykken - 1990, by Finn Eirik Strømberg, F. E., Aftenposten, NTB scanpix. ( CC BY-NC 4.0.