Cruise Bruise

Funchal, Portugal Cruise Port
Ticking Time Bomb Black Swan Event

A Cruise Bruise Investigation Explosive Exposé

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Funchal, Portugal Cruise Port
Ticking Time Bomb Black Swan Event

A Cruise Bruise Investigation Explosive Exposé

Cruise Bruise Investigates received an email from a doctor, who is a resident living in Funchal, Portugal, regarding changes to the cruise dock near the Pestana Casino Park and hotel.

The email says, in part, “We are residents in Funchal and we are very worried about the security of the Aida cruises when docked in Funchal. Against all popular thinking and harbour legislation the Pestana Hotel group is building an hotel few meters away where the Aida cruises dock. Violating all the international security legislation they built a huge propane gas tank a few meters from the cruises. For us the Aida cruises is very important and they generate an important volume on local sales. All Madeira citizens are against this project but corruption is everything in this island. Having this said I am sure if the Aida cruises press the harbour authorities they would demolish everything. This project violates all the security laws.”

Cruise Bruise took the case, looking into the cruise port of Funchal and the hidden dangers cruise ship passengers might face in this port. Funchal is the municipal seat and the capital of Portugal's Autonomous Region of Madeira. Funchal has a population of 111,892. Because of its high cultural and historical value, Funchal is one of Portugal's main tourist attractions and is the leading Portuguese port for cruise ship dockings. Funchal is located on the small island of Madeira, located 543 miles off the coast of Casablanca, Morrocco.

A Cruise Bruise investigation shows, the Pestana Casino Hotel is an adjoining neighbor of the north pier cruise dock. Local citizens and business owners have been fighting a public battle as they work to protect their cruise industry associations for the community which prospers from many cruise ship calls the port receives every year. The Pestana Casino Hotel is using the cruise terminal dock as a relatively easy access, cheap method to bring in propane by boat, a very dangerous situation for cruise ships, their passengers and crew.

Pestana Hotels and Resorts was founded by Mr. Manuel Pestana, when he acquired the Atlântico hotel, an ocean front unit in Funchal in 1965. The Pestana Casino Park and hotel website says, “We are only guests of the planet. The sustainability program, Pestana Planet Guest, transmits the position of the Pestana Group as an organization that respects and values the environment, society and corporate ethics.” Those corporate ethics come into question as we investigated this case.

It appears the problem rose to the public eye when Pestana Casino Hotel installed an in-ground swimming pool close to the cruise dock and decided to heat the pool water with propane gas. The Administration of the Ports of the Autonomous Region of Madeira (APRAM) published a public notice for a request by M. & J. Pestana for the installation of a "gas reservoir and respective conduct in the embankment located at the North Pier Port of Funchal, with an approximate area of 25 square meters."

The required gas tank is to support the hotel unit of Pestana. The contract bid is for an area of "25 square meters", this propane tank is reportedly installed under the cruise ship passenger terminal. If Funchal was just a commercial cargo port, it wouldn't be so much of an issue. But, Funchal is a popular, pristine island cruise tourism town, frequently a stop for cruises headed from Europe to the Canary Islands, off the coast of northwestern Africa.

During the contracted installation, photos were taken of the gas reservoir and respective conduct being installed. Other photos were taken showing the pipe being installed in an above ground access container. The gas supply is meters from the cruise dock and is clearly an explosion hazard under certain circumstances, as the signs on the tank access container indicate. Our estimation is the gas tank is about 100 feet from the nearest docked cruise ship at the North Pier. In addition, there is an outdoor seating area for passengers who are actually sitting atop the ticking time bomb.


The photos are a bit deceiving. What you are really looking at when you see the green access box is an iceberg. What you see above is just a tiny tip of a massive glacier below. The impact from this ice berg can damage not only a cruise ship, but the entire port, killing or injuring everyone within the blast zone.

If the gas reservoir storage was targeted by terrorists, was the result of an act of God or human negligence, the result will be deaths and injuries for those in the terminal, on the dock or aboard one or more cruise ships docked nearby. If the incident took place during a propane delivery, the results could be catastrophic. To better understand the impact this kind of explosion would have on nearby cruise ships, their passengers and crew, we found a video which demonstrates an explosion of this magnitude for a tiny 500 gallon tank. It only gives a hint of the actual disaster pending from this much larger tank hidden beneath the cruise terminal. The video was produced by Washington Township OEM.



For our investigation we referred to the source for Boiling Liquid Eexpanding Vapor Explosion or (BLEVE) for our blast radius and graphics information. See details we reference at: BLEVE – Safety Precautions from Transport Canada.

Reports we were given indicate the LPG tank is installed below the access container shown in the images with double green doors. The contract for installation indicates a requirement for a 25 meter liquid propane tank.

If this is the tank installed at this location here is a detailed description of a tank of it's kind.

25 Meter LPG tank has these dimensions(Length x Width x Height):

  • MM = 11508x2324x2914
  • M = 11.508x2.324x2.914
  • FT = 37.75590x7.624672x9.560367

  • Contents at capacity are liquid propane gas
  • Liters = 25,000
  • US Gallons = 6604

  • During a critical event, 25,000 liters of propane as estimated from the BLEVE chart to produce a spherical fireball radius of about 65 meters and is represented to scale in the fireball.

    Shown in yellow is the over 350 meter minimum distance for emergency responders, this is the area they must remain clear during the event. Notice the yellow area consumes the entire terminal, road access to the dock from both directions and most of the cruise ship docking area.

    From our brief research on other such blasts of this kind we tried to predict the shrapnel concentration. Because we can not know details on building and dock construction we made our best estimate and circled it in white. The blast concentration assumes the tank is positioned horzontal and end to end. We based the tanks position from other installations of other tanks of this type, size, and the position of the cabinet's installation. Based on these details and predictions we inserted our 25k tank image in the google earth construction photo and circled it in yellow.

    While we have no issue with Pestana Casino Hotel operations, they had control over where their contractors could place the gas heating source for their advertised "port view swimming pool". They could have opted for solar heating as a source for their "sustainability program" swimming pool heated water, showing with their actions, not mere words, their respect and value of the environment.

    Funchal gets an average of 2438 hours of sunlight annually or 6.7 hours (average) of sunlight a day, enough to sustain a solar water heated system. Solar pool heating is friendly to the environment, is clean and uses no fossil fuels or chemical refrigerants which may contribute to air pollution, acid rain, ozone depletion or the ‘greenhouse effect’. The solar collectors require an average of 5 hours of sun on the collectors between the hours of 10am-5pm.

    Independence Of The Seas Gibraltar Fuel Tank Explosion

    History outlines the hazards fossil fuels present to cruise ships docked nearby. On Tuesday, May 31, 2011 around 3:37 pm local time, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's (RCCL) cruise ship Independence Of The Seas was at the "industrial ship dock" at Gibraltar with over 6,000 people aboard when a Waste Oil plant fuel tank exploded on the dock injuring twelve passengers aboard the cruise ship. Gibraltar, just north of Morrocco, is another cruise port located in the same geographical region as Funchal.

    It's worth noting, the Gibraltar tank is very different than the type of explosion the Funchal fuel tank could produce. As the video clearly demonstrates, Funchal's North Pier would be more like a scene of a bomb explosion.

    While the email from the doctor pleads with Cruise Bruise to get AIDA Cruises involved in a suitable resolution to this cruise port hazard, this pending disaster affects far more then AIDA Cruises' cruise ships.

    In the coming year the following cruise ships are scheduled to call at Funchal. Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's (RCCL) Independence of the Seas and Navigator Of The Seas, Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Eclipse and Celebrity Equinox, Crystal Cruises, Crystal Symphony, Regent Sevens Seas' Seven Seas Navigator and Seven Seas Explorer, MSC Cruises' MSC Musica and MSC Magnifica, Holland America Line's (HAL) Koningsdam, Oosterdam, Eurodam, Prinsendam, Norwegian Cruise Lines' (NCL) Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Spirit, P&O Cruises Britannia, Aurora, Oriana, Azura, Cunard Line's Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria, Queen Mary 2, Oceania Cruises' Insignia, Marina, Oceana, Riviera and Sirena, Princess Cruises Royal Princess and Emerald Princess and AIDA Cruises AIDA Blue, AIDA Cara, AIDA Sol as well as cruise ship owned by Azamara Cruises and Costa Cruises.

    Of those cruise ships HAL Koningsdam is brand new, just launched this year, it holds 2,650 passengers. P&O Britannia launched in 2015, holds 4,324 passengers and 1,398 crew and RCCL Independence of the Seas holds 4,370 passengers and 1,360 crew. At any given cruise port-of-call day as many as 10,000 people or more on cruises ships could be affected by a Black Swan Event.

    We looked at whether the cruise industry was prepared for such an event and defined the weakest link, foreign ports. We wrote, "A black swan event" is not a cruise line safety issue, as much as it is a cruise port security issue, governed by cruise port governments around the world. Cruise ship passengers and crew are only as safe as their weakest link and the weakest link has been proven time and time again to be foreign port security." This is an example of a foreign port failure when it comes to cruise ship safety, terrorism and Black Swan events.

    Who are the weakest links in this Funchal cruise port ticking time bomb? The ports are the responsibility of the Department of Economic Affairs, the Sea Square and the shops under the boardwalk are the under the Department of Finance headed by Rui Gonçalves, Secretary of Finance. The fish market and the coldstore are the responsibility of the Regional Agriculture Department and Fisheries and the promenade gardens are under the direct supervision of the President of the Government, Miguel Albuquerque.

    In a Cruise Bruise article titled, Terror Attack on Cruise Ship - A Black Swan Event?, we looked at what a Black Swan event is and what criteria defines it.

    "The Black Swan Event - The criteria for a black swan event has three elements:
    1. The event is a surprise (to the observer)
    2. The event has a major effect.
    3. After the first recorded instance of the event, it is rationalized by hindsight, as if it could have been expected; that is, the relevant data were available but unaccounted for in risk mitigation programs."

    Port Security, Safety, Liquid Pressurized Gas and Drones

    There are multiple drone (unmanned aerial vehicle) owners flying drones over the town of Funchal, populated areas, landmarks, parks, large civilian gatherings, the port, port park, marina and very close to cruise ships at sea coming into or leaving the port. See photos in our slider at the top of the page. Some of the drone owners include Madiera Drone, a local business which is heavily cloaked in online secrecy.

    In the United States FAA regulations advise:
  • Drones must Fly below 400 feet and remain clear of surrounding obstacles
  • Drone owners must keep the aircraft within visual line of sight at all times
  • Do not fly near people or stadiums
  • Do not fly within 5 miles of an airport

  • Wired magazine posted an article January 11, 2016, titled, UK at risk from 'simple and effective' terrorist drone attacks, which stated, "Drones will be used as simple, affordable and effective airborne improvised explosive devices," says the report by the Remote Control project -- hosted by the Oxford Research Group, which carries the title, The Hostile Use of Drone by Non-State Actors Against British Targets.

    In the United Kingdom, drone rules state that drones can only be flown below 400 feet and at least 50 meters from any person or building. They must also be in sight of operators, not more than 500 meters away from them and cannot be flown within 150 meters of congested areas such as towns or large gatherings of people.

    However, in May 2016, the Queen banned drones from flying over her 20,000 acre estate, citing fears that the remote-controlled drones could carry a bomb or possibly a chemical weapon. Cruise ship passengers deserve the same respect and safety precautions as public officials.

    As you can see in our article photo slider, drones have free rein in Funchal and this could very well contribute to the port security and safety issue with the liquid gas reservoir positioned in a heavily populated, public gathering location.

    Funchal is a ticking time bomb for the cruise industry. The cruise industry needs to use their immense power to protect this cruise port and their interests in Funchal now, before there is a Black Swan event. Send a cruise industry representative, perhaps from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), to inspect the cruise terminal and document the actual size and location of the liquid propane container. Then create a report to be forwarded to all member cruise lines.

    At 0930 hours on Monday June 13, 2016 the following cruise lines were tagged in a tweet: @RoyalCaribbean @HALcruises @CruiseNorwegian @aida_de @AzamaraVoyages @CelebrityCruise as well as @CLIAGlobal.

    You can track the cruise ships calling at Funchal, Madeira in real time.

    Research Documentation

  • Funchal 30 Day Notice For Gas Installation
  • BLEVE – Safety Precautions from Transport Canada

  • CBI Cruise Ship Terror Featured & New

    CBI Pirate Attack Investigations

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