TAMPA — While Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas made its way across the Gulf of Mexico toward Cozumel, Mexico Friday, authorities here were still trying to determine the origin of white powder that might have prompted Thursday's bomb scare that delayed the ship's departure.
Two explosive-detecting dogs sniffed something Thursday morning on a pallet holding liquor for the ship, authorities said, prompting a four-hour evacuation of the Port of Tampa's cruise terminal and lockdowns at several nearby schools. Thursday evening, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office technicians reported finding a sprinkling of powder under some liquor containers they took to their range in Lithia for controlled detonations.
The powder was magnesium nitrate hexahydrate, a chemical used as an ingredient in explosives, fireworks and fertilizers. By itself, it is not explosive.
"Our dogs alert to it quite often, however this was the first time on cruise ship cargo," said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cristal Bermudez Nunez.
The Sheriff's Office forwarded information on the powder to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Nunez said, and it will be up to that agency to investigate how the powder ended up on the liquor pallet. The pallet came from a Royal Caribbean facility in Miami, Nunez said, and had been sealed before transit to Tampa.