On Tuesday 6 March 2018 at 15:20 GMT, the Maersk liner vessel Maersk Honam reported a serious fire in a cargo hold.
Enroute from Singapore towards Suez, the vessel was positioned around 900 nautical miles southeast of Salalah, Oman.
After being unsuccessful in their firefighting efforts, the crew sent out a distress signal and a total of 23 crew members were safely evacuated to the nearby vessel ALS Ceres, which arrived at the scene around 18:30 GMT.
Regrettably, four crew members were missing.
Søren Toft, Chief Operating Officer and Member of the Executive Board, A.P. Moller – Maersk said:
“We’ve received the news of Maersk Honam and the four missing crew members with the deepest regret and are now doing our outmost to continue the ongoing search and rescue operations. This by rerouting our own vessels, with assistance of vessels in the area – most notably ALS Ceres that thankfully acted promptly upon our distress call – and the local authorities,”
The container vessels MSC Lauren, Edith Mærsk and Gerd Mærsk, all enroute in the Arabian Sea, diverted their routes and were expected to arrive in the early morning of Wednesday 7 March local time.
Maersk Line informed the relatives of all crew members and acknowledged that this is a very difficult time for them.
“The evacuated crew is obviously distressed, with two crew members currently receiving medical first aid onboard the ALS Ceres. We will offer crisis counselling for the seafarers signing-off and returning to their families and our thoughts and deepest empathy go out to the families of the crew members that are still unaccounted for. We will offer them all the support we can in this very difficult situation,” says Søren Toft.
The fire was brought under control over the weekend according to the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) some five days after the fatal blaze broke out.
“A thick plume of toxic fumes have now been replaced by white smoke which is a sign of cooling down of metal fire onboard the mega containership,” ICG western region deputy commandant Avinandan Mitra, was quoted as saying.
While the fire is reported to have been brought under control fully extinguishing container fires can be a lengthy process due to the extremely high temperatures generated inside the boxes, with a danger that fire may erupt again.
The ICG has classified the blaze as a “chemical fire”. This raises questions of dangerous cargoes being carried on containerships.
Three out of the four missing crewmen have been confirmed to have perished in the fire and the search for the final unaccounted for member has now been called off. One other had already been confirmed dead.
Chief Operating Officer, Søren Toft this morning said that ‘Given the time passed and the severe fire damages of the vessel we must conclude by now that we have lost all four colleagues who have been missing since the fire onboard Maersk Honam which began on 6 March. All four families of our deceased colleagues have been informed”.
“Our most heartfelt condolences go out to families of our deceased colleagues. We share their sorrow and do our outmost to support them in this devastating time,” says Chief Operating Officer, Søren Toft.
A thorough search on board the Maersk Honam continues. However, the active search and rescue mission at sea will be brought to a halt. The search and rescue operation began immediately after Maersk Honam had sent out a distress signal on 6 March due to a serious fire aboard. Several container vessels diverted their route to assist in the search and rescue operation”.
22 crew managed to escape the burning ship, although two are reported to be in a critical condition.
The nationalities of the 27 crew members are: India (13), the Phillipines (9), Romania (1), South Africa (1), Thailand (2) and the United Kingdom (1).
The vessel was carrying 7860 containers. Maersk Line have vowed to investigate the matter thoroughly in cooperation with all relevant authorities.
Maersk Honam was built in 2017, has a nominal capacity of 15262 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit), and sails under Singapore flag.
Source: Seatrade Maritime News / Maerskline.com