Maersk Line boxship suffers ‘serious’ fire in Arabian Sea

Four crew missing from vessel, but 23 evacuated safely, says Danish shipowner.

A brand new Maersk Line containership has suffered what has been described as a “serious fire” while transiting the Arabian Sea.

Twenty-three crew members have been evacuated from the 15,262-teu Maersk Honam (built 2017), but a further four are reported missing.

The Singapore-flagged vessel first reported that a fire had broken out in one of its cargo holds at around 15:20 GMT on Tuesday, Maersk Line said in a statement.

The ship, which was en route from Singapore towards Suez, is currently positioned around 900 nautical miles southeast of Salalah, Oman, and 340 nautical miles from the Agatti Isles in India’s Lakshadweep Islands.

“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,” Maersk Line said.

“Regrettably, four crew members remain missing. The fire onboard the Maersk Honam continues and the situation of the vessel is very critical.”

AP Moller–Maersk chief operating officer Soren Toft said the company was now “doing our utmost” to continue the ongoing search and rescue operations.

Indian coast guard mobilised

The Indian coast guard said in a statement that flames from the main deck of the ship rose up to its bridge, a height of about 25 metres. It also said an explosion had been reported.

“The search operations are on and the coast guard assets have been pressed into action,” said inspector general K R Nautiyal, commander of the Coast Guard West region.

“It is our priority to save and rescue the four missing crew and also continue our efforts to salvage the vessel with the assistance of specialised vessels, which are being arranged,” he added.

On Wednesday, the coast guard was planning to deploy its Dornier D-228 maritime reconnaissance aircraft.

The crew were picked up by a boxship, the 4,380-teu ALS Ceres (built 2010), operated by Atlantic Lloyd.

Three other cargo vessels have been pressed into action to search for the missing seafarers.

Maersk said it is rerouting some of its own ships to the scene to assist in the rescue effort.

“The container vessels MSC Lauren, Edith Maersk and Gerd Maersk, all en route in the Arabian Sea, have diverted their routes and are approaching the area with expected arrivals in the early morning Wednesday 7 March local time,” it said.

Maersk Line said it is in the process of informing the relatives of all crew members and acknowledge that this was a “very difficult time for them”.

The bulk of the crew, 13, are Indian, with nine from the Phillipines, two from Thailand and one each from the UK, Romania and South Africa. The captain is Indian.

Crew distressed
“The evacuated crew is obviously distressed, with two crew members currently receiving medical first aid onboard the ALS Ceres,” said Toft.

“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.”

The cause of the fire is currently unknown, but Maersk Line said it will investigate the matter thoroughly in cooperation with all relevant authorities.

Source: TradeWinds