July 19 2012: Early in the morning July 17 boxship Hanjin Ottawa reached MSC Flaminia, followed by salvage tug Fairmount Expedition, said NSB Niederelbe in its’ press release dated July 17. Second engineer of the Hanjin Ottawa was transferred to the salvage tug to reactivate MSC Flaminia’s firefighting system later on, during the salvage operation. After the transfer Hanjin Ottawa resumed her initial voyage, and headed for Suez Canal. NSB Niederelbe frankly admitted, that “neither superstructure, engine room, the stern section nor the forecastle of the ship are directly affected by the fire or the explosion”, which speaks much in their favour. Latest news published by German media on July 18 said one more explosion occurred on board of MSC Flaminia in fire area, when firefighting was already under way, which is the second explosion we know of, with the first one taken place shortly after the fire broke up in July 14.
Let’s look at the latest photos, published by NSB Niederelbe on their web-site, and the only one available photo dated July 14 or 15, which was taken from the board of VLCC tanker DS Crown and published by Trade Winds in a scale requiring atomic microscope. On the first photo fire seemed to be restricted by several stacks, vessel is on even keel, big letters MSC on the hull are clear and undamaged. On latest photos fire seems to spread in aft direction, vessel developed a starboard list, letters MSC are smeared, meaning fire went down to holds, too. Still, be the containers aft of the initial fire loaded with flammable goods in some big quantities, no doubt upper deck in front of the superstructure, or the whole vessel, would be engulfed in fire by now. Let’s look, once again, at photos of Hyundai Fortune – now, that’s what we call “the vessel ablaze”.
Taking all together, it’s impossible now to reject the obvious – part of the crew could stay on board and fight the fire, or at least try to prevent it from spreading. There wasn’t much risk in staying aboard, if any. Weather is calm, crew could keep life boat standing by in case situation would turn nasty. Being in area with rather vivid traffic, the crew wouldn’t wait long for the rescue.
It’s too early to speculate over the results of future investigations and evaluations, but one thing is already clear, Swedish Club got a strong card up its sleeve, with MSC Flaminia questionable abandonment.
Second salvage tug Anglian Sovereign is expected to be on the scene sometime late on July 19, reportedly a third salvage vessel is contracted, soon to set sail, or already under way.
MSC Flaminia remains generally intact. Will it affect the insurance?
July 18 2012: On July 17 salvage tug Fairmount Expedition and boxship Hanjin Ottawa of the NSB Niederelbe arrived to the scene, meanwhile MSC Flaminia continued her drift in NE direction, being in position 48-59N 025-44W at 20:00 16.07.12. The general overview of the MSC Flaminia and photos taken showed that the superstructure with engine room and forecastle are intact and not affected by the fire. Second salvage tug Anglian Sovereign is on the way, ETA unclear but not later than July 19, it seems. Nothing definite yet, vessel may be towed after putting fire under control, or just sail under her own power.
The question remains open – was the evacuation of the crew all that necessary? Of course all the injured crew and passengers should be evacuated, as well as non-essential crew, but the rest as it seems, could stay on the board trying to fight fire or at least, restrict its expansion. No doubt the Swedish Club will find such an assumption very exciting, because the difference between the cost of actual damages and damages suffered in case crew stayed on board may be a very big one.
Again, look at the photos of MSC Flaminia and the photos of Hyundai Fortune, and feel the difference. See latest photo of MSC Flaminia and map at http://www.odin.tc/news/read.asp?articleID=1082
Boxship Hanjin Ottawa IMO 9200718, dwt 68834, capacity 5618 TEU, built 2000, flag Germany, manager NSB NIEDERELBE, en route to Suez but directed to MSC Flaminia to assess the situation.
MSC Flaminia drifting east. Is fire that bad?
July 17 2012: Reportedly Smit signed a salvage contract with German company NSB Niederelbe, which is operating boxship MSC Flaminia, and dispatched to drifting vessel salvage tugs Fairmount Expedition and Anglian Sovereign, ETA to the distressed vessel July 17 afternoon. There is no recent information on the condition of the vessel, except vessel’s position and one photo published by Trade Winds, photo was taken by the crew of VLCC DS Crown. The version of calcium hypochlorite being the cause of the fire looks to be dumped, as NSB Niederelbe checked all the cargo manifests and didn’t find calcium hypochlorite at all. Trade Winds came up with calcium hypochlorite cargo as the main culprit judging obviously, from another accident with another boxship of the NSB Niederelbe company back in 1997: “NSB Niederelbe’s 1,600-teu Contship France (built 1993) – now the Marinos - sustained serious damage to both hull and cargo in 1997 in an explosion and fire attributed to calcium hypochlorite”.
All the musings about the cause of the fire and explosion at present stage are just that, musings, as long as there are hundreds combustible items around, and just one such an item, wrongly (most probably, intentionally in order to save the money) manifested and loaded, could trigger the disaster.
Looking at the only photo available of MSC Flaminia on fire, one can’t but feel some doubt as to the scale of the fire, is it such bad to give up all the attempts of fighting the fire, and abandon the vessel? It’s easy to say of course, not being there, but still, let’s look at photos of Hyundai Fortune on fire and compare to the photo of MSC Flaminia. there is a full report of Hyundai Fortune disaster with photo gallery, report is in Russian, but fortunately, photos are not - http://www.odin.tc/disaster/disaster4.asp.
The difference of the scale of the fire is just striking. MSC Flaminia fire seems to be well to the fore, engine seems to be undamaged, so vessel may maintain some speed enough to keep smoke off the superstructure and the stacks aft from the burning ones, so crew could fight off fire going aft. It’s a preposition of course, but that’s what one may think looking at the only small-scale photo we have by now. There is a chance then, that things aren’t that bad and fire will damage the restricted number of containers and cargoes in them.
The crew abandoned MSC Flaminia in position 48-13N 027-59W, later vessel was reported to drift to position 48-13N 027-56W, in eastern direction.
Salvage tug Fairmount Expedition IMO 9358943, GRT 3239, built 2007, flag Netherlands. Salvage tug Anglian Sovereign IMO 9262742, GRT 2263, built 2003, flag UK.
MSC Flaminia adrift billowing thick smoke, one more death
As of morning July 16 MSC Flaminia is drifting in mid-Atlantic in 47 52N 30 44W area with a large plume of smoke seen from passing vessels. One of the four injured crew died from heavy burns on board of MSC Stella, the remaining three were taken to Azores by helicopter, one of them being treated in intensive care. There were 25 people on board, 23 crew (5 German, 3 Polish and 15 Filipino) and 2 passengers. Reportedly, two tugs with firefighting equipment are on the way to a burning vessel, ETA July 17 afternoon. Manager of the vessel, German company NSB Niederelbe just can’t explain what happened and will stay in dark until specialists will reach MSC Flaminia. Crew said fire started in hold number four, reportedly some containers were loaded with combustible bleaching agent calcium hypochlorite. The hull and P and I insurer for the vessel is Swedish Club, which already suffered a major loss from boxship Rena disaster in New Zealand.
MSC Flaminia on fire in mid-Atlantic after explosion, crew evacuated, 1 missing 4 injured
At 10:07 July 14 2012 Falmouth Coastguard received the relayed mayday broadcast from boxship MSC Flaminia reporting that the crew on board had abandoned the vessel, says Maritime and Coastguard Agency UK (MCA UK) in a press-release. Crew on board a container vessel were forced to abandon their ship after an explosion and subsequent fire in a cargo hold mid Atlantic.
Falmouth Coastguard broadcast an alert to all vessels in the area and the nearest vessel which could provide assistance was the crude oil tanker VLCC DS Crown, which immediately changed course to intercept the MSC Flaminia. Six other merchant vessels also proceeded to the location to help with the search and rescue operation but were more than six hours from the location. Rescue helicopters do not have the endurance required to attend an incident of this nature because the vessel is approximately 1,000 miles from land mid way between the UK and Canada.
DS Crown arrived on scene to confirm that the MSC Flaminia was still burning and recovered 24 people from a lifeboat and a liferaft. Four crew had suffered injuries. The injured crew have been transferred to the vessel MSC Stella which will take them to the Azores. One crew member is missing.
The MSC Flaminia had 25 people on board. Crew of the MSC Flaminia include German, Polish and Filipino nationals. Weather conditions on scene were winds force 3-4 with a one metre swell.
Comment and details of the involved vessels:
Obviously explosion took place in container or containers with flammable or combustible cargo, once again highlighting the risks caused by wrong cargo manifest issued by shippers. No doubt after this accident with tremendous financial losses there will be renewed industry demand to ensure the safety of the loaded containers and increase responsibility of the shippers. Last known big fire on board of deep ocean boxship took place in March 2006, the famous “Hyundai Fortune” accident in the Indian ocean (pics of Hyundai Fortune fire below) cost some $300-500 million.
MSC Flaminia last known position at 13.07.2012 17:48 was in 47 52N 30 44W. Vessel was en route from Charleston US East Coast to Antwerpen Belgium, ETA July 17.
Boxship MSC Flaminia IMO 9225615, dwt 85823, capacity 6750 TEU, built 2001, flag Germany, manager NSB NIEDERELBE SCHIFFAHRTSGES.
VLCC DS Crown (ex Front Crown) IMO 9179646, dwt 311176, built 1999, flag Bahamas, manager FRONTLINE MANAGEMENT AS. Crew presumably Russian-Ukrainian-Filipino.
Boxship MSC Stella IMO 9279989, dwt 85680, capacity 6724 TEU, built 2004, flag Panama, manager MSC MEDITERRANEAN SHIPPING CO.