Asphalt tanker damaged again by engine room fire after repairs


An asphalt tanker damaged by an engine room fire last fall off Nantucket suffered another fire in New York Harbor in December after repairs from the previous incident.

The 479-foot Amber Bay was underway from a Staten Island repair yard to the open ocean when the ship’s main diesel engine caught fire at about 2000 on Dec. 19, Coast Guard spokesman Steven Strohmaier said. The incident occurred in the Ambrose Channel near Breezy Point, Queens.

The fire likely started in the No. 4 cylinder in the main engine, but the cause remains under investigation, Strohmaier said. Crews used the onboard fixed CO2 system to extinguish the flames. There were 20 crew and two pilots on board at the time. No one was injured.

The same ship, formerly named Feng Huang AO, arrived in Staten Island on Oct. 8 to repair damage from a “significant” engine room fire three days earlier while the ship was 57 miles southeast of Nantucket, the Coast Guard said. McAllister tugboats towed the disabled tanker to a repair facility.

Crew used the fixed CO2 system to extinguish the fire in that case as well, and no one was injured. The fire reportedly started in cargo heating boilers, although the Coast Guard said the case remains under investigation.

Roughly 10 weeks later, the Hong Kong-flagged ship had undergone repairs. During that period a new company bought the vessel, Strohmaier said, and renamed it Amber Bay. The Coast Guard did not provide ownership information, and it could not be found elsewhere.​

Feng Huang AO is still listed in the Valt Asphalt fleet. The company, a major asphalt transporter with offices in Houston and other major cities, did not respond to inquiries following either incident.

The 2-year-old ship was outbound for sea trials on Dec. 19 when the second fire started. The vessel lost propulsion but had rudder control and was able to steer outside the channel. The engine room sustained only minor damage.

The 4,000-hp Bruce A. McAllister was alongside Amber Bay when the fire started. Strohmaier said the tugboat “helped push the stricken vessel out of the channel where they could safely anchor.” Another tug, the 2,000-hp Sarah D., stayed with the tanker overnight, and the 87-foot Coast Guard cutter Shrike also remained on station.

New York Fire Department personnel boarded Amber Bay at anchor to investigate the incident. Firefighters used thermal imaging to make sure the fire was fully extinguished. The ship’s crew reactivated the service generators after the FDNY team left the engine room.

Three commercial tugboats towed the tanker to GMD Shipyard in Brooklyn on Dec. 20. The vessel left the yard in early January after successfully completing sea trials.

By Professional Mariner Staff