Bulk carrier with lithium-ion batteries catches fire off Alaska

(JUNEAU, Alaska) — The U.S. Coast Guard assisted a vessel on fire approximately 225 miles southwest of Dutch Harbor on Friday.

At 4:40 a.m. Thursday, the 17th Coast Guard District Command Center in Juneau received report of a cargo hold fire aboard the bulk carrier Genius Star XI.

The Coast Guard directed Genius Star XI to continue toward Dutch Harbor while an HC-130 airplane from Air Station Kodiak and Coast Guard cutter Alex Haley (WMEC-39) were dispatched to assist.

The 410-foot Genius Star XI remained offshore from Dutch Harbor as response crews assisted and the Coast Guard established a safety zone around the vessel. Genius Star XI is carrying lithium-ion batteries.

The bulk carrier Genius Star XI near Dutch Harbor, Alaska, on Saturday. T&T Salvage photo

The Coast Guard reported on Saturday that a T&T Salvage marine firefighting team remained aboard Genius Star XI and reported regular temperature readings in the cargo hold.

The team confirmed the safety of the crewmembers on board and completed a preliminary assessment of the vessel’s condition.  Based on temperature readings and other indicators, the unified command believes the condition of the vessel is stable with no indication of heat in the cargo holds.

The unified command consists of the Coast Guard captain of the port, Gallagher Marine Systems, and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, who continue to work together in response to this incident.

“Informed by the findings of the salvage and marine firefighting team, the unified command will direct the Genius Star XI to anchor in a place of refuge in Broad Bay, near Dutch Harbor, Alaska,” said Capt. Chris Culpepper, captain of the port. “This protected anchorage has been pre-identified in the Area Contingency Plan and will allow the vessel to remain stable, minimizing risk of any re-flash of the fire as we continue our response.”

The Coast Guard will issue a new captain of the port order directing the vessel to remain at the specified anchorage away from marine traffic and await additional technical experts who can certify the cargo hold is safe to enter.  The one-mile safety zone in effect around the vessel will remain in effect to protect waterway users and the local community.

Mariners may tune in to VHF Channel 16 for safety zone information.

An investigation into the cause of the fire will take place once response efforts are complete.

– U.S. Coast Guard

By Professional Mariner Staff