Crew saved through international effort

Crew from a 577-foot car carrier had to be rescued in the North Atlantic after an engine-room fire disabled the vessel.

The fire aboard Sea Venus depleted the ship’s CO2 system, the Canadian Coast Guard said. When the flames reignited, the crew used hand-held fire extinguishers to battle the new blaze.
Canadian Coast Guard, Navy ships and good-Samaritan vessels rushed to the scene, reinforced the second firefighting effort and removed most of the Sea Venus crew. The car carrier was towed safely to Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The Panamanian-flagged ro-ro vessel was traveling in ballast to Belgium from Rhode Island on April 10. The vessel was 1,200 miles east of Cape Cod when the fire broke out.
At 0730, U.S. Coast Guard watch standers at the Rescue Coordination Center Norfolk in Portsmouth, Va., received a distress signal from Sea Venus’ EPIRB and a mayday call saying the vessel had a fire in its engine room and that it was adrift, said U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Lorraine Brooks. The communications were shared with JRCC Halifax.
Initially Sea Venus reported that the crew had extinguished the fire and that they did not require assistance. Shortly after that call, Sea Venus contacted the Canadian Coast Guard in St. John’s, Newfoundland. This call was relayed to Joint Rescue Coordination Center Halifax. Sea Venus officers reported that the fire had reignited and the ship required immediate assistance.
The master explained to JRCC Halifax that the ship’s CO2 system, which extinguished the original blaze, was now depleted. Now that the fire had reflashed, his crew was fighting it with hand-held extinguishers.
Canadian watch standers at JRCC Halifax initiated efforts to assist the ship. Response assets included a Canadian CP-140 Arcturus aircraft to assess the situation and report any ice hazards, and a Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Toronto. Also responding were two good Samaritan vessels, Challenge Plus and Olympian Highway, both members of U.S. Coast Guard-sponsored Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue System, a voluntary global ship-reporting system used worldwide by search and rescue authorities.
The first response vessel on the scene was Toronto arriving as on-scene commander at 1600. Toronto was followed by Olympian Highway, which coincidentally was Sea Venus’ sister ship, with the same owners. Challenge Plus was not needed and was released.
A rigid hull inflatable with a team of five was immediately dispatched from Toronto to Sea Venus to assess the situation. They brought firefighting equipment including a thermal imaging camera, breathing apparatus and air-quality testing gear. Once aboard, the Canadian response crew checked for hot spots.
“The combination of the ventilation louvers closing and the CO2 gas displacing the oxygen succeeded in extinguishing the fire,†Canadian Navy public affairs officer Lt. Marco Chouinard said.
Additional response crew were sent over to the stricken vessel with hopes of restarting the fire pumps and the electrical generators, but Sea Venus officers decided they should not proceed.
“(The) master and chief engineer determined that it would not be safe to make the effort (to restart) because they feared that the fire might reignite and virtually all of the vessel’s firefighting capacity had been exhausted,†Chouinard said.
Fourteen of the Sea Venus’ 23 crew were transferred to Olympian Highway. There were no reports of serious injuries or pollution associated with the fire. Olympian Highway assumed the role of on-scene commander and a skeleton crew remained aboard Sea Venus awaiting the tug Atlantic Oak to tow them to Halifax.
Sea Venus arrived April 24 in Halifax, where Atlantic Oak was assisted by the tug Atlantic Fir. Both tugs are owned and operated by Atlantic Towing Ltd. of St. John, New Brunswick.

Sea Venus and Olympian Highway are both owned by Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd. of Japan.

By Professional Mariner Staff