Engine room fire disables Canadian bulk carrier near Detroit


The Canada-flagged bulk carrier Tecumseh lost propulsion and briefly went adrift in the Detroit River after a fire in the engine room.

The fire started in the early afternoon on Dec. 15 as the 640-foot ship passed Zug Island in an industrial section south of downtown Detroit. The fire burned for nearly 20 hours due in part to a series of re-flashes, according to Coast Guard spokesman Jeremiah Schiessel in Sector Detroit.

The Coast Guard said the fire started when Tecumseh was in U.S. waters. The bulker later drifted into Canadian waters and dropped anchor. Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) is leading an investigation into the incident.

“The fire originated from the propulsion machinery of the ship, and the engine room sustained major damage,” TSB investigator Francois Dumont told Professional Mariner. “The TSB investigation is ongoing and technical analyses of machinery components will be performed to exactly determine the cause (or causes) of the fire.”

Additional details about the incident were unavailable, including whether flames escaped the engine room.

Tecumseh’s 16 crewmembers escaped without serious injury, although several required first aid, Schiessel said. The ship carried about 42,000 gallons of marine diesel fuel when the fire started, but the incident did not cause any pollution. It also did not affect vessel traffic.

AIS data indicates Tecumseh was bound for a terminal near Windsor, Ontario, after taking on a load of canola in Thunder Bay several days earlier. Canadian authorities in Sarnia, Ontario, learned of the fire at 1408 on Dec. 15. It was extinguished the following day at 0954, Dumont said.

Tecumseh crew initially responded to the fire, although the Coast Guard said firefighting personnel from T&T Salvage boarded the ship overnight to extinguish the flames. T&T did not respond to a request for comment.

Rand Logistics of Jersey City, N.J., operates Tecumseh, a traditional bulker with a cargo capacity of 29,510 tons. The company also did not respond to an inquiry by Professional Mariner.

The Coast Guard deployed a 45-foot response boat and helicopter crew to monitor the situation. After the fire, Tecumseh moored at the Morterm Ltd. terminal in Windsor. The ship remained there as of early January.

By Professional Mariner Staff