Engine room fire disables NY-bound asphalt tanker off Nantucket


A loaded asphalt tanker went adrift in the Atlantic Ocean off Nantucket after an engine room fire disabled the ship’s engines and generators.

Crew aboard the Hong Kong-flagged Feng Huang AO reported the fire at about 0115 on Oct. 5, while the ship was 57 miles southeast of the island. Coast Guard officials said the fire started in the engine room and severely damaged at least one engine.

No one was injured and there was no pollution from the incident, the U.S. Coast Guard said, adding that the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Crews from the rescue tugboat Buckley McAllister learned that the tanker “suffered a fire in her cargo-heating boilers which required the release of the shipboard CO2 system, which in turn shut down the engines and generators,” according to Capt. Steven Kress, McAllister Towing’s vice president of operations.

The 479-foot Feng Huang AO was en route from Antwerp, Belgium, to New York Harbor when the incident occurred. Crew used the ship’s carbon dioxide fire suppression system to extinguish the flames, which did not spread beyond the engine room.

The Coast Guard reported the fire was extinguished by 0330. The blaze was “significant,” although authorities did not specify the extent of the damage.

“It did not completely decimate the engine room. They are going to be able to fix parts of it,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Steven Strohmaier.

The Coast Guard dispatched an air crew from Cape Cod to assess the tanker’s condition on the morning of the fire, and diverted the cutter Legare to meet the ship and check on its crew.

The 4,000-hp Iona McAlister reached Feng Huang AO on Oct. 6 but was unable to establish a tow, Strohmaier said. The 5,150-hp Buckley McAllister, skippered by Capt. Robert Rand, arrived at about 0700 on Oct. 7. Both McAllister tugs are based in Providence, R.I.

“The towing evolution (with Buckley McAllister) commenced around 8:30 a.m.,” Strohmaier said. When the tow began, the vessels were about 150 nautical miles east of the New York Harbor entrance.

The 4,000-hp Alex McAllister met Buckley McAllister and the tanker at Fire Island, off Long Island, and escorted the vessels to the edge of New York Harbor.

Ellen McAllister and docking master William O’Neil guided Feng Huang AO into Pier 1 on Staten Island on Oct. 8 for repairs. Charles D. McAllister held the ship against the pier during initial repair work.

Valt, a subsidiary of the London-based energy company Vitol, manages the 2-year-old asphalt tanker. The company did not respond to a request for comment on the fire.

By Professional Mariner Staff