Fire damages anchor-handling supply vessel under construction at Bender shipyard

Smoke billows out of the pilothouse of Seacor Sherman on May 14. Three firefighters were injured while trying to bring the fire under control. The vessel may have been undergoing dock trials when the fire started. [photo by Nickolas Jurich]

A stubborn fire seriously damaged a 265-foot anchor-handling tug-supply (AHTS) vessel during construction at Bender Shipbuilding & Repair Co., Mobile Ala.

Smoke was seen pouring from the pilothouse windows of Seacor Sherman after the fire started May 14. Fire officials and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating the cause. The vessel may have been undergoing dock trials at the time.

Dousing the blaze took the efforts of over 100 firemen, and three of those sustained injuries fighting the fire, local fire officials said.

The vessel is the fourth in a series of six AHTS vessels that Bender is building for Seacor Marine, a Houma, La.-based company.

At least 3,000 gallons of diesel fuel caught fire, according to Mobile Fire-Rescue spokesperson Capt. Debbie Bryars. It took approximately 24 hours to put out the fire as additional firefighting foam was brought in from Mississippi to douse the blaze.

Firefighters were battling the fire on the boat until an explosion forced them to operate from shore and from the department’s fireboat Phoenix.

Fire officials credited the fireboat for averting an even worse scenario. The fireboat sprayed water on the hull of the vessel, which possibly prevented the fire from burning through the hull and allowing flaming fuel to spill into the river.

Bender officials would not say how much damage was done to the ship or if it is salvageable. A fire that lasts almost 24 hours likely caused significant damage to the engine room and smoke and water damage to the decks above.

The Seacor Sherman is a diesel-electric boat. The four main engines and their generators sit in the forward part of the hull, directly under the galley and accommodation spaces, which have the greatest amount of flammable materials on the vessel.

The investigation is being led by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The fire is considered a workplace accident because the boat had not been delivered to the customer.

Bender indicated that they would have no comment on the fire until a report is completed. Seacor Marine also declined to comment.

By Professional Mariner Staff