Maritime Casualty News, January 2019

AMVER ships assist in Atlantic, Pacific fire response

Ships in the Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue (AMVER) system provided crucial assistance for two ships that caught fire while underway in remote sections of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The fire aboard the Panama-flagged vehicle carrier Sincerity Ace started on Dec. 30 when the 650-foot ship was roughly halfway between Japan and Hawaii. Five crew are feared dead in the incident, but thanks to good Samaritan ships, 16 other mariners survived.

The responding vessels were the U.S.-flagged vehicle carrier Green Lake, the Panama-flagged vehicle carrier New Century 1, the Liberia-flagged vehicle carrier Venus Spirit, and the Hong Kong-flagged bulker Genco Augustus. All four are enrolled in AMVER. A fifth ship, the Panama-flagged LNG carrier SM Eagle, later joined the search for mariners in the water.

In the Atlantic, the German-flagged containership Yantian Express caught fire on Jan. 3 while sailing between Sri Lanka and Nova Scotia. Vessel operator Hapag-Lloyd said the fire likely started in a single container before spreading to other boxes and gaining intensity.

All 22 crew from Yantian Express escaped on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 to an oceangoing tugboat standing by the ship. Five crew returned to the burning cargo ship a few days later to assist with the rescue tow and ongoing response. The fire was said to be under control on Jan. 9.

The Dutch cargo ship and AMVER participant Happy Ranger diverted to Yantian Express on Jan. 3 and remained in position until the first of at least four rescue tugs arrived.

For more detail on these incidents, pick up the next issue of Professional Mariner due out in early February.

Loaded bulk carrier grounds off Virginia Beach

A bulk carrier transporting coal between Baltimore, Md., and Kandla, India, ran aground off Virginia Beach, Va., on Jan. 10. The 958-foot Panama-flagged JSW Salem was loaded with 120,000 metric tons of coal.

The Coast Guard said the ship became stuck in the silty bottom near Cape Henry Buoy No. 4, roughly 2.5 miles from Virginia Beach. The service dispatched a 45-foot response boat and a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, which did not find any pollution.

JSW Salem refloated with the tide about five hours after the grounding. After coming free, it moved to a nearby anchorage under escort from the Coast Guard response boat. No injuries were reported.

The cause of the grounding is under investigation.

Bulker grounds near mouth of Mississippi River

The Coast Guard closed the Lower Mississippi River after a loaded bulker grounded at mile marker 3.5 and blocked part of the channel.

The 836-foot Anglo Alexandria was outbound from New Orleans when it became stuck at about 0830 on Jan. 4 near Pilottown, La., at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The U.K.-flagged ship came free about eight hours later with tugboat assistance.

No one was injured and no pollution was reported. The Coast Guard has not yet determined the cause.

Casualty flashback: January 1909

Before dawn on Jan. 23, 1909, RMS Republic collided with another steamship in thick fog off Nantucket. Six people died in the incident, with the 570-foot ship becoming the largest vessel ever to sink.

The incident marked another important first: RMS Republic was outfitted with a Marconi wireless telegraph system, and after the collision it became the first vessel to send a wireless “CQD” distress signal.

RMS Republic set sail from New York City en route to Gibraltar with 742 people on board. The ship pressed on through thick fog off Nantucket when lookouts heard another fog whistle at about 0545. Moments later, SS Florida slammed bow-first into Republic’s port side roughly amidships.

The impact killed three people on Florida and two others aboard Republic. A third passenger aboard Republic died a few days later.

The U.S. Revenue cutter Gresham was among the vessels that responded to the distress signal, and Florida came alongside to take passengers from Republic. Later that day, the steamship Baltic, which also heard the distress message, met the damaged vessels and took passengers from both ships.

Republic sank stern-first on Jan. 24 after all passengers and crew were off the vessel. Florida’s crumpled bow was repaired soon after the collision.

By Professional Mariner Staff