Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Container Shipping Drama Concludes as Burning Freighter Saga Finally Ends

Box Carrier MSC Flaminia Arrives in Port at Last
Shipping News Feature

US – GERMANY – NETHERLANDS - UK – BELGIUM – FRANCE - The operation to salvage the MSC Flaminia, crippled by a dramatic explosion and subsequent fire in mid Atlantic looks to be finally over. The 85,823-tonne container vessel was laden with a cargo of 2,876 twenty and forty foot boxes around 150 of which were known to hold a variety of hazardous goods. The ship was abandoned by her crew and drifted afire in the ocean for around seven weeks until salvage could be undertaken whilst governments argued as to where the ship could be towed. The ship was en route from Charleston to Bremerhaven and amongst the freight aboard was said to be a cocktail of chemicals which, meant that the salvage crews were in terrible danger from the very start of the rescue operation.

The goods said to be in some of the containers included nitromethane (used in the Oklahoma bombing which killed 168 people), pesticides, PCB’s, sodium products and other toxic substances. The MSC Flaminia, operated by German Reederei NSB was still afire when Fairmount Marine and Smit Salvage mobilized the ocean going salvage tug Fairmount Expedition, which was stationed in Falmouth, England with two salvage masters from Rotterdam on board and was first to reach the disabled vessel to render assistance. After several days of cooling the vessel’s hull, the fire operations had to be temporarily suspended due to the severe risk of more explosions.

The Fairmount Expedition was later joined by the tug Anglian Sovereign from UK’s J.P. Knight, carrying the main fire fighting/salvage team and portable equipment, and later by the tug Carlo Magno of Italian Augustea , carrying additional salvage experts. The salvage team led by Smit finally managed to control and extinguish the fire. In order to further stabilize the vessel and extinguish the remaining hot spots the convoy set course for the UK coast pending permission to enter a Western European port.

After an odyssey lasting many weeks authorities from the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands finally cleared passage for Fairmount Expedition and MSC Flaminia through the English Channel. The convoy headed for Wilhelmshaven, Germany. On Saturday, September 8, a special fact finding team of the German Central Commando for Maritime Emergencies boarded the MSC Flaminia offshore Helgoland. After inspection the salvage team was allowed to tow the ship into the Jade-Weser-Port in Wilhelmshaven.

As the drama unfolded the vessels course could be tracked on a special website which followed the operation until its conclusion this week in a situation which first began in early July and the operators also have a dedicated website which has been active throughout the course of the past few weeks.

Photo: The Fairmount Expedition goes alongside the stricken ship.