Friday, January 25, 2019

LPG Tankers and Container Ship Major Fires Latest

Blazes at Sea Cost Several Lives
Shipping News Feature
RUSSIA – CRIMEA – CANADA – BAHAMAS – Two major fires at sea updated as the blaze which struck two Tanzanian registered gas carrying tankers, the Candy and the Maestro on Monday, costing the lives of possibly as many as fourteen people, continues to be shrouded in mystery. Meanwhile a container ship fire earlier in the month has caused the vessel to be diverted under tug escort to the Bahamas.

Russian news sources report 14 dead and 10 missing from the two tankers, but the question arises what the pair were doing, out at sea in the Kerch Strait which separates Russia from Crimea, transferring cargo from one to the other. The obvious answer would be ‘laundering’ the cargo, the Maestro is apparently forbidden by sanctions to call at Russian ports after that country annexed the Crimea. However it appears that she has in fact visited the Russian Port of Temryuk at least twice in the latter part of 2018.

By exchanging the cargo from one of the 4,000 gross tonnage LPG carriers in a potentially hazardous ship to ship transfer, the identity and origin of cargo could possibly be disguised, presumably for some criminal purpose as alleged by local press reports. Both ships were initially anchored inside the 12 nautical mile zone along the Crimean coast. The Candy however was apparently blazing fiercely and was towed into international waters by the Russian salvage tug Spasatel Demidov.

The surviving crews of the two ships, reportedly a mix of Indian, Turkish and Libyan nationals, were ferried to hospital by another tug, the Merkury and the search for the missing continues. The Kerch Strait passes between the Black Sea and the Azov Sea and the Crimean Maritime Authorities stand accused by local press of turning a blind eye to incidents in the region saying they are always claimed to be outside the 12 mile zone (the Strait itself narrows to less than 5 kilometres at one point).

Meanwhile in Canada the long running saga of the Hapag Lloyd operated container ship Yantian Express continues with the company confirming today she is headed for the Bahamian Port of Freeport. The Yantian Express, a 7,501 TEU, 100,000 deadweight tonne box carrier, caught fire on 3 January in international waters off Canada’s east coast.

As the weather deteriorated all 22 crew were safely evacuated before the captain and four colleagues re-joined her along with experts from salvage outfit Smit. The tug Maersk Mobiliser, working with the Smit Nicobar and another vessel, ensured the fire was under control before she is accompanied, sailing at slow speed under her own power, to Freeport, where her cargo will be discharged and the true cost of the damage to vessel and cargo established.

Photo: The Candy continues to burn.