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Burning container ship heads to Freeport

The MV Yantian Express, a 320-metre container vessel, on fire.

The MV Yantian Express, a 320-metre container vessel, on fire.

By RICARDO WELLS

Tribune Staff Reporter

rwells@tribunemedia.net

A mega freighter burning off Canada’s east coast since January 3 is now seeking refuge in Grand Bahama, The Tribune understands.

The MV Yantian Express, a 320-metre container vessel being operated by the German shipping company Hapag-Lloyd, was originally destined for Halifax, Canada, but due to unfavourable weather, has now been rerouted to the Freeport Container Port.

The Express was en route to Halifax from Colombo, Sri Lanka via the Suez Canal when a massive blaze erupted aboard the ship.

According to reports, the ship was positioned some 1,900 km southeast of Halifax when this occurred.

In an interview with The Tribune yesterday, Peter Ziobrowski, a Halifax-based shipping blogger, said recent photographs and updated information from Hapag-Lloyd had revealed the blaze had been brought under control by tug vessels equipped with water cannons in recent weeks.

He said those same updates suggested that the ship’s first 12 bays, and some of the cargo in the two holds beneath those bays, have already sustained some level of damage.

Mr Ziobrowski, the brainchild behind the website Halifax Shipping News, has provided detailed reports of the dilemma since news first broke that a few containers on the vessel was under threat.

In one of his latest updates, Mr Ziobrowski highlighted that operators have pegged the Freeport Container Port as “the best option” moving forward.

“It appears the container caught fire back on the 3rd and the crew attempted to fight it, but had to retreat,” he told The Tribune yesterday. “It was either on the 5th or the 6th when tug boats were called in to assist.”

In a more detailed update posted to his blog on January 6, Mr Ziobrowski wrote: “Twelve of the crew have been transferred to the Smit Nicobar, the remainder will be taken off the ship. The Maersk Mobiliser is planning to tow the ship to Halifax. Weather has improved, and firefighting from the Smit Nicobar is underway.”

He added in a subsequent update that day: “The remainder of the crew has been safely removed to the Smit Nicobar. Hapag-Lloyd reports all crew are unharmed. Firefighting efforts from the tug are ongoing. The ship is now reported to be 800 (nautical miles) off Nova Scotia.”

All 22 crew members onboard the vessel were evacuated.

In an update on January 20, Mr Ziobrowski reported: “The tow has been underway since the 16th,” referring to a renewed effort to find the vessel some level of refuge after earlier plans for Halifax docking fell-through.

“They have covered 270 nautical miles, making 70 nautical miles per day. Halifax no longer appears to be the destination – one of the tugs is showing Freeport, Bahamas as the destination, and the Shanghai Trader arrived in Savannah, Georgia today.”

The Shanghai Trader is container ship dispatched by Hapag-Lloyd to collect salvageable cargo from the MV Yantian Express.

The post concluded: “The reason for the change in location is unclear. Certainly not having to deal with North Atlantic weather could be one factor, another possibility is that Canada refused a place of refuge request. I have requested status on this with Transport Canada, and will be attempting to figure out the ships new destination.”

The very next day, Monday, January 21, Mr Ziobrowski reported that tug boats had definitively given their destination as Freeport, posting: “Maersk Mobiliser and Sovereign (the tug vessels) are giving their destination as Freeport, Bahamas. Horizon Star is Headed back to Halifax, with an ETA of the 25th. No word on a place of refuge from (Transport Canada) or the (United States Coast Guard) as of yet.

“Freeport does have a sizeable container terminal, equipped for trans-shipment so it’s certainly a plausible location,” the post concluded.

Five senior officers attached to the Yantian Express, including the captain, were recently returned to the ship to supervise its journey to its final destination.

In the company’s latest release on Tuesday, Hapag-Lloyd wrote: “Professional salvors continue to assess the situation based upon relevant factors such as safety and operational items, in order to best determine the vessel’s next port of call.”

The release added: “Attention: At this point in time we would ask that all US consignees and brokers retract their US Customs entries, if previously made for the MV Yantian Express on the intended port calls. This should be performed as soon as possible, however no later than Monday, January 28, 2019.”

Attempts by The Tribune yesterday to get clarification from administrators at the Freeport Container Port were unsuccessful.

Representatives from the company had promised to address reports when initially contacted, but had not done so up to press time yesterday.

Comments

ThisIsOurs 5 years, 4 months ago

Why are they bypassing the entire US West coast? (Asking)

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Well_mudda_take_sic 5 years, 4 months ago

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE SHOULD THIS BURNING SHIP BE ALLOWED TO ENTER BAHAMIAN WATERS. IS OUR GOVERNMENT F***ING CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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DDK 5 years, 3 months ago

Right, yes, and a palm or two have probably already been greased..

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SP 5 years, 4 months ago

The ship is now reported to be 800 (nautical miles) off Nova Scotia Maine will have to bypass U.S. ports of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Canada refused a place of refuge request possibly due to not wanting to risk an ecological disaster in their waters, and 15 east coast U.S. ports also refused the ship entry more than likely for the same reason.

Why are the Bahamas with virtually no capabilities to deal with an ecological disaster should this ship sink or explode taking this risk? Is Christie back?

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John 5 years, 3 months ago

The ship has been burning for over a month and they cannot seem to be able to get the fire extinguished. What are the health and safety hazards of bringing this ship here? Bypassing the entire US from Canada. A country that has the most modern fire fighting technology.

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Sickened 5 years, 3 months ago

Something stinks about this and the stench will get stronger as this burning ship gets closer. $5 says the ship will capsize and lose all it's cargo after it enters Bahamian waters but before it reaches port. I wonder if our environmental minister (if we have one) has even asked for itemized list of the ship's cargo. It could be carrying some seriously toxic crap on board.

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stoner 5 years, 3 months ago

The fire has been put out and there is no danger for the Freeport terminal. Freeport has the best loading and unloading facilities for such a large shipping container ship.Weather conditions in the north is not favourable this time of the year.

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TheMadHatter 5 years, 3 months ago

LOL. If there is no danger then go to Canada. Could this be government's plan to solve unemployment in G.B.? If everyone is dead then there will be nobody unemployed.

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