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Two die after container vessel explosion and fire in mid-Atlantic

19 July 2012

The MSC Flaminia boxship, heading from Charleston to Antwerp and Felixstowe, suffered an explosion and fire on July 14 that killed an officer and forced the rest of the crew to abandon ship. The VLCC DS Crown rescued 24 crew from a lifeboat and liferaft, of whom four were injured. One of the latter subsequently died of his injuries, and the other casualties were evacuated by helicopter to the Azores.

Shipping community sources say the explosions on board the Flaminia could be a result of undeclared hazardous cargoes
Shipping community sources say the explosions on board the Flaminia could be a result of undeclared hazardous cargoes

A second explosion on July 17 has hindered rescue operations, according to German owner NSB Niederelbe, and a full investigation into the cause will not be possible until the ship is back in port. The last explosion happened near the first, but the exact location could not be determined due to the dense smoke.

According to NSB, the explosions and subsequent fire have not resulted in the total loss of the ship, and it seems neither the superstructure nor the engine room, the stern section or the forecastle of the ship were directly affected by the fire or the explosion.

However, NSB added the salvage captain has not yet finished assessing the condition of the vessel. Shipping community sources say the explosions on board the Flaminia could be a result of hazardous cargoes undeclared in the manifest, an increasing problem for the shipping industry.

Dutch salvage company Smit has sent two firefighting tugs to the stricken vessel, and a third will help stabilise and tow it back to Europe once the fire has been extinguished.

The second engineer of NSB’s ship Hanjin Ottawa, which is also at the scene of the incident, will remain with the salvage team to accompany the vessel back to port. He will also be responsible for reactivating the firefighting systems on the vessel, NSB said.

On July 19, NSB issued a press release saying 18 crew and two passengers from the vessel had been landed safely at Falmouth from the DS Crown, concluding: “Reederei NSB would like to thank the captain and crew of DS Crown for the rescue and provision of aid to the crew and passengers of MSC Flaminia. During this dramatic rescue, they have shown extraordinary dedication and proven their excellent nautical skills.”


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