Box blaze probe gets underway

A damper has been put on theories that hazardous calcium hypochlorite - involved in many containership fires in the 1990s - could be responsible for a blaze that led to the MSC Flaminia being abandoned in the middle of the North Atlantic.
The seat of the fire is circled.

The seat of the fire is circled.

NSB Niederelbe is still checking through details of the cargo loaded on the 6,732-teu MSC Flaminia (built 2001) but says no calcium hypochlorite was on the manifest and no other obvious cause for the incident has yet been detected.

However hazardous cargoes are sometimes misdeclared so the possibility of a calcium hypochlorite related fire can not be entirely ruled out amongst the 2,876 containers on board on the voyage between Charleston and Antwerp.

Smit has signed a Lloyd’s Open Form “no cure no pay” salvage contract for the stricken vessel but it will be Tuesday evening before the chartered in 16,320hp firefighting  tug Fairmount Expedition (built 2007) and a salvage master reaches the stricken containership.

An internal company investigation into the casualty is already underway and Germany, the flag state of the MSC Flaminia, will conduct an official accident investigation into the fire which has cost two lives and left three crewmen in hospital.

There is little current information on the extent of damage to the MSC Flaminia as overflights or satellite images of the vessel appear to have not taken place.

NSB Niederelbe has received preliminary information about the incident from the master and senior officers of the MSC Flaminia who are among the 18 crew and two passengers onboard the 311,000-dwt tanker DS Crown  (built 1999) which is due to reach Falmouth in the UK on Wednesday evening.

Reports from the crew of the MSC Flaminia indicate that the incident began with a fire around hatch cover Number Four (circled in red on the photo) with the explosion following.

The fire was sufficiently serious for the master to order the ship to be abandoned although the MSC Flaminia was 1,000 miles from the nearest land.

The 16,500-hp ocean going tug Anglian Sovereign (built 2003)is currently being loaded with specialist firefighting gear at Inverness including a Cobra lance system that can pierce container walls and extinguish fires within boxes. But it will be Thursday or Friday before this tug reaches the last reported position of the MSC Flaminia.

The MSC Flaminia was on a voyage from Charleston to Antwerp at the time of the fire with a crew of five Germans, three Poles and 15 Filipinos.

The hull insurance of the MSC Flaminia is led by the Swedish Club which also provides protection and indemnity cover for the vessel.

With the hull of the MSC Flaminia insured for an estimated $40m and back of envelope calculations that about 2,900 containers of cargo might have a value of $90m the insurance market appears to be in for another sizeable loss.

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Location of the MSC Flaminia
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