An engine room explosion on a Maersk boxship, which disabled the vessel south east of Newark late last week, was caused by a “severe” turbocharger breakdown, according to its operator.

In a statement to TradeWinds, the giant Danish containership operator said it is currently investigating the cause of the mechanical fault on the 4,258-teu Laura Maersk (built 2001), which caused a small fire and injured one crew member.

The vessel is currently being towed by the Donjon Marine-controlled, 7,400-bhp tug Atlantic Enterprise (built 1976) to Elizabeth in New Jersey, and is currently some 280 nautical miles from New York.

Maersk said on 4 June that the vessel, which was heading from Algeciras in Spain to Elizabeth, reported a “severe turbocharger breakdown in the engine room, injuring one crew member”.

Maersk said: “A minor fire was promptly extinguished and the crew member was medevaced by a US Coast Guard helicopter to a hospital in Norfolk, Virginia.”

Maersk said the crewman has been treated and is expected to be discharged shortly.

“Our thoughts are with the crewman and his family as he completes his recovery,” Maersk said.

Maersk added that the vessel has not suffered any additional damage and the cargo is intact.

However, the incident is still likely to be a costly one for Britannia P&I, the vessel’s protection and indemnity insurer, as the operation to rescue the injured crewman from the ship was complex.

Aircrews aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and an HC-130 Hercules aeroplane from Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, were dispatched to retrieve the injured crew member.

But due to the extensive distance, the helicopter had to land on the US Navy destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) and refuel before conducting the medevac.

Once on the scene, the aircrew hoisted the man onto the helicopter and transported him to Norfolk Sentara General Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia.