A Swedish probe has revealed a worn extension cable caused a devastating fire on board a German bulk carrier off Gothenburg in 2021.

The fire broke out on the anchored 31,800-dwt handysize Almirante Storni (built 2012) on 4 December when a spark from the cable ignited timber on the deck.

The blaze took 10 days to extinguish and the ship needed to be taken to a shipyard for repairs. No injuries were reported.

The Swedish Accident Investigation Authority (SHK) said the 177-metre bulker had been en route from Sweden to Egypt when it anchored at Vinga.

The report said an extension cable that had been plugged in during loading was left behind when the ship departed.

The way the timber was loaded also meant that the fire quickly increased in intensity and spread elsewhere, SHK found.

The blaze could not be extinguished without moving the vessel into port and unloading some of the cargo.

SHK said there are unique lessons to be learned from one of the most extensive salvage operations in the country’s modern history.

The report mentioned “ambiguities” regarding the procedure for bringing the vessel into port, with question marks over the legal position and how risks would be managed.

These procedures for the handling of ships in need of assistance should be strengthened, the agency said.

State action needed

“The government is advised to take action,” it added.

The Swedish Transport Agency has been asked to prioritise the drawing up of plans to receive vessels in need of help.

And the country’s coast guard has been tasked with evaluating its firefighting methods.

The vessel has since been renamed GMB Eternity but remains under the ownership of Germany’s NSC Holding.

The bulker had insurance cover from the North P&I Club.