Thursday, April 6, 2017

14,000 TEU Container Ship on Fire Saved by Combined Forces Efforts

Sri Lankan and Indian Authorities Rescue Crew and Extinguish Major Blaze
Shipping News Feature
SRI LANKA – INDIA – The Sri Lankan Navy received a distress call on April 4 at approximately 1030hrs from the 14,000 TEU container ship, MSC Daniela, to tackle a blaze that had broken out toward the bow of the vessel. En route to Port Said from Singapore, the MSC Daniela was around 120 nautical miles off Colombo, Sri Lanka, when her crew initiated emergency procedures in an attempt to control the fire, but when their efforts failed, the distress call went out for immediate assistance. MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company) reported no injuries to the 22-man crew of the Panamanian flagged vessel.

The Sri Lankan Navy dispatched two Fast Attack Craft (FACs) to the scene to escort the vessel to within 33 nautical miles off the Colombo Lighthouse on the evening of the April 4, closing to within 20 miles or so of Colombo by the next morning. Two tugs of the Sri Lankan Ports Authority, Rawana and Maha Wewa also joined firefighting efforts but the initial efforts were in vane due to the intensity of flames.

The fire was brought under control at approximately 0630hrs local time on Wednesday April 5 with what the Navy said was ‘unprecedented assistance’ of the Indian Coast Guard, Indian Navy, Sri Lankan Air Force and Sri Lankan Ports Authority personnel. The Sri Lankan Navy had requested help from the Indian High Commission, as there was a Coast Guard vessel, the ICGS Shoor, that was on a goodwill visit berthed at the Colombo harbour. The Indian High Commission promptly complied with the request, dispatching ICGS Shoor to assist in extinguishing fire on-board the distressed vessel.

The combined forces firefighting mission was also joined by the Sri Lankan offshore patrol vessel, SLNS Sagara which had been patrolling in the Southern Seas. Both the Shoor and Sagara are equipped with firefighting equipment and have specialised firefighting personnel on-board. In addition, the Indian Navy had also directed two of their ships, the INS Darshak and INS Garriel to the location. Similarly three more the Sri Lankan Navy’s FACs were dispatched to the scene to assist in the evacuation of the crew members.

The Sri Lankan Air Force also played a part in the rescue by providing a Bell 212 helicopter to help in the firefighting efforts whilst the Indian Coast Guard also scrambled a Chetak helicopter. In a statement, a Sri Lankan Navy spokesperson said:

“This endeavour clearly demonstrates the maritime cooperation between Sri Lanka and India in dealing with rescue missions in the maritime domain. The Sri Lankan Navy extends its gratitude to the Indian High Commission for their prompt response and especially the crew on-board ICGS Shoor who were extremely diligent in this challenging situation.”

MSC has said that it is currently in discussion with the local authorities to berth the vessel at the appropriate time. Once the ship is considered safe, an investigation into the cause of the fire will be formally initiated. The extent of the damage and cargo losses will not be known until the vessel has safely berthed and has undergone a thorough inspection.

Photo: Courtesy of the Indian Coast Guard.