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Bad weather continues to hamper fire dousing efforts on container ship


Halifax, NS – Poor weather conditions are still preventing crews from extinguishing a fire burning aboard a large Halifax-bound container ship about 1,775 kilometres southeast of the city, a spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard said on Saturday.

A Belgian vessel arrived on scene Friday night to offer assistance to the crew of the Yantian Express, said Chief Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Canup from Portsmouth, Va.

“As it stands right now, they’re just waiting for the heavy weather to subside,” he said, noting that there’s still some smoke but no word about the status of the fire itself.

The 320-metre container ship was travelling from Colombo, Sri Lanka to Halifax on Thursday when a fire started inside a container on the ship’s forward deck.

It then spread to several other containers.

Canup said coast guard officials in Boston received a call for help early Friday. At the time, the ship was 1,800 kilometres southeast of Cape Cod, Mass.

He said a cargo ship from the Netherlands, the MV Happy Ranger, was on scene Friday to offer assistance, but left after the Smit Nicobar, an offshore support tug vessel from Belgium, arrived Friday night.

There were no reported injuries to the eight officers and 15 seafarers aboard the ship, which was built in 2002 and is capable of carrying 7,510 standard 20-foot containers.

In an email, Tim Seifert, spokesman for international shipping company Hapag-Lloyd, said it’s still too early to assess damage to the ship or cargo, and there is no estimated time of arrival for when the ship will arrive in Halifax.

“The weather and sea conditions are still difficult and further extinguishing work requires an improvement of these conditions,” he said.

Seifert said the Smit Nicobar is equipped with fire monitors to assist with the fire extinguishing as soon as weather permits.

 


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