A containership owned by Danish shipping giant Maersk suffered an engine room fire while sailing in the Caribbean on 26 April 2020.

At the time of the incident, the 1,800 TEU Maersk Vilnius was en route from Freeport, Bahamas to Port Elizabeth, South Africa. 

“All 22 crew members are safe and accounted for and there has been no pollution reported,” a Maersk spokesperson confirmed to Offshore Energy.

“Required firefighting measures were promptly deployed by vessel’s crew and fire is currently under control. The extent of damage is currently unknown and is being assessed taking under consideration our priority protocols to safeguard our crew,” he added.

The spokesperson also said that Maersk is cooperating fully with the French Coast Guard, with the safety and health of the company’s seafarers being a top priority.

ALP Defender, an anchor handling vessel, reached Maersk Defender to tow it to a port, the ship’s AIS data provided by MarineTraffic shows.

Containership fire issue

In the past, a series of high-profile fires occurred in cargo holds aboard boxships. 2019 alone saw an alarming number of containership fires including Yantian Express, APL Le Havre, APL VancouverGrande America, E.R. Kobe and KMTC Hong Kong.

A few months ago, the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) expressed its concerns about the escalation of containership fires, calling for an urgent improvement of onboard firefighting systems.

The union called for all stakeholders to work together and encourage IMO to strengthen fire protection in the cargo area of container vessels, amend SOLAS by explicitly including active and/or passive fire protection on board new container vessels and consider the need to address the firefighting equipment of existing container vessels.

An increase in containership fire incidents has prompted classification society ABS to issue the shipping industry’s first guide to tackle cargo fires. The guide, which contains a broad range of notations, addresses firefighting and safety systems of cargo holds of container vessels.

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