The container ship, MSC Flaminia, is in flames, drifting in the North Atlantic, roughly half way between Britain and Canada, approximately 1,000 miles west of Cornwall. One man is reported either be missing or to have died from burns. At least three others were injured in an attempt to fight a fire and explosion which broke out in a container in the No. 4 hatch on Saturday. MSC Flaminia is a 6,732 TEU post-Panamax ship, registered in Germany and built in 2001. The ship’s crew of 25 abandoned ship and was picked up in a lifeboat and liferaft by the VLCC DS Crown. The injured crew were transferred to the container ship MSC Stella, which is carrying them to the Azores for treatment. The burning ship is beyond the range of rescue helicopters. Tradewinds reports that oceangoing salvage tugs may have been dispatched to fight the fire.
Fires on container ships can be extremely difficult to fight. A fire on the Charlotte Maersk in July, 2010 spread to 150 containers and took 11 days to extinguish. See our previous post – Charlotte Maersk Update: Fire Finally Out After Eleven Days. The fire was reported to have started following a explosion in a container. As similar explosion was reported on MSC Flamina. Likewise in 2006, an explosion in a container on the Hyundai Fortune caused a major fire which damaged the aft of the ship, requiring 5,000 tonnes of new steel and a new accommodations block. The cause of the fire on the Hyundai Fortune is believed to be a mislabeled container containing petroleum-based cleaning fluids. One possible culprit could be the pool chemical calcium hypochlorite which reacts violently when exposed to moisture or heat, and has been involved or suspected in other explosions aboard container ships in recent years, including include Sea Elegance, M/V Hanjin Pennsylvania, CMA Djakarta, Aconcagua, Sea Land Mariner and M/V DG Harmony.