Photo provided by the Swedish Coast Guard
06 Dec 2021

Bulk carrier ship with 40,000 m2 of timber caught fire off the Swedish coast

A a bulk carrier cargo ship loaded with 40,000 tons of wood products caught fire outside of Gothenburg on the weekend. The captain has refused to evacuate the ship so that the crew could help with extinguishing efforts.

The bulk carrier Almirante Storni was anchored by the Island of Vinga outside Gothenburg when the load caught fire. 17 crew members were still on board on Sunday, after the captain initially had refused to evacuate staff. 

Almirante Storni is a Liberian-flagged so-called bulk carrier, a vessel that transports cargo directly in the hull. Bulk vessels include, for example, tankers and dry cargo vessels. In this case, large quantities of wood products are transported as well.

The length of the vessel is 177 meters, and the fire is located in the bow of the ship. According to the Coast Guard, it about 50-70 meters of the cargo  is affected by the fire. 

Almirante Storni is owned by the German shipping company NSC Holding.

During the night to Sunday, the spread could be limited, but there was still no forecast for when the fire may be extinguished. On Monday morning, parts of the ship was still smouldering, according to says Swedish  Coast Guard's communications manager Eva Lindé.

The fire on the ship started at two o'clock on Saturday afternoon. According to the Coast Guard, the fire started in timber loaded on the upper deck.

The tightly packed timber made the fire difficult to access, resulting in smouldering fires remaining throughout the cargo, despite extinguishing efforts.

According to Mattias Lindholm, press contact at the Coast Guard, the tactics was to apply a lot of water on the bulk load over an extended period of time. Given that the ship is anchored far off shore, it makes it difficult to send advanced resources to the site as quickly as desired.

One large consideration is the large amount of fuel carried on the cargo ship, which could end up leaking out into the water if the fire continues to spread. The Coast Guard made preparations early on to be able to handle a large fuel leak should it occur.

 

The captain refused to evacuate
Boats from both Sweden and Denmark have been on site during the firefighting work. In addition, water-bombing helicopters from MSB (Swedish Contingencies Agency) and units from the Sea Rescue Society have been involved in the efforts. Also a specially equipped vessel for firefighting at sea has been operatin in the area.

Allegedly  no crew members have been injured. The 17 crew members remain on the ship, but are evacuated  into the rear of the vessel, away from the fire.  According to the Swedish Maritime Administration, they were offered to evacuate at an early stage, but remained when the ship's captain wanted them to assist in the firefighting efforts.

"The Swedish Maritime Administration has helicopters on standby to be able to evacuate if needed", said Valdemar Lindekrantz at the Coast Guard to Swedish Television.

 

Alleged safety problems for the cargo ship reported at recent UK inspection

According to a journalistic investigation by Swedish Television, the ship had several fire safety issues reported during an inspection in the UK only weeks ago. The owner, NSC Holding, has answered SVT.se that no safety issues or problems were affecting the vessel at the time of the fire. 

At present, there is no suspicion that any crime has been committed. The police have not yet come close enough to the ship to get an idea of ​​how the fire started.

According to Hans-Jörgen Ostler, press spokesperson for the Swedish Police Region West, no investigative work will be initiated until all extinguishing and / or life saving efforts have been completed.

 
Photos provided by the Swedish Coast Guard

 

Photo by the Swedish Coast Guard