APL Austria Hit by Major Fire off South Africa

Image Courtesy: NSRI Port Elizabeth

A Liberian flagged cargo vessel identified as APL Austria has suffered a major fire offshore South Africa, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) said on Monday.

The fire broke out on Sunday afternoon while the containership with 21 crew onboard was 30 nautical miles South-West of Cape St Francis – some 50-70 kilometers west of the city of Port Elizabeth.

Having been informed of the fire, the SAMSA Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) located in Cape Town set in motion rescue services as the vessel’s crew was working to put out the blaze, Captain Daron Burgess, a Principal Officer for SAMSA’s Southern region is quoted by SAMSA as saying.

Four non-essential crew were taken off the casualty vessel and transported aboard the sea rescue craft into the Port of Ngqura. One of the crew members was treated by EC Government Health EMS paramedics for a leg injury and he is in a stable and satisfactory condition. The remaining three crew were not injured and there were no reports of injuries sustained to any of the remaining 17 crew onboard, South Africa’s Sea Rescue charity informed.

According to Captain Burgess, when alerting the MRCC, the crew of the vessel had been under the impression that the fire was on the vessel’s No.3 cargo hold only to be later established as having broke out in its No.4 cargo hold.

“The vessel was instructed to proceed to Algoa Bay anchorage and she arrived at the anchorage area at 02:00h this morning, Monday 13 February 2017. There are several containers containing hazardous cargo on deck above No.4 cargo hold, but fortunately none of them were on fire,” said Capt Burgess.

“Lots of black smoke was emanating from the vessel. The weather conditions have been favourable since the incident occurred, with a light South-Easterly wind,” he added.

As informed, the 2007-built ship heaved anchor at about 05:00h this morning and was instructed to proceed further out in the bay to clear the other vessels at the anchorage area. The Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) tugs continued with boundary cooling during the morning hours.

“After the fire was relatively under control, arrangements were made to take the vessel into the Port of Ngqura with the Metro Fire Fighters on standby and to deal with the situation upon arrival alongside. The vessel entered the Port of Ngqura at approximately 10:00h this morning,” Capt Burgess further informed.

The ship is now docked at Ngqura harbour, some 30km east of Port Elizabeth.

The cause of the major blaze on board the APL Austria is yet to be determined, as an investigation is scheduled to be launched once the fire is extinguished.

The APL Austria, owned by Marugame Kisen Kaisha from Japan, is about 280 meters in length overall, featuring a beam of about 40m and a deadweight of some 72, 807t.

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