The crew of the German container ship Yantian Express, 88,493gt, had to be evacuated after the ship caught fire in the North Atlantic some 860 miles from Nova Scotia on the morning of Jan 3.
That morning, US Coast Guard (USCG) watchstanders at the First District Command Center in Boston received a report that there was a fire on board the 7,510 teu Hapag- Lloyd ship, which was on passage from Colombo, Sri Lanka, to Halifax via the Suez Canal. There were no reports of injuries among the crew of 23 or of any pollution.
The USCG center requested through the Automated Mutual-Assistance Rescue System (AMVER) for ships that may be in the area, and notified their colleagues in the Fifth District Command Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, who assumed responsibility for the incident.
One vessel which responded to the AMVER request was the Dutch heavy lift ship Happy Ranger, 10,990gt, which was 20 miles from the container ship and she headed for her position, ready to provide assistance if needed. The Belgian offshore supply ship/ tug Smit Nicobar, 2,606gt, also headed for the scene.
“The AMVER system is crucial to co-ordinating nearby vessels to provide assistance when an emergency arises far from Coast Guard assets,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Kelly Badal, of the Fifth District Command Center.
The Smit Nicobar arrived on the scene on Jan 4 and relieved the Happy Ranger.
On Jan 5, Hapag-Lloyd said the fire had started in one container on deck, but quickly spread to other containers. That evening of Jan 5, 11 non-essential crew members were evacuated to the Smit Nicobar and the rest of the crew were transferred the following morning due to the intensity of the fire. The Smit Nicobar continued firefighting operations.
On Jan 7, Hapag-Lloyd said: “Due to bad weather conditions, the fire has not been successfully contained yet and has significantly increased in intensity at times.”