On Sunday, the last of the ammonium nitrate fertilizer aboard the bulk carrier Cheshire finished decomposing and the plumes of smoke from her holds came to a stop, according to an update from her owners.
The fertilizer in Cheshire's holds four and five began to heat up and emit fumes on August 12 as she approached Las Palmas for a refueling stop. She halted about 45 nm south of Gran Canaria on August 13, and her crew were evacuated the next day due to dangerous levels of smoke on deck. They are safe and unharmed, and all but the second engineer – who is assisting the salvage effort – have now been repatriated.
Salvors from Resolve Marine arrived on scene on August 16, along with a rescue tug from Spanish rescue agency Sasemar. Over the following days, the thermal decomposition of the cargo gradually spread to holds one, two and three, and the tugs stayed alongside to cool the hull with their water cannon.
The team was delayed in boarding the Cheshire due to rough weather and the continued heat and fumes on deck, but they managed to rig a tow line to the tug Red Sea Fos on August 21. The Cheshire and her escorts are now about 50 nm to the southeast of Gran Canaria.
The salvors plan to set up a power pack on board to power the vessel's windlass and emergency fire pump, and they will also establish a stern towing connection. They will gas-free the accommodations and the engine room to make the vessel safe to board. When all is ready, they have permission from Spanish maritime authorities to bring the Cheshire up to the edge of Gran Canaria's territorial seas, which will make accessing resources from port much faster and easier.