Cargo Fire Expected to Burn for Days on Bulker off Sweden

cargo fire expected to burn for days on bulker off Sweden
Swedish Coast Guard's largest vessels along with tugboats and helicopters are fighting the timber fire on the bulker (Swedish Coast Guard)

Published Dec 7, 2021 3:25 PM by The Maritime Executive

Swedish authorities are reporting that they expect the cargo fire to burn for days on the bulker Almirante Storni off Gothenburg. While the situation remains stable at the site, they are however expressing concern regarding deteriorating weather conditions and the inability to reach the heart of the fire in the tightly packed cargo.

The Coast Guard's two largest vessels, KBV 001 Poseidon and KBV 002 Triton, continue to pour large amounts of water over the part of the cargo where it is burning. Together, the vessels can spray almost 5,000 cubic meters of water per hour at full power. In addition, there are several tugboats hired by the owner of the ship that are also spraying water over the fire. However, the water is only dampening the timber cargo to prevent the spread of the fire to other parts of the vessel.

“It is worrying that the fire has not been extinguished,” said Jonas Holmstrand who is heading the operation of the Coast Guard, while noting “but it has not spread and the ship's condition is still good. Our efforts are therefore not fruitless, we are taking small steps forward while we also plan for and prepare for the situation to turn around and escalate.”

Late yesterday and into Tuesday, December 7, the weather began to deteriorate at the site with southeasterly winds increasing to nearly 28 mph and temperatures falling to just below freezing. Forecasts are that the weather will continue unchanged for at least the next two days.

The Coast Guard is bringing in additional staff and equipment as they report the harsh conditions are taking a toll on the crew and the operations. The increased winds have added additional stress for the crews and meant that it was not possible for the helicopters to continue their aerial support. They are however continuing to use drones to pinpoint the fire and monitor conditions at the front of the Almirante Storni.

The plan remains to fight the fire in place and the ship’s crew, Coast Guard, and firemen remain aboard the ship. The Coast Guard believes that the ship is in no immediate danger, although on Monday the oil on board was prepared to be removed from the tanks and pumped over to another vessel. The Coast Guard said this was a precaution to avoid an environmental threat if the oil leaks into the water.

The owner of the vessel remains responsible for the ship and the Swedish Transport Agency and Coast Guard are awaiting a savage plan from the owners. The goal is to extinguish the fire and move the ship to port but before that, the plan must address the ship's condition, who will salvage it, how the ship will be able to leave the current site off Gothenburg, and then where, in which port, it will be placed.