Cargo Ship That Had Lithium-Ion Battery Fire Finally Docks in Alaska

Genius Star XI
Genius Star docked in Alaska a month after reporting a battery fire in two cargo holds (USCG)

Published Jan 31, 2024 2:16 PM by The Maritime Executive

A month after the Panama-flagged Genius Star XI diverted to Alaska after reporting a cargo fire, the vessel has finally been permitted to dock to prepare for its onward voyage. The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed that the vessel was permitted to move to the dock in Dutch Harbor, Alaska on January 30 to provide a safer environment and streamline the logistics for the next phase recovery operation.

The 13,600 dwt cargo ship operated by Taiwan’s Wisdom Line was crossing the Pacific when the crew reported a cargo fire. It was contained to the No. 1 hold and believed to have been extinguished with the onboard CO2 system. A second fire was later discovered in the No. 2 hold after the vessel had exhausted its CO2 supply. The Genius Star XI was 225 miles southwest of Alaska when the fire was reported, however, by the time the ship reached Dutch Harbor early on December 30 the USCG reported normal heat signatures from the holds.

The vessel however was held at anchor in Broad Bay while temperature measurements were taken. By early January, they began ventilating the cargo holds with an air circulation system devised by the salvage team while plans were developed for the operation. The holds were initially kept sealed to prevent a reflash, but the plan was later to open them for a visual inspection of the cargo.

The suspicion remains that the fire was in part caused by the shifting of the cargo during rough seas on the Pacific crossing. In the next phase of the operation, the USCG reports salvage teams will work to rescue the cargo and prepare the ship to proceed. They emphasized that no cargo would be offloaded but that crews would work to secure the cargo.

“Moving the ship to a pier allows workers a safer and more efficient environment to work and mitigates work delays caused by weather or rough seas,” said Capt. Chris Culpepper, Captain of the Port for the USCG operation based in Anchorage, Alaska. “Based on the recommendations of several agencies and technical experts we are confident operations can be conducted safely and with no additional risk to the community to expedite preparing the vessel to continue its voyage.”

The Genius Start XI carries 152 CO2 bottles in its fire suppression system. All the bottles were offloaded from the vessel and were being recharged onshore. The Coast Guard is requiring that the system be refilled with the bottles back aboard the vessel before it departs Alaska.

No timeline was reported for the operation and when the vessel would be able to proceed. It left Vietnam on December 10 with a stop in Korea on December 18. The ship was heading to California with its cargo when the fire was reported.