Cargo Ship with Li-ion Battery Fire Diverted to Alaska by USCG

cargo ship fire at sea
Fire is aboard the cargo ship Genius Star XI which is currently diverting toward Dutch Harbor, Alaska (Greenwich Marine Services file photo)

Published Dec 29, 2023 6:34 PM by The Maritime Executive


A general cargo ship making a trans-Pacific crossing is reporting that it is battling cargo hold fires with a load of lithium-ion batteries aboard. The U.S. Coast Guard Sector Anchorage Command Center has instructed the vessel to proceed toward Dutch Harbor, Alaska in the ongoing situation. Resources are being assembled to help fight the fire when the vessel gets closer to Alaska.

The news outlet Must Read Alaska is reporting that a fire was initially discovered aboard the vessel on December 25 in the number 1 cargo hold. They are saying the suspicion is that heavy seas may have caused the fire to ignite, but the vessel was able to use its CO2 fire suppression system. 

A second fire has now been reported aboard the ship in its number 2 cargo hold but according to the news outlet, the vessel has already exhausted its CO2 system. They are reporting that the crew is perimeter cooling the cargo holds. The captain has ordered the crew not to open the holds so that they remain sealed helping to contain and control the fire.

The Coast Guard District Command Center in Juneau received the report of the fire at 4:40 a.m. local time on December 28 while the cargo ship was approximately 225 miles southwest of Dutch Harbor, Alaska. The vessel, the Genius Star XI, is a small handy size bulker owned by Taiwan’s Wisdom Marine Lines. She departed Hai Pong, Vietnam on December 10 after stops in Thailand and Singapore and is bound for San Diego, California. Built in 2012, the ship is 410 feet (125 meters) in length and 13,663 dwt. Reports are that there is a crew of 19 aboard. 

The vessel is loaded with more than 800 metric tons of lithium-ion batteries. The U.S. Coast Guard dispatched an HC-130 airplane from Air Station Kodiak and the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley to rendezvous with the cargo ship to determine the situation and provide assistance as it sails toward Dutch Harbor. It is expected to reach Dutch Harbor before midnight on December 29, but according to the reports had been instructed to remain outside the port until the situation is better understood and a plan is developed.


Thermal images of the vessel released by the USCG do not show heat in the cargo holds (USCG Alaska)


“We applaud the crewmembers aboard Genius Star XI, whose swift actions kept the fire contained to this point,” said Captain Chris Culpepper, Commander of Coast Guard Sector Anchorage. “This will be an ongoing team effort as we work to safely extinguish the fire, provide any necessary medical care for the crew, and mitigate the dangers associated with a shipboard fire.”

The Coast Guard is investigating to see if the fire has been contained or possibly extinguished. Teams from T&T Salvage and Resolve Marine were boarding the vessel to determine the status. The USCG however until the situation becomes more defined has ordered the Genius Star XI to remain two miles offshore and a one-mile safety zone has been established around the ship.

The report is listing the cause of the fire as unknown, with the Coast Guard saying it will be investigating once the initial response efforts have been completed.