Crew Evacuated from Turkish Cargo Ship After Fire Off French Coast
The French Prefect Maritime de l’Atlantique is reporting that a Turkish-owned cargo ship was evacuated after a fire during a strong storm in the Bay of Biscay. The crew is safe and the vessel is now under tow heading to the French port of Brest after a tense situation on board.
The reports of the fire aboard the Guana, an 18,965 dwt cargo ship registered in Panama, were sent to the French authorities around 1:15 a.m. local time on December 27. The ship which was sailing from Immingham, UK to Iskenderun, Turkey with a cargo of iron fittings, said it was an engine room fire but by 2:35 a.m. reported the fire had been brought under control and all 20 of the crewmembers were safe.
During the day, the French Maritime Prefect for the Atlantic had posted a warning for a severe gale in the northern parts of the Bay of Biscay and along the Atlantic coastline. They were forecasting Force 8 (above 40 mph) wind gusts and very strong seas. At the time of the report of the fire, they said the seas were at state five (waves running at 8 to 13 feet) and winds above 30 mph.
With its engine out of service, the Guana reported it was unable to maneuver and later the captain said they were unable to make repairs. At 1:52 p.m. he notified the emergency services of their intent to evacuate part or all of the crew from the ship. The crew said they did not feel safe onboard given the weather conditions.
After being evacuated, the Guana is under tow to France (Prefet Maritime)
The Spanish hospital ship Esperanza del Mar (4,900 GT) was in the area and responded. With the assistance of a helicopter from the French Navy, they were able to airlift six crewmembers to the hospital ship. The remaining 12 crewmembers were flown to the French Navy’s air base in Lanveoc-Poulmic.
The French Atlantic Maritime Prefect decided to intervene sending the rescue tug Abeille Bourbon while its Falcon 50 airplane observed the situation. As of this morning, the tug was successful in attaching a towline and is currently moving at approximately 6.5 knots toward Brest. The authorities expect the tow will reach the port overnight tonight.