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Engine Room Fire Disables Prepositioning Ship Off Mobile

USNS Button
USNS Button with stern ro/ro ramp deployed to interface with a roll-on/roll-off discharge facility (RRDF) (U.S. Navy file image)

Published Apr 1, 2024 9:59 PM by The Maritime Executive

Last week, an engine room fire disabled the Military Sealift Command cargo ship USNS Sgt. William R. Button off the coast of Alabama, MSC has confirmed. 

USNS Button got under way from the port of Mobile at about 0945 hours on Thursday morning. At about 1330 hours, as USNS Button was under way about 20 nm offshore, a fire broke out in the engine room, the Navy told local media. The crew used the fixed firefighting system to extinguish it. No outside assistance was needed, though the U.S. Coast Guard was there on standby, according to local WKRG News. 

USNS Button returned safely to Mobile's harbor on Friday, under tow. No injuries were reported among her 53 crewmembers. 

The Button is a John P. Bobo-class con/ro cargo ship assigned to MSC's maritime prepositioning fleet. The class has a ro/ro loading ramp at the stern for wheeled and tracked cargo, and is capable of supporting the lightering system for over-the-shore logistics. She was built for American Overseas Marine (AMSEA) at the former Fore River Shipyard in Massachusetts in 1986, and was one of the last ships the yard delivered: it closed later that year. Under operation by General Dynamics AMSEA, Button served the Maritime Administration for sealift operations, including Operation Desert Shield. She came under MSC ownership for the Prepositioning Program in 2006.

Based on AIS data, USNS Button has been in Mobile since July 2023.