Fire on Grimaldi Conro Expected to Burn for Days at Port Newark, NJ
The fire aboard Grimaldi’s conro Grande Costa D’Avorio is expected to burn for days according to a new update from the U.S. Coast Guard which is now leading a Unified Command. They are reporting that the fire is contained, but that the area is too hot to reach and for now all they can do is continue perimeter cooling.
The 692-foot conro was completing the loading of approximately 1,200 vehicles at Port Newark, New Jersey on July 5 when the fire was discovered. Initially, the fire involved just five to seven cars but quickly spread. The fire started on Deck 10 and the crew attempted to control it with the Halon fire suppression system. Wednesday night the fire spread to decks 11 and 12 but by Thursday morning they were reporting that they believed the fire was largely out while they continued to cool the ship.
“The fire spread significantly overnight,” they said during the Friday briefing reporting it is now involving decks 7 through 9 as well as the previous deck 10 to 12. Significant scoring is appearing on the superstructure as well as flames at times on the weather deck and smoke emanating from the vessel. They, however, have been able to confine the fire to the aft 300 feet of the conro.
Crews reported that the fire is burning so hot that the water coming off the area had reached boiling point and was scalding the firefighters. The fire teams are working from outside the vessel attempting to cool the structure in an effort to re-enter the Grande Costa D’Avorio. Fire boats from the New York City Fire Department continue to assist.
FDNY fire boats assist in cooling the vessel with crews reporting it is too hot to gain access (USCG photo)
Local fire departments responded to the fire on Wednesday night during a first and second alarm. It was during this time that two firefighters became trapped in the ship and were killed. The USCG is now saying that six other firefighters were injured in the efforts. Reports are that the local firefighters did not have the right equipment and their two-inch hoses did not connect to the one-inch European connections aboard the vessel. Newark’s fire chief also said his department was not training for shipboard fires.
The local firefighters have been replaced by a team from Donjon Marine especially trained to deal with shipboard fires. This team however is reporting that it is a challenging situation. One of the major concerns is that the amount of water has caused the vessel to list. The last calculation said the vessel has a three-degree tilt toward the dock with the Donjon team working to create drains for the water. They said debris is blocking the ship’s scuppers and they have been attempting to poke holes to drain some of the water from the upper decks. Salvage teams are working to remove water from the vessel and counter the list resulting from the fire fighting activities. As of Friday evening, marine fire fighting specialists are actively conducting fire suppression.
During the briefing, the team leader said they are attempting to get the vessel back to an even keel or prevent an increase in the list. The port said currently 99.5 percent of its container operations are not being impacted but they are concerned the vessel could lose stability and roll. Currently, the Port Newark Channel from Berth 18 inward is closed. In addition, they are monitoring the air quality in the area, which has already been under alerts due to the weather and current high air temperatures which increased ground-level ozone levels. The New York area has also had bouts of smoke from Canadian wildfires that lowered air quality.
The cars aboard the vessel are feeding the fire with reports of explosions being heard primarily from the gasoline in the cars. Grimaldi however reports that there are no electric vehicles aboard and it is not aware of any hazardous cargo. The containers loaded at the front of the Grande Costa D’Avorio have so far not been involved in the fire.
Preliminary investigations have already been launched but the focus remains on containing the fire to the upper decks. They believe that there have not been any oil leaks and none, or only minor, sheening of the harbor from the firefighting efforts.