MSC Containership Prohibited from Departing Canada as Fire Winds Down

Msc containership fire
With the fire fight nearly complete, the MSC containership is prohibited from moving until a plan is settled (Kyle McDougall, ECCC photo courtesy of CCG)

Published Mar 7, 2024 3:48 PM by The Maritime Executive

Transport Canada reports that the fire aboard the MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company vessel MSC Sao Paulo V is nearly extinguished after five days. They have however also prohibited the vessel from departing its current position while a plan is developed for the next phase of the operation.

The 63,500 dwt containership registered in Liberia reported an engine room fire on March 3 as it was approaching the pilot station at Les Escoumins on the St. Lawrence River. The vessel with a capacity of 4,500 TEU was outbound from Montreal bound for Portugal.

The Canadian Coast Guard continues to monitor the situation aboard the vessel and has its icebreaker CCGS Amundsen still standing by as well as a Coast Guard Environmental Response Team nearby in Tadoussac in case there is a need for a response. They report that there have been no causalities and no environmental issues so far in the incident.

While the fire is nearly extinguished, they are reporting that there is still a high smoke and CO2 content on board. Ventilation of the vessel will be required for a minimum of 24 hours before anybody can move freely on it without protective equipment.

MSC had brought in several teams of firefighters with specialized equipment from the United States to assist in the effort. In addition, two of the company’s other containerships, MSC Don Giovanni (41,590 dwt) and the MSC Celine (39,000 dwt) were both in the area and diverted to provide assistance. The crew from the stricken vessel has been using the other two ships for relief and drawing supplies including food from the vessels.

The ship is in a sheltered area of the St. Lawrence River outside the main shipping lane near the entrance to the Saguenay Fjord. Two tugs remain alongside and have helped to reposition the vessel to prevent it from grounding during low tide in the region.

The Canadian Coast Guard reports that discussions are ongoing with the shipowner and other Canadian agencies to determine the plan for the ship. Some plans for the next steps have been proposed but the ship is prevented from moving until an agreement is reached with the Canadian authorities.