New Aframax River Fire Footage Released

By The Maritime Executive 06-05-2018 05:50:53

New footage of the Aframax River tanker fire of 2016 has been released online.

The 247 meters-long tanker Aframax River, broke down in the Houston Ship Channel and burst into flames after colliding with mooring dolphins. Pilots Captain Michael G. McGee and Captain Michael C. Phillips, from Houston, brought the ship to safety and received the 2017 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea for their efforts in averting a major maritime tragedy. 

McGee and Phillips were surrounded by a towering wall of burning fuel as the raging fire quickly spread across the channel, threatening other tank ships and nearby waterfront facilities. Both pilots remained at their stations on the bridge of the ship during the fire. McGee managed to maneuver the stricken and blazing vessel away from surrounding ships and facilities. Phillips coordinated communications and firefighting efforts with the U.S. Coast Guard and numerous local fireboats. He also rushed to grab a fire extinguisher and put out a fire raging on the port bridge wing.

The inferno was finally extinguished after 90 minutes, leaving both pilots exhausted and suffering minor burns. McGee, using tugs, was then able to bring the damaged tanker safely to a mooring facility.

McGee and Phillips were nominated by the International Maritime Pilots' Association (IMPA). Presenting the pilots with medals and certificates, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said they had been faced with a challenge which was out of the ordinary and required great initiative and heroism. 

Accepting the Award, Phillips said: “It’s also not something that we train for or practice. Frankly, we didn’t have a lot of time to even think about what we needed to do. We just did it.

“We’d like to think, however, that we did what we did in large measure because we’re state pilots. We’re used to taking control when we climb aboard a ship. Pilots don’t sit back and wait for others to tell them what to do. We also feel a deep responsibility for protecting our port. We are proud to be state commissioned pilots and proud of what state pilots do in safeguarding their respective ports. In that respect, we accept this award on behalf of our fellow pilots in Houston and everywhere else in the world,” he said.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the Aframax River’s allision with mooring dolphins and the subsequent fire in the waterway was a momentary abnormality of the tanker’s main engine governor actuator system in responding to command inputs from the bridge.