Response Continues to Li-ion Battery Fire on Cargo Ship off Alaska
More than a week after there were reports of a cargo fire aboard a vessel transporting lithium-ion batteries across the Pacific, the U.S. Coast Guard in Alaska reports the response is still underway to ensure the safety of the vessel. While the fire was believed to have been extinguished by the ship by the time it reached Dutch Harbor, Alaska on December 30, the concern remains for the potential of a reflash.
The vessel, the Genius Star XI (13,663 dwt), is a small handy size bulker owned by Taiwan’s Wisdom Marine Lines. It was initially held outside the Dutch Harbor area while the first survey was undertaken with images not recording heat in the cargo holds. The vessel was moved and permitted to anchor in Broad Bay, although under USCG orders the engines were being kept warm and the bridge manned in case the vessel needed to be repositioned if the fire reignited. At the recommendation of an Alaska marine pilot and the salvage master aboard, they later repositioned the ship to a mooring buoy in the bay, in a position that would permit better weather avoidance.
One of the concerns is that the hazardous movement of the batteries contributed to the fires aboard the ship. The salvage team has been working to minimize the vessel’s exposure to the harsh weather to reduce the movement of the cargo. They were also keeping the holds sealed, using remote sensing to determine the condition to not risk reigniting the fires.
Part of the effort is inspecting and refilling the CO2 bottles used fighting the first fire (USCG)
The vessel expended its CO2 system last week when it fought the first fire creating a problem when the second fire was discovered. The USCG reports that the response team is continuing to offload the CO2 bottles for inspection, refilling, and reinstallation. As of Thursday, 31 of the 153 CO2 bottles had been offloaded.
A technical expert advisory group has also been formed including the T&T firefighting team which went aboard the vessel and Gallagher Marine Systems which was hired to assist with the recovery. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conversation, the port, and the USCG are also part of the unified command.
Bad weather in the area around Dutch Harbor delayed the arrival of some of the resources and team members. The Coast Guard reports the team is now working on an air circulation plan for the cargo holds to be implemented by the salvage team onboard the vessel.
Members of the salvage team remain aboard the ship. They are also monitoring conditions throughout the extreme weather to ensure the safety of the vessel and its crew.
The USCG reports an investigation into the cause of the fires will take place once the response efforts are completed.