USCG Says There is “No Immediate Risk” After Cargo Fire on Ship off Alaska

cargo ship fire off Alaska
Wisdom Line cargo ship Genius Star XI is being held near Dutch Harbor, Alaska (USCG)

Published Jan 1, 2024 1:47 PM by The Maritime Executive


The U.S. Coast Guard is reporting that there is no active fire or immediate risk aboard the cargo ship Genius Star XI after having monitored conditions in the vessel’s cargo hold for more than 24 hours. At the end of last week, the vessel while crossing the Pacific bound for San Diego, California reported it had fires in its number 1 and 2 holds due to a load of lithium-ion batteries it was transporting.

After diverting the vessel to a position roughly two miles off Dutch Harbor, Alaska, the Genius Star XI was ordered to remain offshore on December 29 while specialized firefighting teams boarded the vessel to determine the situation. The USCG quickly reported that thermal imaging of the vessel did not show any heat signatures from cargo fires.

The T&T Salvage marine firefighting?team?remained?aboard the?Genius Star XI and took regular temperature readings in the cargo hold. The holds however are being kept sealed to prevent a potential for the fire to reignite and spread on the vessel. The team also used a remote sensing tool to gain readings.     

The vessel was moved to a place of refuge in Broad Bay, near Dutch Harbor, which is a protected anchorage. The goal is to keep the vessel stable to further minimize the risk of a re-flash of the fire. Speculation centered on the shifting of the cargo during rough seas as contributing to the initial fire which was reported on December 25 and the second fire on December 28.


USCG circulated a photo showing the situation stable aboard the vessel (Photo courtesy of T&T Salvage and Marine Firefighting Team)


“The situation is stable right now and maintaining the M/V Genius Star XI at anchor allows for a safer environment for our team to operate and reduces risk of hazardous cargo movement,”?said Captain Chris Culpepper, Captain of the Port.  “M/V Genius Star XI remains operational and can get underway at a moment’s notice.”

The Unified Command formed to respond to the situation was waiting for additional technical experts who can certify the cargo hold is safe to enter. The vessel initially used its CO2 fire suppression system on the first fire but ran out of CO2 and was using perimeter cooling after reporting the second fire.

The Genius Star XI has been directed to remain in the specified anchorage away from marine traffic. If they detect any indicators of heat?or other hazardous situations that could pose a threat to the local community, the Captain of the Port will direct the Genius Star XI to proceed offshore.

As a further precaution, the unified command also pre-staged emergency towing capabilities in case the Genius Star XI required additional assistance. They prepared the system aboard the ship so that a tug could be rapidly deployed if required.