Firefighting is continuing on the containership Maersk Honam two weeks after a blaze began in one of its cargo holds, with no decision yet as to which port the vessel will be towed to.
The 15,000teu ship reported a serious fire in a cargo hold at 15.20 GMT on Tuesday 6 March en route from Singapore towards Suez, around 900 nautical miles southeast of Salalah, Oman. A total of 22 crew members were safely evacuated to the nearby vessel ALS Ceres, but five crew members are thought to have died as a result of the fire.
A spokesman for Maersk Line confirmed today to Lloyd’s Loading List that the firefighting “is progressing and the fire is under control”, with salvage work continuing on site, led by led by Smit Salvage and Ardent – “two best-in-class companies within maritime salvage operations”.
He added: “The focus is on completing plans to bring Maersk Honam alongside in a suitable port and discharge the cargo.” But he said no decision had yet been taken as to which port the vessel will be towed to. 
Maersk said that it was still too early to determine the more specific impact to the vessel or cargo.
Nevertheless, as reported last week in Lloyd’s Loading List, Maersk has declared ‘general average’ (GA) for the Maersk Honam. The British International Freight Association (BIFA) said the insurance industry is bracing itself for hundreds of millions of dollars of claims. The $122 million ship was carrying 7,860 containers.
BIFA said that on the evidence of images from the Indian coastguard, hundreds of containers in the fore section of the 15,262 teu ship would seem to be a total loss, but boxes stowed behind the superstructure and in the aft section appeared intact.
As reported yesterday in Lloyd’s Loading List, Maersk Line is to stop stowing dangerous cargo close to a ship’s accommodation block and engine casing until it is established what caused a devastating fire on the Maersk Honam.
In addition to changing stowage plans, Maersk said it would also be inspecting certain containers that share a shipper or forwarder and commodity combination that matched containers in the specific cargo hold where the fire started.
The Danish line confirmed that hazardous freight was on board and stowed in accordance with International Maritime Dangerous Goods code requirements. There is no evidence at this stage that dangerous cargo caused the fire, the line said, with the new stowage arrangements had been taken as a precaution.
Meanwhile, Maersk said the cause of a separate container fire last week on the Maersk Kensington, was also currently unknown. The Maersk Kensington, a vessel owned and operated by the group’s US subsidiary (MLL), reported a container on fire in a cargo hold last Thursday while en route from Salalah, Oman, towards Suez. It said all 26 crew members are safe and accounted for and the fire is reported to be contained.
“Safety measures were taken immediately,” the company said. “The crew reacted swiftly and as per procedure, by release of CO2 into the cargo hold to contain the fire.
“The cause of the container fire is currently unknown. However, initial investigation indicate there is no link between the cargo in the cargo hold where the fire began on Maersk Kensington and the cargo in the cargo hold which caught fire on Maersk Honam on 6 March 2018. MLL, in coordination with Maersk Line, will investigate the matter thoroughly in cooperation with all relevant authorities.”
Maersk Kensington is thought to still be at anchor outside the port of Salalah, carrying 3,518 containers (corresponding to 5,616teu). Maersk said that in case of cargo delays, all impacted customers would be contacted directly.
Maersk Kensington was built in 2007, has a nominal capacity of 6,188teu, and sails under a US flag.