The salvage of the APL Austria has entered the mop-up phase after a major fire broke out in one of the vessel’s cargo holds as it was off Port Elizabeth in South Africa.
The fire started in one of the cargo holds of Liberian-flagged vessel on Sunday while the ship was some 30 miles off the coast of South Africa, headed west to the Indian Ocean. Overnight on Sunday the vessel was brought to the nearby port of Ngqura where firefighting continued for several days.
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) said on Thursday that the fire had been extinguished.
“The good news is that the fire on board is completely extinguished and port operations continued as per normal with two additional large container ships docking at the port [Wednesday] where for a while no ships were allowed into the port while the APL AUSTRIA was on fire” said Captain Daron Burgess, SAMSA’s technical manager for the Southern Region.
According to Captain Burgess, the mop-up involves removal of damaged containers and containment of their content. The teams will also drain out approximately 3,000 cubic meters of water, ash and residue inside of No.4 cargo hold of the vessel where the fire took place.
“The plan is that if the water contains no marine pollutants, then it will be transferred into ballast water tanks on board. However, if containing marine pollutants, we will have to re-assess the situation and most probably will have to discharge ashore in approved receptacles and to be disposed of according to DEA (Department of Environmental Affairs) requirements,’ said Capt. Burgess.
Meanwhile, Burgess said two fire experts had already begun inspecting the vessel to try and establish what caused the fire.
On Wednesday night, Capt. Burgess said initial inspection indicated that there was not much damage caused to the vessel itself by the fire.
“No visual structural damages to No.4 cargo hold at this stage,” Burgess said, adding that there were still about 16 containers remaining on board on deck on top of the No.4 hatch.
“The plan is to discharge (these) ashore tomorrow and douse with water and de-stuff into skips – no immediate danger,” he said.
“There are also about 10 containers aft of accommodation (not at all related to fire) to discharge to accommodate replenishment of CO2-Room with 400 x 45kgs CO2 cylinders. The area is presently covered by these containers as it is situated aft of the accommodation and underdeck,” Burgess said.