Major Fire on Ultra-Large Containership Maersk Honam in Arabian Sea, Situation ‘Critical’

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The MV MAERSK HONAM on fire in the Arabian Sea, March 7, 2018. Photo: Indian Coast Guard

Update: Evacuated Crew Member Dies from Injuries

An ultra-large containership belonging to container shipping giant Maersk has suffered what is being described as a ‘serious fire’ in one of its cargo holds in the Arabian Sea.

According to an emailed statement from Maersk Line, the MV Maersk Honam reported a serious fire in a cargo hold on Tuesday 6 March 2018 at 15:20 GMT while enroute from Singapore towards Suez, Egypt. 

Four crew members are missing.

Twenty-three others have evacuated to nearby vessel an are safe, according to Maersk. Search and rescue is underway for the four missing crew members.

The Maersk Honam was located around 900 nautical miles southeast of Salalah, Oman, according to Maersk.

The situation is said to be ” very critical”.

“After being unsuccessful in their firefighting efforts, the crew sent out a distress signal and a total of 23 crew members were safely evacuated to the nearby vessel ALS Ceres, which arrived at the scene around 18:30 GMT. Regrettably, four crew members remain missing. The fire onboard the Maersk Honam continues and the situation of the vessel is very critical,” the statement said.

The ship is reported to be carrying 7,860 containers.

Three other containerships, the MSC Lauren, Edith Maersk and Gerd Maersk, have diverted to the area and were expected to arrive early morning Wednesday local time (March 7), according to Maersk.

Full Coverage: Maersk Honam Fire

“We’ve received the news of Maersk Honam and the four missing crew members with the deepest regret and are now doing our utmost to continue the ongoing search and rescue operations. This by rerouting our own vessels, with assistance of vessels in the area – most notably ALS Ceres that thankfully acted promptly upon our distress call – and the local authorities,” says Søren Toft, Chief Operating Officer and Member of the Executive Board, A.P. Moller – Maersk.

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Photo: Indian Coast Guard

The Indian Coast Guard said on Twitter that MRCC Mumbai coordinated the immediate rescue of the 23 crew members. The ICG ship Shoor has been diverted to provide assistance. The Indian Navy has launched Boeing P8 long-range maritime patrol aircraft to assist in the search and rescue. One Indian is among the missing, the Navy said. 

“The merchant vessel reported that Maersk Honam was on fire with flames from the main deck of the ship rising up to the ship’s bridge (height of about 25 meters). The crew has abandoned the ship as fire spread beyond control,” the Indian Coast Guard said in Facebook post.

Weather conditions in the area are reported as fair.

The nationalities of the 27 crew members are: India (13), the Phillipines (9), Romania (1), South Africa (1), Thailand (2) and the United Kingdom (1).

The Maersk Honam was built in 2017 at Hyundai Heavy Industries shipyard in South Korea and has a nominal capacity of 15,262 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit). It sails under the Singapore flag.

“At this stage we have no reason to believe the fire was caused by an error in the ship‘s construction,” a Maersk spokesperson said in an email. 

Maersk Line says it is in the process of informing the relatives of all crew members.

“The evacuated crew is obviously distressed, with two crew members currently receiving medical first aid onboard the ALS Ceres. We will offer crisis counseling for the seafarers signing-off and returning to their families and our thoughts and deepest empathy go out to the families of the crew members that are still unaccounted for. We will offer them all the support we can in this very difficult situation,” says Søren Toft.

“The cause of the fire is currently unknown. Maersk Line will investigate the matter thoroughly in cooperation with all relevant authorities,” Maersk said.

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MV MAERSK HONAM. File Photo: MarineTraffi.com/Yang Ngai
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A photo of the Maersk Honam prior to delivery. Photo: Maersk Line

Below, a NOAA satellite captured this image of the Maersk Honam on fire from space, about 530 miles above Earth. 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates… 

Full Coverage: Maersk Honam Fire