Tug to Retrieve Burning Yantian Express in North Atlantic

Yantian express
MV Yantian Express. Photo: MarineTraffic.com/

The U.S. Coast Guard on Monday is continuing to coordinate the response to a container fire on board the now abandoned Yantian Express located approximately 1,015 miles northeast of Bermuda.

Saturday evening, 11 non-essential crew members were evacuated from the Yantian Express to the tugboat Smit Nicobar, following by the remaining crew Sunday morning. All 24 crew members are reported to be unharmed. 

The Coast Guard said it is currently monitoring the situation.

The Smit Nicobar remains on scene providing fire fighting assistance. The commercial tugboat Maersk Mobiliser is also en route and approximately 80 miles northwest of the Yantian Express. Upon arrival, the tug’s crew plans to tow the Yantian Express to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Full Coverage: Yantian Express Fire

The fire initially broke out in one container on January 3rd before spreading to other containers. Hapag-Lloyd said Sunday that the fire continues to burn and significantly increased in intensity at times. The company could not yet make a precise estimate of any damage to the ship or its cargo.

Bad weather has hampered firefighting since the incident began.

yantian express position
Yantian Express position according to AIS ship tracking data from VesselTracker.com. Credit: Genscape / VesselTracker

Coast Guard watchstanders with the First District command center in Boston were first alerted to the fire last Thursday afternoon. The crew requested assistance through the Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System (AMVER) for vessels that may be in the area. The AMVER vessel Happy Ranger’s crew were 20 miles from the position and diverted their course to provide assistance.

The Smit Nicobar arrived on scene Friday and began to provide assistance, relieving the Happy Ranger’s crew.

“We’ve been monitoring the situation to provide as much assistance as possible and keeping in open communication,” said Chief Petty Officer Ryan Langley, operations unit watchstander at the Fifth District command center. “It is through open and regular communication that the safety of the crew has been seen to and the response remains organized.”

Built in 2002, the 7,510 TEU Yantian Express is 320 meters long and sails under German flag in the East Coast Loop 5 (EC5) service.

The ship was underway from Colombo, Sri Lanka to Halifax via the Suez Canal when the fire broke out.