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Unified Command Continues Response to Grande Costa D’Avorio Fire in Port Newark

The Coast Guard, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Newark Fire Department, and multiple state and area agencies respond to a fire in Port Newark on the vehicle carrier ship, Grande Costa D’Avorio. Fire fighting crews are working to extinguish the fire both from the pier and from FDNY fireboats. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Dan Henry)

Unified Command Continues Response to Grande Costa D’Avorio Fire in Port Newark

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 6717
July 7, 2023

A Unified Command was continuing to respond to the fire on board the cargo vessel Grande Costa D’Avorio in Port Newark, New Jersey, on Friday.

The Unified Command consists of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Newark Fire Department, and Gallagher Marine Systems, as the representative for the ship operator, Grimaldi Deep Sea SpA, part of Italy-based Grimaldi Group. DonJon Smit has been appointed for the salvage.

In a press conference Friday morning, Thomas Wiker, President of Gallagher Marine Systems, said the vessel was stable with a list to starboard. “We’re continuing to monitor the status of the vessel and actions are planned to mitigate further listing, as necessary,” he said.

As of Friday evening, marine fire fighting units were actively conducting fire suppression, supported by fire agencies through the Port of New York and New Jersey region, both pierside and on the water. The fire is still contained to the upper decks of the vessel.

The vessel continues to list to the starboard due to water build up from firefighting activities, but remains stable. Salvage teams are working to remove water from the vessel to counter the list.

Air monitoring is a top priority. The Unified Command has deployed three air monitoring devices near the ship to monitor air quality at the incident site. There are also additional air monitoring devices setup downwind over one mile away from the vessel. Additional air monitoring equipment and staff are scheduled to be deployed to the west side of Newark Airport on Saturday for more air quality testing.

At this morning’s press conference, Beth Rooney, Port Director at The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, said the port was working with the Unified Command to keep commerce moving at the port. So far, port impacts have been limited primarily to the loading and unloading of vehicles at the port. There have been no impacts to container loading and unloading.

The vessel was completing cargo operations of loading automobiles on to the vessel when the fire began around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday night. The crew of the vessel immediately activated the on- board fire suppression procedures while the local fire department was alerted.

Tragically, two firefighters were killed and the were six injuries in the initial response to the fire. None of the vessel’s 28 crew members were injured in the response.

The vessel is reportedly carrying 1,200 vehicles and 157 containers that were scheduled to be exported. There are reportedly no electric vehicles or hazardous cargo aboard.

“On behalf of the Unified Command, I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to the families and colleagues of the two firefighters who tragically lost their lives, and those injured during the response,” said Capt. Zeita Merchant, Captain of the Port of New York and Jersey. “We continue to work closely with our partner agencies and neighboring jurisdictions. Together, we are pooling our resources, expertise, and equipment to enhance the safety of all responders and maximize the effectiveness of our response efforts.”

At this time, the cause of the fire is under investigation. A formal investigation will be conducted to identify what caused the fire and all parties at the federal, state, and local levels as well as the owners are working closely together during this process.

The Grande Costa d’Avorio, built in 2011, is deployed on the North America-West Africa regular ro/ro service operated by Grimaldi Deep Sea.

The incident recalls a June 4, 2020, fire aboard the Höegh Xiamen in Jacksonville, Florida, which Grimaldi Deep Sea has links to. In that incident, the NTSB determined the probable cause of the fire to be Grimaldi Deep Sea’s (who time chartered the vessel) and SSA Atlantic’s (Grimaldi’s contractor for stevedores) ineffective oversight of longshoremen, which did not identify that Grimaldi’s vehicle battery securement procedures were not being followed.

The NTSB’s report noted there had been five similar accidents since 2015, including a 2019 fire aboard Grimaldi’s Grande Europa. Following that previous incident, the company developed a battery disconnect procedure to reduce the risk of vehicle fires during transportation. This procedure was used on Höegh Xiamen; however, the Coast Guard’s post-accident examination of a sample of 59 vehicles did not find a single battery that was secured in accordance with Grimaldi’s battery disconnect procedure.

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