One dead as container ship, whose last port was Charleston, drifts, burning, in Atlantic
The massive container ship MSC Flaminia departed Charleston on July 8 for a slow voyage to Belgium, but early Saturday, halfway across the Atlantic Ocean, something went horribly wrong.
A fire broke out in one of the holds of the 984-foot ship, and as members of the 23-man crew tried to extinguish the blaze, there was an explosion, according to Reederei NSB, the German company that owns the ship.
Several crew members were injured — one later died of burn-related injuries — and another is missing. The crew and two passengers abandoned ship, nearly 1,000 miles from England and well beyond the range of rescue helicopters, about 6 a.m.
The United Kingdom’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency said the Falmouth Coastguard, in Cornwall, received a relayed mayday broadcast and alerted vessels in the area of the stricken Flaminia, but most were at least six hours away. The oil tanker DS Crown was first on the scene and rescued 22 crew members and the two passengers from a lifeboat and raft.
The Flaminia was still drifting, ablaze, as of Monday evening, with the first of two firefighting salvage tugs expected to arrive on the scene tonight.
Maritime industry trade publications were discussing the value of the salvage contracts Monday and speculating as to the cause of the explosion.
TradeWinds news reported that the Flaminia was carrying 2,876 shipping containers, worth perhaps $90 million as an insurance claim.
The industry publication raised speculation about a bleaching agent, calcium hypochlorite, reporting that it “is shipped in containers and can spontaneously combust,” but TradeWinds also reported that NSB said the chemical was not on the cargo manifest.
“Until the arrival of the salvage vessels, the cause of the incident and the condition of MSC Flaminia remains unresolved,” NSB said.
At 984 feet, the 11-year-old Flaminia is among the large post-Panamax class of container ship, and is nearly 100 feet longer than the aircraft carrier Yorktown in Charleston Harbor.
The Flaminia was chartered by Mediterranean Shipping Co., an international firm with offices in Mount Pleasant. MSC declined to comment on the events involving the ship, as did the S.C. Ports Authority.
The Flaminia’s last port call was Charleston’s Wando Welch Terminal. The crew included German, Polish and Filipino nationals. There was no information available as to the nationality of the two passengers.
TradeWinds reported that Germany, where the ship is flagged, will conduct an official accident investigation.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.