Port Newark fire extinguished almost a week later

Fatal containership fire extinguished almost a week later

The fire that broke out on the Italian-flagged Grande Costa D’Avorio vessel at Port Newark, taking the lives of two firefighters, has finally been extinguished.

After giving the all-clear for investigators and workers to board the ship, the Manager of the salvage operation hired a marine chemist to analyse the situation, according to Project Manager for Donjon-Smit, Gordon Lorenson.

The marine chemist has since cleared the vessel of any danger of repeat fires more than five days after the initial eruption, reported the New York Times.

US Coast Guard Captain, Zeita Merchant, said at a news conference they could “officially declare the fire is out,” before reporting that salvage efforts could take up to two months to conclude.

Merchant informed the news conference that a salvage plan will be configured by private contractors while investigations pertaining to the fire’s cause and why it had endured will continue.

The vessel’s fate will be determined by the salvage team once investigations carried out by the Coast Guard – with cooperation from a host of federal, state, and local agencies – are complete.

READ: Containership catches fire in Panama Canal

The fire that broke out at 9.30 pm on 5 July, engulfing multiple vehicles on the ship and spreading to at least two floors above, took the lives of two Newark firefighters who tried to eliminate the blaze, Augusto Acabou, 45, and Wayne Brooks Jr., 49, reported the New York Times.

In addition, ABC News reported that five other firefighters suffered injuries during the incident, three from Newark Fire Department, along with two from Elizabeth Fire Department.

According to Newark Public Safety Director, Fritz Fragé, the five fire captains have been discharged from hospital having suffered injuries while confronting the fire.  

Whilst the ship remained afloat with cars stationed across several decks, concerns were held among officials that first respondent extinguishing efforts could cause the ship to capsize.

Among the complications of the respondent’s effort, the two-and-a-half-inch fire hose lines used by firefighters were incompatible with the vessel’s one-inch connections, thereby forcing firefighters to settle for the less powerful on-ship fire hoses, reported ABC News.

Additionally, firefighters of New Jersey reportedly lacked the experience and training of dealing with containership-based blazes.

READ: ONE, Seaspan carry out boxship fire drill

Used vehicles are among Port Newark’s largest exports, and according to the New York Times, the Grande Costa D’Avorio had 1200 vehicles loaded at the time of the incident.

Speculation that some of the loaded vehicles were electric with highly flammable lithium-ion batteries arose, after firefighters had been pumping water onto the enflamed ship for the better part of a week.

Conflicting accounts from Beth Rooney, Port Director for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, however, indicate that no electrical vehicles were aboard.

The ship had transported new electrical vehicles to Baltimore before arriving in Newark where “previously owned vehicles” were loaded and bound for West Africa, according to Rooney.

READ: Chittagong depot catches fire again

While the air quality is being monitored around the port, Rooney reported that there were “no known water quality issues”. Additionally, there was no significant effect on air quality as it was registered as moderate on 11 July according to an online monitor.

The air was clear, and no pungent odours were noticeably present on the dock on 11 July, with Port Newark returning to operations as per normal, the New York Times reported.

In February 2023, the Port of Iskenderun suffered significant structural damage following the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

More recently, a fire erupted aboard a Panama-flagged MSC containership in the territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), leaving one injured.

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