MSC Flaminia Fire Timeline

A few days ago a Filipino seafarer who was onboard the well known MSC Flaminia fire accident died in hospital in Portugal from severe burns that he suffered in a fire. MSC Flaminia is a German container ship that caught fire on 14 July 2012 forcing the crew to abandon ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The ship remained at sea after the fire for over a month and among others at a specific time EU countries were refusing to offer shelter to the vessel most probably due to hazardous materials stored within its containers. Taking the opportunity a full timeline of the MSC Flaminia fire has been compiled mainly from information from the Maritime Bulletin.

July 14 2012 – At 10:07 the Falmouth Coastguard received a mayday broadcast from boxship MSC Flaminia reporting that the crew on board had abandoned the vessel. Crew on board the container vessel abandon ship after an explosion and subsequent fire in a cargo hold. Falmouth Coastguard broadcast an alert to all vessels in the area to provide assistance to the containership. 24 people were recovered from lifeboats and liferafts. Four crew had suffered injuries. One crew member was missing.

July 16 2012 – MSC Flaminia wasdrifting in mid-Atlantic with a large plume of smoke from passing vessels. One of the  four injured crew died from heavy burns on board of MSC Stella, the remaining three were taken to Azores by helicopter, one of them being treated with intensive care. Crew reported that fire started in hold number four.

July 17 2012 – Smit signed a salvage contract with German company NSB Niederelbe and dispatched to the drifting vessel the salvage tugs Fairmount Expedition and Anglian Sovereign. At the time the speculation of calcium hypochlorite as the cause of the fire had been dumped since NSB Niederelbe checked all the cargo manifests and didn’t find any calcium hypochlorite registered.

July 18 2012 – The general overview of the MSC Flaminia as well as the photos that have been taken at the time showed that the superstructure along with the engine room and the forecastle were intact and were not affected by the fire.

July 19 2012 – News published by German media reported one more explosion on board MSC Flaminia in fire area, when firefighting was already under way.  After the second explosion photos of the vessel were showing the fire to spread in aft direction and the vessel developing a starboard list. Furthermore the fire had also reached other holds at the lower level since the letters “MSC” appeared to be smeared. Thanks to continuous cooling a further expansion of the fire had been prevented.  Salvage experts were planning to board MSC FLAMINIA via a deployed emergency ladder and reactivate the vessel’s firefighting systems.

July 20 2012 – As the firefighting operations at MSC FLAMINIA continued, the second firefighting tugboat ANGLIAN SOVEREIGN arrived that morning at the site of the incident. The third, CARLO MAGNO, was expected on site during Saturday noon July 21. After the arrival of the second firefighting tugboat, the party of four salvage specialists had boarded MSC FLAMINIA. The team was able to reactivate the ship’s fire fighting system. Due to damaged cargo and extinguishing water the ship developed a 8.5 degrees list.

July 23 2012 – MSC Flaminia was under tow proceeding at a speed of 5 – 5.5 knots, direction 93 – 95 degrees. It’s was located about 600 miles from nearest ports in Biscay or UK. According to salvage experts on site, the fire onboard MSC FLAMINIA came under control July 23 afternoon.

July 24 2012 – The tugboat ANGLIAN SOVEREIGN was constantly monitoring temperatures onboard the vessel via a laser thermometer. The salvage team was unable to board the vessel in order to extinguish any remaining fires due to thick fog at the region.

July 25 2012 – MSC Flaminia proceeded under tow of salvage tug Fairmount Expedition having Anglian Sovereign and Carlo Magno tugs on a standby. The salvage team was expected to board MSC Flaminia in order to restore the vessel’s power. After the prevailing fog that existing the previous days lifted, a team of firefighting experts was able to board MSC FLAMINIA on July 25.

July 26 2012 – MSC FLAMINIA and its accompanying group of tugs was located 170 nautical miles off the coast of the UK and progresses at a speed of four knots. Due to damaged cargo and extinguishing water, the vessel was listing by 11 degrees. Closer inspection of the cargo holds was not possible due to the ongoing generation of heat. The ship’s own firefighting system was switched off.

July 29 2012 – Salvage tug Carlo Magno left the operation and arrived Falmouth. MSC FLAMINIA and the accompanying group of tugboats assumed a waiting position approximately 100 nautical miles off the British coast. Teams of firefighting experts were onboard MSC FLAMINIA, to inspect the vessel in order to eliminate any smoldering fires inside of containers. Firefighting and shipbuilding experts on site were among other things assessing the stability of the vessel. In overall, the situation onboard MSC FLAMINIA was improving.

July 30 2012 – Salvage tug Carlo Magno left Falmouth in order to help once again with the towing operations.

July 31 2012 – Since July 30 evening the team of firefighting experts was unable to go onboard MSC FLAMINIA due to bad weather conditions. According to the salvage team on site the fire in cargo holds 4, 5 and 6 had been extinguished. However, smoke was visible above cargo hold 7 and the temperatures in this area was rising.

August 1 2012 – MSC Flaminia and tugs were moving into the Atlantic in a SSW direction at a speed of some 2 plus knots. NSB reported that the vessel moved further into the ocean because of deteriorating weather. The Maritime Bulletin reported that at least 40% of all containers on board were sound and undamaged, though some cargo in some of the containers was assumed that it could be damaged by smoke or by water during firefighting.

August 3 2012 – MSC Flaminia and tugs kept  moving into Atlantic. NSB published a press-release mentioning again the bad weather hampering salvage operation. France environmentalists feared that the vessel may sink in the Atlantic, They insisted that the vessel should be moved to nearest safety haven in order to avoid possible ecological disaster.

August 6 2012 – A team of firefighting experts was able to board MSC FLAMINIA and continue the salvaging efforts. Boarding had not been possible since July 30 2012. Measures taken at the time were aiming at inspecting areas which had not been accessible so far. Also, data were collected to calculate and assess the stability of the vessel. Smoke emission in cargo hold 7 had declined significantly.

August 9 2012 – MSC Flaminia known position at 9.9.2012 06:55 UTC was 48.23N 009.50W. NSB reported that coastal states were not giving permission to enter their waters. Helmut Ponath, CEO of Reederei NSB comments: “I consider it shocking that in this situation a ship under German flag does not receive a permission from the European countries to call at a port”. The fire onboard MSC FLAMINIA remained under control. The vessel was listing by 10 degrees.

August 13 2012 – MSC Flaminia and salvage tugs still moved around, keeping off EU waters, because they were not allowed shelter by Coastal States. Weather conditions worsened, forcing the suspension of the operations. During the past days the salvage team was able to stabilize the vessel by pumping water from the cargo holds into the ballast water tanks. By then, MSC FLAMINIA was listing by 2.5 degrees. With this list, the vessel was stabilized to the extent that the entry into an emergency port is possible. MSC FLAMINIA and its accompanying group of tugs were holding a waiting position approximately 240 nautical miles off the coast of the UK.

August 14 2012 – The MSC FLAMINIA was sitting off UK territorial waters where she was expected to remain pending a decision by the UK authorities to either allow her to transit through the English Channel or to allow her into a place of refuge, where the salvors could take the steps necessary to stabilise the ship before she could head to into a nominated port of refuge where she could discharge any undamaged cargo. The UK, French, Dutch and Belgian Authorities during those days met with salvors to discuss the casualty’s predicament and to explore the options available. The UK Authorities were particularly concerned that the damaged vessel could cause an interruption to the Olympic events, currently taking place off the West Coast of the UK, and the potential risk to the environment from the extinguishing water. There was also concern regarding the structural integrity of the vessel.

August 15 2012 – There was still no permission for MSC FLAMINIA to enter a sheltered area. NSB and the salvage company remained in contact with all littoral states to acquire mentioned permission. MSC FLAMINIA and its accompanying group of tugs took position over 400 nautical miles west of the entrance of The English Channel to avoid bad weather and expected swell.

August 17 2012 – MSC Flaminia moved in SW direction under tow, convoy was in position 49.05N 019.04W at 01:57 UTC on August 17, at a course 224 deg, sailing some 80 nautical miles during last 24 hours.

August 20 2012 – MSC Flaminia and tugs known position was in 48.22N 020.21W at 18:00 UTC 18.8.12, and presumably, the convoy changed course heading due East or NE at a speed of 5-6 knots. One more mystery was risen that day regarding some containers from MSC Flaminia which went overboard and were reported as a floating hazard in Navigational Warnings.

August 21 2012 –  More than five weeks after the fire and the explosion onboard MSC FLAMINIA, a permission to enter German waters had been obtained in cooperation with the German Ministry of Transportation. The vessel had been assigned to the German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies in Cuxhaven for further coordination.

August 22 2012 – MSC Flaminia and two tugs were proceeding towards UK waters. MSC Flaminia had been granted shelter in German waters after undergoing preliminary survey in UK waters by a joint team of British, Dutch and French experts. Some media said that there were 37 containers on board with hazardous materials, some said about 150 containers with flammable goods, official press-releases didn’t confirm anything at that point.

August 25 2012 – MSC Flaminia and three tugs initially involved in salvage kept moving around, near a spot some 30 nautical miles south of Lizard Lighthouse. NSB in a press-release said that the weather conditions in the area were unfavourable for safety inspection. The German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies reported that a chemist had been included in the team.

August 26 2012 – The Central Command for Maritime Emergencies (CCME) of Germany held a press conference on August 26 in Bremerhaven to inform the media and public on MSC Flaminia latest developments. They reported that there were 151 containers with hazardous materials, mainly chemicals of different types. 55 of them survived the fire intact, 72 destroyed and 24 were damaged. The main concern is the Hold 3, where some spots still had not been found to be too hot. There was a plan to flood Hold 3, calculations showed it won’t endanger vessel’s stability or structural strength. All the chemicals on board, said the CCME quoting NSB and MSC, were of permitted for such vessels and voyages safety Class and didn’t possess an extreme danger.

August 27 2012 – MSC Flaminia and tugs kept moving.

August 28 2012 – Two teams of experts were able to get onboard on August 28. One team consisted of international experts while another had been sent by the German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies.

August 29 2012 – MSC Flaminia and tugs moved due South at a speed of some 2.5 – 3.5 knots, straight to Atlantic again. MSC Flaminia was back on AIS system again. A List of Dangerous Goods was published by the Maritime Bulletin.

August 31 2012 – MSC Flaminia and tugs kept moving around off waters of UK and English Channel, waiting for the results of the tests taken by specialist on August 28, and basing on the results, the final decision of all involved States – Germany, UK, France and Belgium.

September 1 2012 – MSC Flaminia and 2 tugs moved in southern direction as of 01:30, tug Fairmount Expedition was in Falmouth. According to a GL report, stability and firmness of MSC FLAMINIA were not compromised and it was safe to tow the vessel. Furthermore, the situation onboard had further improved. Temperatures in cargo hold 7 were at merely 60 degrees Celsius. The salvage team members were not required to employ any specialized PPE (personal protective equipment) while working onboard of MSC FLAMINIA. Meanwhile, French Maritime Authorities reported MSC Flaminia and 3 tugs were to start transit in the evening August 31, convoy was expected to enter French waters at around noon September 1, under close surveillance of French Maritime Authorities and other responsible bodies.

September 3 2012 – MSC Flaminia was entering the English Channel under tow, heading for Heligoland Anchorage.

September 4 2012 – A team of some 13 specialists were on board MSC Flaminia, monitoring the situation and the condition of the vessel. The main concern of all the parties involved was the environmental safety of the vessel . German Coast Guard ship Neuwerk was to join the convoy, with another team of specialists, including chemists and Task Force of experts from Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance Agency.

September 6 2012 – MSC Flaminia and tugs passed the narrowest part of English Channel, Strait of Dover, and entered North sea. Belgium Coast Guard ship SPN 09 and Navy ship Stern were escorting the convoy.

September 7 2012 –MSC Flaminia and tugs went on a final leg to Heligoland Anchorage.

September 8 2012 – MSC Flaminia and the tugs were closing their destination, being some 45 miles off the Heligoland Anchorage area.

September  9 2012 – MSC Flaminia, 3 initial salvage tugs, plus a German flotilla consisting of Coast Guard salvage ship Neuwerk as a flagship, police boats Bad Bramstedt and Bayreuth, and rescue boat Alfried Krupp, were reaching their destination, reportedly planning to enter Jade-Weser-Port, Wilhelmsvaven. There in a secured and desolated area it had been planned for the vessel to be checked once more by specialists in order to work out the safest offloading plan, and to go on with it.

September 12 2012 – Fire teams were called to MSC Flaminia two times during September 12 according to reports from vesseltracker.com. On September 12 some of the containers heated up to glowing, the fire teams cooled them down and left the vessel to be called back several hours later after another container with pressed paper heated up to more than 200 deg C. Four units cooled the container down to 30 deg using water and foam. The container could not be opened as it was stowed in the hold.

September 19 2012 – According to German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies decontamination works started on board of MSC Flaminia and were expected to last for about 5 days, with the aim of cleaning up the superstructure. Germanischer Lloyd worked out the discharge plan for MSC Flaminia, envisaging both the offloading of the cargo and discharging of water collected in holds during the firefighting. The stability of the vessel during the discharge was one of the main priorities of the salvage. 4 more containers were added to the list of damaged containers with hazardous substances.

September 28 2012 – Some containers from time to time were requiring constant cooling. Containers with dangerous goods were still on board. German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies published a press-release on Sep 28 with the MSC Flaminia salvage update. 80 undamaged containers were offloaded during the day (meaning either daily rate, or just the offload of that day).

October 7 2012 – MSC Flaminia fire claimed one more life. A Filipino crew member died on Oct 7 in hospital in Portugal from severe burns that he suffered in a fire. According to the official statement “During the fire on board of MSC FLAMINIA the 41 – year – old received heavy burns which have been medicated in a specialty hospital for burn wounds in Portugal”.

October 10 2012 – According to a reader of  Maritime Bulletin, MSC Flaminia was traced with the help of live web cam in Jade Weser Port. Vessel was in the same position, with a number of mostly undamaged containers already offloaded.

Extensive information regarding the MSC Flaminia incident can be found in the Maritime Bulletin where the journalist Mikhail Voytenko covered the incident with extensive references and additional information from shippers who had cargo onboard the vessel and ex-captains explaining the situation with dangerous goods in containerships.

Source: Maritime Bulletin

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