Alaskan Bulk Tanker Fire

by resolveadm on December 11, 2007

+1 954 764 8700 / + 1 954 257 2868


Firefighters from Resolve Fire & Hazard Response, Inc. led a fire attack team from the US Coast Guard and a municipal fire department to extinguish a smoldering wood pulp fire aboard the M/V Star Eagle, a 589 foot Norwegian flagged, open hatch, single deck bulk carrier, off the coast of Dutch Harbor, Alaska. The fire occurred in the ship’s number one cargo hold and it took four days to completely extinguish the fire. The cargo hold was filled with wood pulp, the final raw product before made into paper and the Star Eagle has nine holds with combined pulp bale capacity of 42,000 cubic meters.

Resolve’s responsibility was to make sure the fire was completely out, leaving the ship in a safe manner. Resolve met with the United States Coast Guard (USCG), local officials, and ship crew, and created an operational plan to begin temperature monitoring to determine the temperature of the cargo hold. Equipment and personnel from the Unalaska Fire Dept (UFD) and the damage control team from Coast Guard cutter Morgenthau, were utilized. Resolve conducted a visual survey of the exterior of cargo hold #1, and a visual survey of the hold from the port ballast tank utilizing confined space entry techniques. Resolve conducted atmospheric monitoring of the port and starboard tunnels, measuring oxygen levels, explosive gases, hydrogen sulfide, and carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide was released into the holds to smother the still smoldering pulp while the Morgenthau damage control team conducted boundary cooling on port and starboard sides of cargo hold to cool the steel.

There was a 60 degree temperature difference between the outside air (25 degrees Fahrenheit with sleet) and the bundles (80-90 degrees Fahrenheit). The bundles were still warm two days after cargo hold opened. The warm bundles provided the potential for tunnel, where slow combustion can occur due to the slow smoldering generating heat in the middle of the bales. The USCG removed the damaged bundles from the cargo hold and placed them in a container on deck for transport to their final destination. About 100 bundles were ruined and removed from the cargo hold. According to the USCG, the cause of the fire was determined to be clad welding in an adjacent ballast tank.

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