Container ship headed for N.S. being evacuated as firefighting underway

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The U.S. Coast Guard says the entire crew of a large Nova Scotia-bound container ship about 1,500 kilometres southeast of Halifax is being removed, with efforts underway to fight a fire that has been burning on the vessel since Thursday.

Twelve members of Yantian Express will disembark onto the Smit Nicobar, an offshore support tug from Belgium, said Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Canup. 

« It’s simply because the fire is continuing. They have safety concerns just to go ahead and evacuate the crews. However, there have been no reports of any injuries, » he said. 

Eleven of the crew members were already moved to the Smit Nicobar on Saturday. The tug’s crew is now in the process of fighting the fire on the Yantian Express, with the aid of improved weather conditions, Canup said. 

The window for favourable conditions is expected to be short, with the potential that poor conditions could return later Sunday, he said. Poor weather also hampered firefighting efforts Friday and Saturday. 

Meanwhile, he said another tug, the Maersk Mobiliser, is en route from St. John’s to tow the 320-metre ship to Halifax. It’s expected to arrive Sunday evening. 

The international shipping company Hapag-Lloyd said the Yantian Express was en route to Halifax on Thursday when a fire started inside a container on the forward deck and then spread to several other containers. Coast Guard officials in Boston received a call for help early Friday.

Eight officers and 15 seafarers were aboard the ship, which was built in 2002 and is capable of carrying 7,510 standard 20-foot containers. It was en route from Colombo, Sri Lanka, to Halifax. 

A cargo ship from the Netherlands, the MV Happy Ranger, was on scene Friday to offer assistance, but left after the Smit Nicobar arrived Friday night.

A spokesman for international shipping company Hapag-Lloyd, which owns the Yantian Express, told the Canadian Press Saturday that it was too early to assess damage to the ship or cargo. There was also no estimate for when the ship would arrive in Halifax.

Tim Seifert said in an email that the Smit Nicobar was equipped with fire monitors to assist with fighting the fire as weather permits.

Coast Guard officials are monitoring the situation and co-ordinating assets in the area « to make sure all safety and precautions are taken during this time, » Canup said. 

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Poor conditions hamper efforts to fight fire on ship headed for N.S.

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A firefighting tugboat arrived Friday evening to help extinguish a fire burning aboard a container ship that’s about 1,500 kilometres southeast of Halifax, but weather conditions remain too poor for the crew to carry out its work.

The international shipping company Hapag-Lloyd said the 320-metre Yantian Express was en route to Halifax on Thursday when a fire started inside a container on the ship’s forward deck and then spread to several other containers.

« The weather and sea conditions are still difficult and further extinguishing work requires an improvement of these conditions, » said company spokesperson Tim Seifert in an email.

None of the Yantian Express’s eight officers and 15 seafarers are injured.

The ship was on its way from Colombo, Sri Lanka, to Halifax via the Suez Canal.

Seifert said it’s not clear when the vessel will arrive in Halifax.

A cargo ship from the Netherlands, the MV Happy Ranger, was offering assistance to the Yantian Express, but has since been relieved by the firefighting tugboat.

Seifert said it’s too soon to know how much damage the cargo or ship suffered.

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Police confirm vandalism after Coast Guard ship tumbled into water in N.S.

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A Canadian Coast Guard ship is partially submerged in water at a shipyard in Sambro Head, N.S., after falling from its secured cradle in a case Halifax police are investigating as suspected vandalism.

The Coast Guard tweeted late Saturday morning that the CCGS Corporal McLaren had released from the cradle at the shipyard and then slid down the slip into the water.

The vessel is at the shipyard for a refit.

Gregory Wilkie, the captain of the Canadian Coast Guard ship Corporal McLaren, says a salvage company will recover the boat from the water. (Mairin Prentiss/CBC)

Police said in a press release Saturday afternoon their preliminary investigation revealed that someone damaged the slip which caused the ship to slide into the ocean. Police are treating the incident as suspicious. 

Ray Gallant, vice-president of operations with Canadian Maritime Engineering, said Saturday the shipyard was « entered by vandals » on Friday night. He says they cut the cradle cable and safety chain.

He said Halifax police are investigating to determine who was involved in « the act of vandalism. »

Gallant said security checks determined the boat was still in its correct position around midnight. A subsequent check revealed the ship was in the water and the fire department was notified.

He said he is certain the cables were cut with a cordless mini-grinder.

« It’s very obvious. If a cable fails, it frays. This was a clean straight cut. »

He said the primary focus now is safety and the protection of the environment.

The vessel was at the shipyard for a scheduled refit. (Mairin Prentiss/CBC)

The Coast Guard sent environmental staff to the scene to examine the ship and try to prevent any risk to the marine environment.

Gallant says he believes minimal damage has been done to the vessel. The goal is to return it to its former position as quickly as possible to continue with the scheduled work on the ship.

Divers were in the water on Saturday to assess the situation.

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