The latest report we can find on British bulk cargo carrier The Cheshire, was from at 0200 UTC on Saturday Aug 19, which sites the stricken ship as drifting in the vicinity 26 10N 01758W, some 95 nautical miles south of El Hierro Island, the westernmost in the Canary Islands archipelago.
A salvage tug, the Red Sea Fos hired by ocean emergency salvage and rescue specialists Resolve Marine, is escorting the vessel at an unspecified distance assisted by the Spanish Marine Search and Rescue (SAR) tug the Miguel De Servantes, two more tugs have been sent to assist, namely the offshore supply vessel the VB Hispania and the Moroccan-flagged port tug Jacques 2.
The chemical reaction fuelled fire is absolutely out of control and growing, according to various reports, and it looks like nothing can be done even to try and bring it under control, because of the toxic fumes billowing from the cargo hold, and because of the distinct danger of a possible major explosion, considering the character of the cargo, ammonium nitrate, and its’ large quantity.
“CHESHIRE in fact, is a floating bomb, loaded with more than 42,000 tons of explosives. Risk of explosion, most likely,” says marine tracking website Fleetmon.com who go on to say that this “is the main reason salvors can’t even pour water or foam on [the] bulk carrier,” even “using water cannons, from a distance which is considered, generally, safe.”
Not in this situation. As one of experts deployed in operation said, “we haven´t faced anything like this before”.
No agreed safe distance for passing the vessel has been designated yet, and no restricted area defined around the burning Cheshire, but vessels are being warned about the risk of a major explosion, and advised to give the vessel a wide berth.