Experts tackling fertiliser ship fire report positively

Specialists from the Netherlands and Gibraltar, deployed by US company Resolve Marine, are now inside the stricken vessel, MV Cheshire, which has been drifting south of the archipelago since Monday, August 14, from where they have been assessing the situation and studying how to proceed. The ship’s owners, Bibby Line Limited, have confirmed that the vessel is cooling. This Monday, the cargo freighter was attached to one of the four tugboats, which have accompanied it since Sunday, which, as soon as weather conditions improved, enabled the technicians to board.

The freighter is currently heading east at a speed of 2.5 knots and is drifting about 120 nautical miles south-southwest of the island. The work of the experts onboard is being supported with a helicopter flown in from Mali, last Sunday, which will be used both to ferry technicians and experts between the Cheshire and their base on Gran Canaria and supply them with equipment and materials for their work inside the ship.

“The step being taken now is to evaluate the situation, to quantify the damage, and see if the ship functions by itself or not, among other aspects, to then proceed with the cooling and to take the rest of the decisions”, points out sources from Bibby Line. Afterwards, they say, once the combustion is controlled, they can speed up the work extinguishing the chemical reaction, “it will be towed to about 30 miles from the coast, as long as it is totally safe, as it is easier if you have the resources nearby.”

The work of cooling the chemical combustion is centered around holds two and three, as the reactions that caused fires in four and five are already extinguished. Combustion is continuing in hold number three and white smoke is coming from hold number two, say sources from the Maritime Rescue service.

Experts say that extinguishing the fire completely from the outside is not possible as it is necessary to be on board the ship, “because pouring water over the load does not work as the chemical mass must be punctured with special spears designed to inject water into the heat sources, which are detected using thermographic cameras.

Bibby Line say they still do not know exactly when the combustion, which has been active for ten days, will be completely extinguished, though they expect the work to go much faster now technicians are on board to properly assess.

The damaged ship is heading towards the southern waters of the islands, while authorities and experts try to bring the situation under control. Once it is agreed that it has been made safe, they will try to figure out which is the best port into which the stricken vessel should be brought, for the necessary repair work to be undertaken.

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