On Saturday, 2/17 a fire broke out on the 770’ self-unloading bulker ST. CLAIR (IMO 7403990), leaving the aft superstructure destroyed, as well as much of the internal self-unloading machinery and possibly the hull. The vessel was sitting in winter layup when the incident occurred, one that was believed to be caused by welding work taking place on the ship. Rubber from the ship’s unloading system and conveyor belt caught fire, and it is still unclear the exact amount of damage inside the vessel. At one point, the ship’s entire 250’ self-unloading boom was engulfed in flames, as you will be able to view in a photo gallery I will post with this topic. The fire burned for over a day before it could be completely extinguished, and speculation arises about whether it will be determined a total constructive loss, or could be rebuilt efficiently.
Here is the original reports from Saturday and Sunday:
2/17 - Oregon, Ohio - Noon update - Thick black smoke is still coming from the cabin area of the St. Clair. This is almost 16 hours since the first alarm was sounded for this fire.
The Coast Guard was conducting pollution assessment of the Maumee River. Watchstanders in the Coast Guard Sector Detroit Command Center were notified of the fire about 9: 30 p.m. by members of Coast Guard Station Toledo. The Coast Guard responded along with fire fighters from eight local fire departments
The external fire is currently under control. Preventative measures continue on adjacent ships using water-cooling techniques.
A helicopter crew and a pollution responder, aboard a helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Detroit, conducted an aerial observation of the area at first light Sunday and determined there was no pollution in the Maumee River.
9 a.m. update - Sunday morning the fire is still burning in the accommodations block of the St. Clair. Pictures from the scene show extensive heat damage through the vessel from the unloading system at deck level to the upper cabins. Fire crews are reported to be making progress but it is unknown when the fire will be extinguished.
12 a.m. update – Late Saturday firefighters in Toledo were battling flames aboard the St. Clair docked at the Port of Toledo. The fire department was dispatched about 8:45 p.m. to the Torco Dock. Arriving firefighters reported seeing smoke and fire from the vessel’s stack. An aerial ladder was hoisted to attack the blaze. No one was aboard, and there was no cargo on the vessel at the time of the fire.
Nearly two hours later, residents several miles away reported they smelled burning rubber and saw gray smoke in the air. The St. Clair arrived for winter lay-up at the Torco Dock on January 14. Repair work is performed on a vessel while they are in lay-up, it is not uncommon to have welding crews completing steel work.
Pictures posted to social media showed fire crews pumping water onto the stern and others showed the entire length of the self unloading boom on fire. The unloading conveyor belts run under the cargo hold and then loop through the accommodations block. A fire spreading through these spaces could cause catastrophic damage to a vessel covering multiple decks.
Fire fighting efforts have also been hampered by lack of water, there was only one hydrant reported in that area and the river was said to be frozen. Crews have been unable to fight the fire from aboard the vessel adding to the concern for the fire spreading through the ship.
Fire crews have been working to keep the fire from spreading to the Great Republic, dock off the St Clair's starboard side.
Reports from Toledo Blade, WTOL, USCG, local reports and various Social Media reports.
There is a forum topic with ongoing discussion about this on the Great Lakes & Seaway Discussion Board, which you can view here: http://newsearch.boatnerd.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=121236&sid=3ee6db2802a2ea59120fab4c18ffc4ba
There is also a collective photo gallery from multiple sources of the during and aftermath of the fire on the ship:http://www.boatnerd.com
- Click on the “News Channel” tab, and there is a post with gallery attached to it, (the gallery doesn’t seem to have a unique link, otherwise I would share it directly) as well as several other updates posted about the fire. Really interesting pictures!
I thought I would share this incident with the worldwide community, and would love to hear thoughts on it. Specifically, I’d like to hear thoughts about the possible hull damage that could possibly take place with extreme heat on the steel that sits in frozen water, if anyone has any knowledge on that.