Commercial salvors have been contracted to manage the marine firefighting effort aboard the car carrier Hoegh Xiamen, which continues to burn at a ro/ro terminal in Jacksonville, Florida.
At a press conference Friday, USCG Sector Jacksonville commander Capt. Mark Vlaun said that the fire is contained to deck levels six and above. Temperatures at lower deck levels remain in the range of 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit, and the response team hopes to contain the “complex” fire above deck six – away from machinery spaces and bunker tanks. The vessel remains on an even keel, with half a degree of list and no change in draft – a sign that the hull cooling effort is not introducing water into the interior. “This is about as much success as you could hope for in this scenario,” said Capt. Vlaun.
According to Vlaun, the cooling provided by the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department’s fire boats likely prevented the ship from breaking up, which would have resulted in pollution and a much more complex salvage effort. “That’s our number one goal now, to keep the ship in one piece so that we can keep the port operating and minimize any potential for pollution,” said Capt. Vlaun.
Gallagher Marine and Resolve Marine have been contracted for the next phase of the firefighting and salvage effort, with Jacksonville firefighters standing by in reserve.
Eight firefighters were injured in an explosion aboard the vessel on Thursday evening and required hospitalization. Five have been released, but three are still in treatment with burn injuries. Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department Chief Keith Powers said that the nature of the injuries includes hand and facial burns, and that the firefighters have a long road ahead for recovery. He thanked the local community for an outpouring of support for the victims.
The salvage team suspects that the explosion resulted from a release of the gases that built up within the interior after the vessel’s fire dampers were closed, Capt. Vlaun said.
The Hoegh Xiamen is carrying a consignment of used cars intended for export to the West African market, according to Jaxport. The cause of the fire is not yet known.
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