Increasingly Frequent And Lethal Container Ship Fires At Sea Are The Product Of More Than Just Bad Luck

Source: Hakai Magazine/Paul Hockenos 

Photo: Ali Yahya/Unsplash


Last year’s horrific inferno on the Maersk Honam was not the first nor even the most recent in a spate of fierce blazes to tear through supersized container ships over the past decade. But it was by far the most lethal.

On March 6, 2018, the Maersk Honam was in the Arabian Sea, on its way to the Mediterranean by way of the Suez Canal. According to the Indian coast guard, the ship sent out a distress signal reporting an explosion and fire. Flames engulfed the main deck’s forward holds, ripped through stacks of cargo, and were heading toward the bridge. The conflagration was so mammoth, with flames shooting 25 meters into the air, that the blaze could be clearly identified on satellite images. The coast guard and nearby ships rushed to the MaerskHonam’s rescue, bringing 23 of the 27-person crew to safety. But four crew members perished in the flames, and a fifth died later. The fire aboard the Maersk Honam continued to smolder into April.

Between 2007 and 2016, fire was the third most common cause of total ship loss, behind ships sinking, and being wrecked or stranded. The rash of fierce fires has alarmed the shipping industry, prompting them to devise new ways to protect cargoes and crews.

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Photo: Ali Yahya/Unsplash

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