Fire Aboard Vessel Contained
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) _ A Coast Guard team today boarded a fire-ravaged Japanese ship carrying 2,500 new vehicles to U.S. buyers.
Coast Guard spokesman Mike Hilley said the cutter Munro met the Coral Ace south of the Aleutians at about 8 a.m. (EDT).
The boarding party reported it could not determine if the fire was still raging in the main hold of the 7,587-ton cargo vessel, and it was reluctant to open hatches to find out. The main hold had been sealed for about 18 hours by early today.
″One of the main problems on the ship is that the main hold is most of the ship,″ Hilley said. ″In that main hold there are 10 cars decks with those 2,500 cars. The master of the vessel doesn’t know if the fire is out. He just doesn’t know.
″He wanted us to send people into the hold to find out and fight the fire if there is one.″
The Munro’s commanding officer Capt. Galen Siddall refused, fearing the open hatches could spread the fire or provide fresh air to start the blaze again, Hilley said. The Munro is not equipped to battle large fires.
″They feel they’ve got a lot to lose if they open that hold up,″ he said.
″Right now, it’s contained in the main hold ... It’s not going anywhere.″
Hilley said if the vessel were found to be seaworthy, it would be taken under escort to the nearest port where the fire could be fought.
The Coral Ace’s 24-member crew had fought the fire for more than a day before the Munro arrived, using sea water when it ran out of other materials.
No injuries were reported on the Panamanian-registered ship, according to the Coast Guard and Japan’s Maritime Safety Agency in Tokyo.
While the Japanese crew fought the fire, other merchant ships stood by in case the crew was forced to abandon ship, the Coast Guard said.
The scene of the fire is about 500 miles south of Unimak Island in the central Aleutians, officials said.
The Coral Ace was chartered by Mitsui O.S.K. Ltd., a leading Japanese shipping company, and was en route from Yokohama, Japan, to Los Angeles.