Burning ship to stay in port
Towing a burning Korean fishing boat out to sea from the Port of Timaru has been deemed too dangerous.
The 70-metre Dong Won 701 caught fire while docked at the port on Monday night and authorities have been struggling to extinguish the fires since.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) South Canterbury area manager Steven Greenyer revealed yesterday that one option considered was towing it out to sea, but this has been deemed too dangerous.
‘‘We had permission to tow the ship out to sea, but when you’ve got a major fire on the front part of the ship, you can’t tow it forward ... towing it from the stern would have meant turning the ship around into the wind, meaning the fire would have come back into the rest of the ship and also placed the tugs in danger,’’ Greenyer said.
‘‘The other issue was if we towed it out and it sinks in the channel then that closes the port, so that was really a last option.
‘‘If the ship had to sink then it’s better that it sinks alongside here (the wharf), rather than out in the channel.’’
PrimePort chief executive Phil Melhopt said port operations were largely back to normal. There were no more delays to ships arriving in port, he said.
‘‘We’re mostly out of the woods, but there is still a lot of work going on to smother the two fires,’’ Melhopt said.
Greenyer said the fires had been contained but there were two still burning in the ship and attempts to suffocate them began on Friday.
‘‘One is still burning in the cargo hold, while another is in the front of the boat.’’
Greenyer said things like the portholes and doors were being sealed up to help starve the fires of oxygen.
‘‘We’re still finishing work to try and smother the fire.
‘‘We’re also using a sealing agent (high expansion foam) to seal up doors and any holes so we can starve the fires of air, and then they’re more likely to go out.
‘‘The accommodation area of the ship and half of the internal area is burnt-out or badly damaged. The rear part of the ship is still intact.’’
A tug boat carrying firefighters is also still being used to cool the sides of the ship.
‘‘We anticipate that this will take some time to fully extinguish.’’
Greenyer said about 20 fire crew members were still attending the blaze, with some coming from as far south as Dunedin.
As the battle to extinguish the fires continued, Environment Canterbury (ECan) has declared a Tier 2 response, under the Maritime Transport Act 1994, which allows it to manage the potential risk of oil or other contaminants getting into the harbour water.
‘‘We have trained responders closely monitoring the situation and will mobilise them should the need arise,’’ said ECan’s on-scene commander for marine oil spills, Richard Purdon.
‘‘In addition specialised containment and collection equipment is in place and ready for use if needed.
‘‘For now it’s a monitoring operation. No oil has escaped from the fishing boat.’’
Fenz is continuing to douse the fire from the outside to reduce the risk the boat could move or sink.
‘‘The area close to the boat is considered too dangerous for our responders to work in. As soon as it is safe to do so, we will deploy a boom around the vessel to contain any potential spill, reducing the risk of environmental harm,’’ Purdon said.
The Dong Won 701 is owned by Dong Won Fisheries and the company’s chief executive, Tae Wang, said on Wednesday it was continuing to work with the port and safety authorities while also attending to the welfare of the ship’s crew.
The fishing vessel Dong Won 701 was still smoking as firefighters continued efforts to extinguish two fires on Friday.