Burn­ing ship to stay in port

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD AND JOHN BISSET

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.

PHOTOS: JOHN BISSET/STUFF

The fish­ing ves­sel Dong Won 701 was still smok­ing as fire­fight­ers con­tin­ued ef­forts to ex­tin­guish two fires on Fri­day.

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