- MSC Flaminia
- Accident date
- Atlantic Ocean, International waters
- Accident area
- south-west of the English Channel
- Spill area
- Cause of spill
- Explosion, Fire
- Product transported
- 2 876 containers
- Ship / structure type
- Container ship (6750 TEU, single hull)
- Built date
- 300 m
- 14.5 m
- MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company)
On 14 July 2012, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, a violent explosion (whose cause remains as yet unexplained) occurred in hold n°4 of 300 metre-long container ship MSC Flaminia, en route from Charleston (US) to Antwerp (Belgium) with 2,876 containers onboard.
A crew member who was attempting to extinguish the fire caused by this explosion was reported missing. A second seaman died from his injuries. Three other injured crew were taken to Azores, while another ship transported the rest of the crew (German, Polish and Filipino nationals) to Southampton (England).
A second explosion occurred four days later, on 18 July. The fire raged for 9 days and spread to two other holds.
The container ship, abandoned by its crew, was listing by 11° due to the displacement of the cargo and the filling of the holds with the extinguishing water. The superstructure, engine room and steering system were unaffected by the fire.
The number of containers that had fallen overboard was unknown.
In mid-October, a third crew member died from his injuries.
Before considering letting the MSC Flaminia enter a European port, experts inspected the vessel to ensure that there were no further fire or explosion hazards in the containers and that the structures were sufficiently solid to withstand towing, despite the intensity of the explosions and fire.
After a period spent in international waters during which the fire was brought under control and stability restored, permission was issued on 19 August for the ship to be taken to British waters.
The salvage and towing operations privately organised by the German shipowner were carried out by Dutch company SMIT.
The MSC Flaminia was towed by the Fairmount Expedition, assisted by the Anglian Sovereign, on charter to the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency, and Italian tug Carlo Magno.
On 23 August, the ship arrived near Lizard Point where it underwent an in-depth inspection by an international team to determine whether it was safe to tow the vessel to Germany, its Flag State, which had offered refuge to the vessel.
Delayed by adverse weather conditions, the MSC Flaminia and its tugs set off on the morning of 3 September, passing through the Channel towards the Pas-de-Calais and then on to Wilhelmshaven.
During the journey through French territorial waters, the convoy was accompanied by the French State-chartered tug Abeille Languedoc. In Dutch waters, the Dutch vessel Arca accompanied the stricken vessel.
On 9 September 2012, the MSC Flaminia arrived in the German port of Wilhelmshaven. Work began on the vessel a fortnight after its arrival. Once the extinguishing water has been removed, the cargo will need to be unloaded and the ship repaired.
Cedre was called upon by the Belgian authorities as the focal point of the Mar-Ice network, whose main purpose is to advise the maritime authorities of European countries in case of maritime emergencies, as well as by the French authorities.
The Emergency Response Department conducted an in-depth analysis of the environmental risks related to the presence onboard of 150 containers of various hazardous substances.
Fire and explosions onboard container ships are inherent shipping risks.
Reference can be made to other similar incidents:
- Hyundai Fortune, in 2006, south of Yemen
- Hanjin Pennsylvania, in 2002, off Sri Lanka
- CMA Djakarta, in 1999, in the Mediterranean.
In these three cases, the supposed causes were calcium hypochlorite and explosives for fireworks. Despite difficulties, the three vessels were towed to ports of refuge and the containers unloaded. In the case of the Hyundai Fortune, the ship lost between 60 and 90 containers overboard when the explosion occurred.
Sea & Shore Technical Newsletter, 2015-2016, n° 42-43
Havariekommando, Central Command for Maritime Emergencies (CCME) (content in English and in German)
Maritime Bulletin, Background and photos of the incident
Marine traffic, Information on container ship MSC Flaminia (AIS data)
Mediterranean Shipping Company, Incident information
Bundesstelle für Seeunfunfalluntersuchung (Federal Bureau of Maritime Casualty Investigation), Investigation report