Major Fire on Ultra-Large Containership Maersk Honam in Arabian Sea, Situation ‘Critical’


The MV MAERSK HONAM on fire in the Arabian Sea, March 7, 2018. Photo: Indian Coast Guard

From gcaptain -Major Fire on Ultra-Large Containership Maersk Honam in Arabian Sea, Situation ‘Critical’

An ultra-large containership belonging to container shipping giant Maersk has suffered what is being described as a ‘serious fire’ in one of its cargo holds in the Arabian Sea.

According to an emailed statement from Maersk Line, the MV Maersk Honam reported a serious fire in a cargo hold on Tuesday 6 March 2018 at 15:20 GMT while enroute from Singapore towards Suez, Egypt.

Four crew members are missing.


IMHO these behemoths have out grown the SOLAS Regs which are hopelessly out of date. Once they catch fire there is nothing you can do,

From todays TW:

"Maersk Line boxship suffers ‘serious’ fire in Arabian Sea

Four crew missing from vessel, but 23 evacuated safely, says Danish shipowner.

March 7th, 2018 02:44 GMT

by Dale Wainwright and Gary Dixon

Published in Casualties

A brand new Maersk Line containership has suffered what has been described as a “serious fire” while transiting the Arabian Sea.

Twenty-three crew members have been evacuated from the 15,262-teu Maersk Honam (built 2017), but a further four are reported missing.

The Singapore-flagged vessel first reported that a fire had broken out in one of its cargo holds at around 15:20 GMT on Tuesday, Maersk Line said in a statement.

The ship, which was en route from Singapore towards Suez, is currently positioned around 900 nautical miles southeast of Salalah, Oman, and 340 nautical miles from the Agatti Isles in India’s Lakshadweep Islands.

“After being unsuccessful in their firefighting efforts, the crew sent out a distress signal and a total of 23 crew members were safely evacuated to the nearby vessel ALS Ceres, which arrived at the scene around 18:30 GMT,” Maersk Line said.

“Regrettably, four crew members remain missing. The fire onboard the Maersk Honam continues and the situation of the vessel is very critical.”

AP Moller–Maersk chief operating officer Soren Toft said the company was now “doing our utmost” to continue the ongoing search and rescue operations.

Indian coast guard mobilised

The Indian coast guard said in a statement that flames from the main deck of the ship rose up to its bridge, a height of about 25 metres. It also said an explosion had been reported.

“The search operations are on and the coast guard assets have been pressed into action,” said inspector general K R Nautiyal, commander of the Coast Guard West region.

“It is our priority to save and rescue the four missing crew and also continue our efforts to salvage the vessel with the assistance of specialised vessels, which are being arranged,” he added.

On Wednesday, the coast guard was planning to deploy its Dornier D-228 maritime reconnaissance aircraft.

The crew were picked up by a boxship, the 4,380-teu ALS Ceres (built 2010), operated by Atlantic Lloyd.

Three other cargo vessels have been pressed into action to search for the missing seafarers.

Maersk said it is rerouting some of its own ships to the scene to assist in the rescue effort.

“The container vessels MSC Lauren, Edith Maersk and Gerd Maersk, all en route in the Arabian Sea, have diverted their routes and are approaching the area with expected arrivals in the early morning Wednesday 7 March local time,” it said.

Maersk Line said it is in the process of informing the relatives of all crew members and acknowledge that this was a “very difficult time for them”.

The bulk of the crew, 13, are Indian, with nine from the Phillipines, two from Thailand and one each from the UK, Romania and South Africa. The captain is Indian.

Crew distressed
 .
“The evacuated crew is obviously distressed, with two crew members currently receiving medical first aid onboard the ALS Ceres,” said Toft.

“We will offer crisis counselling for the seafarers signing-off and returning to their families and our thoughts and deepest empathy go out to the families of the crew members that are still unaccounted for. We will offer them all the support we can in this very difficult situation.”

The cause of the fire is currently unknown, but Maersk Line said it will investigate the matter thoroughly in cooperation with all relevant authorities."


According to the report the fire started in a cargo hold. Presumably the holds are protected by a fixed system. In what way are regs inadequate?


Of course, it may turn out that the size of the vessel had nothing to do with the nature of casualty, but every time I read of a mishap on one of these monsters I am reminded of this observation by Conrad:

Apparently, there is a point in development when it ceases to be a true
progress–in trade, in games, in the marvellous handiwork of men, and
even in their demands and desires and aspirations of the moral and mental
kind. There is a point when progress, to remain a real advance, must
change slightly the direction of its line.

Joseph Conrad, “Some Reflections on the Loss of the Titanic”

Worth reading (and rereading periodically), online here:



“…and a full crew of 1,500 cafe waiters, two sailors, and a boy…”

Dying here… :slight_smile:


Thanks for that link, quite brilliant.


With regards to the unknowns of these huge ships, I agree there. When the APL China threw off 407 boxes and damaged other, $100 million worth, the phenomenon of parametric rolling was unknown.

When the crew claimed that the uncontrolled rolling was both the cause of the damage and the reason the main engine failed it was assumed they were lying to cover for crew error in allowing propulsion loss.

Monsterwellen - Outside Magazine article about the APL China and parametric rolling in a storm in the Pacific Oct 1989.

When lawyers questioned the officers in Seattle, what they heard strained credulity. The scuttlebutt at the longshoremen’s union hall had been that the ship had lost power and gotten caught in the trough between waves. But the officers claimed that the engines had failed after they watched the container stacks fall. Before it ever lost power, the ship had rolled wildly, inexplicably, they said, despite attempts to take evasive action, and at the worst of it, they’d seen “green water” at bridge level.

The Captain of the APL China was attempting to use the standard tactic of turning into the sea. Paradoxically the motion of the ship did not ease until propulsion failed and control of the ship was lost.


Konrad is THE BEST! :wink:


Around the same time I was on the President Hoover southbound about a day out of Seattle rolling in oily swells when we lost the stack immediately aft of the house. It sounded just like a train taking the slack out of the couplings. The entire stack literally lifted vertically and shifted to port, missing the rail on the way over. The ship moved down and to starboard while the stack stayed in place before hitting the water and breaking up. The twistlock sockets were ripped from the hatch cover.

The lashings were tight, my room was directly ahead of that hatch and I could tell by the noise when lashings were loose. There was no more than the normal creaking and banging associated with rolling and the rolling was not all that bad … tiring but not extreme.


Some daylight photos:

Fire and reported explosion forward of the house.






Fixed systems are a last resort and are far from an ideal solution because they do nothing to remove fuel or heat. But to answer your question, SOLAS and FSS are inadequate following areas:

Is the number of crew available for firefighting enough to stop the fire in the incipit stage ? Is the equipment sufficient for the fire teams to perform extended operations? Are there enough SCBA bottles or a cascade system to recharge them quickly?

And what sort of detectors are required in the cargo hold? And, with the size of these holds ever increasing, what is the equipment provided for early detection of a fire within a specific container and for pinpointing the source of a fire within the hold?

Can that pinpoint information be quickly cross refrenced with the manifest and msds data?

If you can detect the fire before it spreads, pierce and flood with a semiportable system and boundry cool… then…


Sure, if the regs are inadequate to start with then they will be insufficient for an ultra-large ship.

However I understood the argument to be that the regs don’t scale to suit the larger ship. I’m not familiar with how the regs change to take into account the larger size, which is why I asked in what way the ultra-large ships “break” the regs.


Your post said “In what way are regs inadequate?” but, regardless… I like this question better.

“Do regs the scale to suit the larger ship?”

To answer that first we need to establish what (equipment, personnel, training, etc) it takes to detect, isolate and contain a container or fire aboard a mega-ship. Once we have established that then we can compare those needs to what we already know about fighting fires on smaller containerships.


that statement “unexplained” or “inexplicable” rolling…?? I think they’re going to have to put a remoted smoke/temp detector in every one of those containers and add a fitting to fill it with foam… oh yea, a light on it too so the fire team can ID the thing. those holds too big to do anything in except call a retardant tanker!!

Parametric Rolling

IMDG Code requires containers containing dangerous goods to be segregated on board ships:

But one of the main problem is that declaration of content is not always accurate, especially for hasardoze and/or flammable goods. Shippers may want to save time and money by not declaring, or is just ignorant of the requirements and dangers they are putting the ship and crew into.

The second problem is inadequate internal stowage and securing of the goods in the containers, which is the responsibility of the shippers, but may not be done properly for much the same reasons.

Questions for those with experience from container ships;

  • How easy is it to access containers stowed in cells below deck, both for inspection and fire fighting??

I believe many of these large container ships are hatch less, thus CO2 is not an option for fixed fire fighting system.

  • What is the alternative most used and most effective??


ultimately I believe the fire will have to be contained within the individual problem container.


Access is not that great. You typically have catwalks at the middle and aft end of the hold but not forward. Container doors are usually obstructed by the framing and stiffeners necessary to combat the torsion stresses.

Hatchless ships are typically of the feeder size. The biggest I’ve ever seen were the ACL ships which are Con-Ro designs.

These big boys have big hatches though a disturbing trend has been to build a ‘water resistant’ versus a water tight cargo hatch. This means there are longitudinal gaps between the separate hatches on top of a hold where in the past there was a gasket seal. It’s a real head scratcher but the class societies keep signing off on it. My fixed CO2 operating manual says to ‘wet tarps and seal the gaps before releasing CO2.’ If you can tell me how to do that with cargo already on deck or how to keep them seated on the back side of a positively pressurized cargo hold, I’ll give you a shiny nickel.

The pictures are very disturbing. This reaks to high heaven of unreported IMDG. There should be no reason flammables were knowingly loaded that close to the accommodation space.


Funny … The old Matson 2 house steamboats like the Manukai loaded explosives on the foredeck just a few feet ahead of the house … the more valuable engineers lived aft.


A post was split to a new topic: Parametric Rolling


From Fairplay today: