Bulk Carrier explosion in Gibraltar Bay

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I’ve read of plenty of ships (wood and later the last of steel w/sails) that would arrive with fire in the holds, it was not uncommon, in fact, it seems getting the fire out was uncommon! but i never read of any actually exploding, i think that happens only with a lot of dust in the air.
reading that this is a new ship i doubt it was coal powered where it is ground into dust and injected into the fire box.


It is hard to imagine what would cause an explosion inside a vessel’s chain locker. But weird things do happen. The atmosphere inside the chain-locker indeed turned explosive, most likely due to methane gas emitted by coal cargo ‘somehow’ making its way into the ship’s chain locker. The timing of the explosion provides some clues. Sparks from the unraveling chain during anchoring operation would be the ignition trigger needed to complete the fire triangle.

How exactly methane gas entered the chain locker is the investigators’ question.


On Friday evening, February 19, ‘CSSC Cape Town’ arrived in the Bay of Algeciras, coming from Baltimore.

AIS data:

  • Feb 19, 23:03 > dead in the water at anchorage region, half a mile W off the Gibraltar breakwater
  • Feb 19, 23:08 > slowly backing off to SW at 0.3 knots. Later 2 knots
  • Feb 20, 02:21 > leaves Bay of Algeciras with eastward course
  • then, circles East off Gibraltar in the Mediterranean
  • Feb 20, 23:00 > back at GIB-W anchorage, at anchor
  • Feb 22, 21:00 > leaves anchorage, course S then E
  • Feb 23, 01:00 > in the Mediterranean E of Gibraltar, at 15 knots, destination Suez Canal
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Poor souls, lets hope they recover.

Agree, it was a common occurrence on coal fired steamships back in the day, for a fire to smoulder in the coal bunkers. This was not restricted to cargo vessels but also happened in the transatlantic passenger services…