Car Carrier Hoegh Xiamen fire and explosion in Jacksonville - Eight firefighters injured

Ran across this little blurb. Sounds like the fire might be out. Marine Traffic shows the ship in the middle of the channel:

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From The Article:

“At least nine firefighters were transported to the hospital Thursday night following their battle with a fire on a vehicle-carrying cargo ship in Blount Island”

“About 150 firefighters were onboard fighting the fire, which broke out around 4 p.m. It started on the seventh floor of the ship. All of the ship’s crew members made it off the ship prior to the explosion…”

So the whole crew who probably were familiar with the vessel made it off safely but 150 local firefighters who probably didn’t know jack about this ship made it on just in time for an explosion? Something sounds off about this scenario IMO?

Here’s the gCaptain post:

Here is a local report:

Unfortunately it looks like the firefighters were badly injured:

The injured firefighters were not identified. Of the eight who where hospitalized, Powers said as of 10:15 p.m. that:

  • Four were taken to a burn unit in Gainesville
  • One was undergoing surgery
  • One was in an intensive care unit
  • Two were on the trauma floor at UF Health

It’s not surprising that the local fire department would take over from the fire teams on the vessel, that’s standard procedure.

As as familiarity there is a requirement that a full set of the vessel’s fire fighting plan be available to firefighters. The plans are typically kept outside near the gangway. In scenarios like this the crew would be expected to assist the firefighters with regards to ship’s layout, hazards and so forth but not actually fight the fire aboard the vessel when alongside.

As to the explosion, according to the article the ship had used cars aboard. It wouldn’t surprise me if that was a factor here.

For one used cars are considered to be more hazardous than new as they are more likely to have defects such as electrical shorts. This is especially true in the first couple hours after loading, after that the battery is more likely to have gone dead.

In U.S. ports it’s not uncommon to see used cars get loaded without having the contents emptied. I’ve seen many weird things inside used cars while making car deck rounds. Unless things have changed could have been most anything in the trunks of the cars or inside a work truck.

EDIT: Looking at the photos it might have been an E/R fire. - 2nd edit article says fire was on the 7th deck so looks like a cargo fire.

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Press release from the Owners of Hoegh Xiamen:

Ships’ crews are trained to fight fires at sea and as well trained as they are, they are not comparable to professionals who have more personnel with more training and equipment. I was involved in one shipboard fire pierside on a MSC ammo ship. When the local FD arrived, I briefed the chief on the source and type of fire and guided him and his troops to the location. When we got there, we pulled our guys back and the FD took over.


Rather skeptical about the ship’s crew being “well trained”. Minimally trained is more like it. Looks like they never closed cargo hold or engine room vent dampers. Also, I’ve seen propensity of crews to use hold-back on fire doors which would contribute to propagation of fire. Never been on this ship but would not be surprised about these types of failures.

Yes, I should have said ‘as well trained as they may be’. There’s no doubt in my mind that firefighting training on some commercial ships is not very rigorous or simply gets pencil whipped.

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Having worked RORO’s, you can close all the dampers you want but if the ramp is down and the WTDs between holds are open it won’t make a difference. I haven’t seen WTDs on RORO’s that can be closed remotely. I also doubt that the EDG would have enough gumption to raise the ramp (if you sec the ER dampers you’ve just lost your main source of power).

While we know how many crew were accounted for, we don’t know how many were on board. Crewing is so reduced on ships these days that with a loss of four crew (ashore or incapacitated) you no longer have sufficient crew for the fire team, boundary teams, ER personnel and bridge personnel.

It’s difficult to say from the article, but it doesn’t sound like this fire spread past the cargoholds. This would imply that at least some of the internal fire doors were properly closed.

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This with Fire doors being blocked open on ship/boats/barges without remote operation was one of my pet subject when doing various types of inspections, audits and surveys. (Together with W/T doors always open)
From what little I know about PCTCs I don’t think this had any affect in this case.
I also do not know much about the culture of Hoegh Autoliners, but this is a statement on their website:

Whether this is “just talking”, or they actually protome a good safety culture among their employees can be debated (and will probably be meet with the normal negative opinions)

I know that they are part of an old, well established and well reputed shipping company, though, but that probably doesn’t count for much here. (They are not American)


Without knowing more details here are some things that come to mind.

The fire was reported just before 1600 hrs so they may have still been doing cargo ops. That means a lot of vents, gas-tight doors and of course the stern ramp was still open.

Leaving the ramp down for access to the holds might have been the best plan. The ramp gives much better access for firefighting. Seven deck would have been one or two deck above the deck the ramp access. Also it takes 15 or 20 minutes to close the ramp.

Direct attack methods with shore-side the firefighters may have wanted the vents left open for ventilation.

To me the big mystery is the explosion. Eight fire fighters seriously injured. Experienced firefighters would presumably be far enough away from a gas tank explosion. I can’t think of anything on the ship in the cargo holds that would cause an explosion that big.

Used car full of ???

Mystery explosion? Fuel and vapor from somewhere ya think? Oxygen already there. The question is"where".

If a space was closed off and then exposed to the heat of the fire, gasses would accumulate without oxygen to burn. Then when in the course of firefighting or investigation an access door was opened, air would be drawn into the space, and the resulting ignition and blowback would cause the same results as an explosion.

Of course but it’s unlikely there are any spaces like that inside the cargo holds. These ships are designed to carry cars with gasoline in the tanks. The only enclosed spaces that I can think of is ladderwells.

Seems more likely it was something related to the cargo.

At a press conference Friday, USCG Sector Jacksonville commander Capt. Mark Vlaun said that the fire is contained to deck levels six and above. Temperatures at lower deck levels remain in the range of 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit, and the response team hopes to contain the “complex” fire above deck six - away from machinery spaces and bunker tanks. The vessel remains on an even keel, with half a degree of list and no change in draft - a sign that the hull cooling effort is not introducing water into the interior. “This is about as much success as you could hope for in this scenario,” said Capt. Vlaun

The salvage team suspects that the explosion resulted from a release of the gases that built up within the interior after the vessel’s fire dampers were closed, Capt. Vlaun said.

Mixed tactics, fire teams using a direct attack with the vents closed for an indirect attack by CO2 but with the ramp still opened.

Five have been released, but three are still in treatment with burn injuries. Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department Chief Keith Powers said that the nature of the injuries includes hand and facial burns, and that the firefighters have a long road ahead for recovery.

2 posts were split to a new topic: Diversity & inclusion helps?

New Video Shows Massive Explosion Aboard Hoegh Xiamen That Injured 9 Firefighters

Doesn’t anyone think that looks like steam more than combustion?? It looks like a pressure system relieving and smoke is white with a tinge of orange vice fossil fuel combustion/detonation and black smoke in the cloud which (the video quality is not awesome) seems to be dissipating the way moisture would? Sure the waste heat system wouldn’t be at normal condition at the dock with ME not running but… if the waste heat was tied to aux and aux had a problem and/or the waste heat reacted to fire fighting efforts…