Sea Elegance smoulders off Durban

Oct 12, 2003
Author: P&S

The fire, which engulfed the engine room and accommodation as well as the stern section of the PIL container ship Sea Elegance yesterday, remained smouldering late today (Sunday), with the ship at anchor in the outer anchorage outside the port of Durban.

The vessel, on a voyage from Singapore to Durban with about 650 TEUs on board, caught fire early Saturday morning. Port Louis was the last port of call.

There are conflicting reports as to where the fire began – some early reports suggested a boiler explosion and others report it having started in the ship’s stern hold, while a local newspaper reported a fireman who went on board as saying the engine room was in relatively good condition.

What is known is that one member of the crew of 24 is missing, feared dead and several others who received light injuries were evacuated to hospital in Durban, where they were treated and discharged. Thirteen of the original crew including the master remained on board to help fire personnel from the Durban Metro and National Ports Authority fire departments cope with the blaze. A number of harbour tugs from Durban spent most of Saturday pouring water into the ship’s stern to control the blaze, which has since quietened down but is still smouldering.

Overnight the ship has cooled and is expected to continue to cool. There appears to be no danger of the ship sinking, despite a slight list having developed probably as a result of the water taken on board, and there is no obvious danger to the environment at this stage. The salvage tug John Ross is reported to have arrived from Port Elizabeth and is assisting NPA tugs that are on standby. An environmental protection coastwatch vessel is also on standby.

Principals from Pacific International Lines (PIL) were expected to arrive in Durban from Singapore later today.

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