A ship and its cargo of lithium-ion batteries was anchored in Broad Bay near Dutch Harbor, Alaska, Dec. 31 after a salvage and firefighting team determined there was no immediate risk of a new flareup after a fire in the battery cargo space, Coast Guard officials said. 

The 410’x69’x20’, 13,663 dwt Genius Star XI was carrying the batteries from Vietnam to San Diego, Calif., when the fire broke out Dec. 28. The crew of the Panama-flagged ship flooded the cargo department with carbon dioxide suppressant and called the Coast Guard, who told them to divert to Dutch Harbor.

The 19 crew members were unhurt, and team of marine firefighting experts from T&T Salvage and Resolve Marine boarded the Genius Star XI Dec. 29 to assess the vessel’s condition. They found no signs of structural deformation or blistering outside of the compartment, and Coast Guard Sector Anchorage issued a captain of the port order for the ship to remain two miles offshore, with a one-mile safety zone established around it.

Late Saturday Coast Guard officials said temperature readings and other indicators showed the condition of the vessel was stable.

Technicians from the salvage and marine firefighting team remained onboard to continuously monitor environmental indicators.  If they detected any indicators of heat or other hazardous situation that could pose a threat to local Unalaska island communities, Coast Guard officials said they would the direct the Genius Star XI to proceed offshore.

“The situation is stable right now and maintaining the M/V Genius Star XI at anchor allows for a safer environment for our team to operate and reduces risk of hazardous cargo movement,” Coast Guard Capt. Chris Culpepper, captain of the port at Dutch Harbor, said in a Sunday update.  “M/V Genius Star XI remains operational and can get underway at a moments’ notice.”      

As a precaution, the Unified Command also directed an Emergency Towing System to be on hand if Genius Star XI were to lose propulsion and needed to be towed offshore.  That Emergency Towing System will be pre-staged aboard the ship and affixed for rapid use.  

A unified command for the incident includes the Coast Guard captain of the port, Gallagher Marine Systems, and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

The dangers of shipboard fires involving lithium-ion batteries has been attracting close attention from shipping companies, maritime safety authorities and insurers since a February 2022 fire on the vessel Felicity Ace, which was carrying 4,000 cars from Germany to the United States when it caught fire and burned for 13 days, with the crew safely evacuated.

Some cars on board were electric vehicles and authorities said burning batteries made the fire difficult to bring under control. The ship finally sank under tow near the Azores.

The motor vessel Genius Star XI sits at anchor near Dutch Harbor, Alaska on Dec. 30, 2023, after a fire in its cargo of lithium-ion batteries was brought under control. T&T Salvage and Marine Firefighting Team photo.


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