Nova Scotia

Likely hundreds of cargo containers damaged by fire aboard Halifax-bound ship

Shipping company Hapag-Lloyd has not released an exact number of cargo boxes affected, but shipping experts say it could be more than 400.

Yantian Express expected in Halifax after Jan. 20

The Yantian Express at Halifax's Fairview Cove container terminal in 2015. (Mac Mackay/Shipfax)

Industry experts say hundreds of shipping containers have been destroyed or damaged by a mid-ocean fire that raged for days aboard the Yantian Express, a cargo ship owned by Hapag-Lloyd.

After nearly eight days of continuous burning, the fire was brought under control late last week. Members of the crew who had fled to a nearby tug boat returned to the ship and continued the firefighting operations, according to the company.

Hapag-Lloyd issued a statement to its customers last Thursday explaining where the fire likely originated and how far the damage spread.

"We do have some people on board," said Tim Seifert, spokesperson for Hapag-Lloyd. "But right now, the focus is not counting [damaged] containers."

Peter Ziobrowski has operated the blog Halifax Shipping News for more than a decade. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

Using the company's detailed description of the damaged areas, shipping experts and observers have been estimating the number of containers lost.

"It's probably somewhere around 400 containers above deck," said Peter Ziobrowski, who has operated the blog Halifax Shipping News for more than a decade.

He said the location of the fire aboard the ship could indicate what type of cargo is burning.

"From Hapag-Lloyd's statement of the affected area of the ship, it suggests that the cargo was classified as hazardous, because they tend to stow hazardous cargo at the bow of the ship because it's the farthest away from the accommodation block," he said.

The ship was coming from Sri Lanka and was scheduled to unload cargo in Halifax on Jan. 4.

'Anything and everything'

As for what's in the containers, Ziobrowski says: "Anything and everything."

"Cars, batteries, toxic chemicals, shoes, clothes — it could be the contents of peoples' homes moving from Europe," he said.

"I've heard from one person who has a bunch of nuts and bolts and industrial fasteners on there."

Customers will have to wait at least another week until the ship arrives.

Containers aboard the ship caught fire when the vessel was roughly 1,900 kilometres from Halifax.

The crew then turned the vessel eastward and let it drift in the current and wind. It was roughly 2,100 kilometres away when it resumed its original westward course for Canada. 

The ship is expected to arrive sometime after Jan. 20.

About the Author

Brett Ruskin

Reporter/Videojournalist

Brett Ruskin is a reporter and videojournalist covering everything from local breaking news to national issues. He's based in Halifax.

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