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Ro-ro operator Grimaldi is calling for tighter controls on goods travelling by sea following a second containership fire in as many months.
The 1998-built Grande Europa was hit by a double blaze on Wednesday night, the first breaking out at 12.15am and a second, several decks below, at 4am.
Fortunately, the 25-strong crew were able to extinguish the first fire and bring the second under control, although 15 crew members were evacuated “for precautionary reasons”.
The fire was finally extinguished following the assistance of a Spanish firefighting tug yesterday at around 2pm.
Grimaldi said: “Preliminary investigations suggest the fires started from two different new vehicles on board, and spread to nearby units.
“The management wishes to express its appreciation of the firefighting operations. In particular, we welcome the fact that there has been no loss of life and that the risk of environmental damage has been averted.”
The incident came just two months after the Grande America (pictured above) sank after being abandoned following a container fire.
The 1997-built vessel, with a capacity of 1,300 teu, caught fire in the Bay of Biscay, approximately 150 miles south-west of Brest. Luckily, a British frigate, HMS Argyll, returning to its home port of Plymouth, was in the area and responded promptly to the ‘mayday’ signal.
In very heavy seas, with the ships rolling at 30 degrees, the frigate managed to launch a boat and Royal Marines succeeded in rescuing the mariners from their damaged lifeboat.
Now, after what it describes as the “umpteenth case” of a fire breaking out in vehicles transported by cargo vessels, Grimaldi has called for tighter regulations on what can be transported at sea.
It said: “Grimaldi launches an appeal to introduce more stringent controls and regulations on cargo sea transport, not only for rolling units but also for containers. Notably, with reference to rolling freight, we request that there be more controls on car batteries, which often cause short-circuits onboard vessels, as well as in port terminals.
“Moreover, it calls for the total prohibition of the presence of personal effects in secondhand vehicles, on ro-ro vessels.”
And while the Grande America’s sinking has likely wiped out hope of finding the cause of its fire, Grimaldi has “urged” the IMO to adopt mandatory certification procedures.