On January 5th, 2024, the Salvage Marine Firefighting team executed an air circulation procedure endorsed by the Unified Command after the Genius Star XI, a 410-foot general cargo ship reported a fire on December 30th, 2023. The primary aim of this initiative was to enhance the airflow within the cargo holds of the vessel. Currently anchored in Broad Bay, near Dutch Harbor, Alaska, there are concerns about reignition of the fire. A one-mile safety zone has been set up around the vessel, and mariners wishing to enter the zone must request permission via VHF Channel 16.
In addition to air circulation implementation, agencies are executing on-site and onshore air monitoring. Both the vessel and the Unalaska community have maintained normal air quality thus far. Continuous air monitoring will continue as external air is gradually circulated through the cargo holds.
Emergency personnel effectively removed all depleted CO2 bottles from the vessel for refilling and reinstatement. Once refilled, these bottles will be loaded back onto the vessel to comply with the fire suppression system mandated by the International Maritime Organization’s Safety of Life at Sea regulations.
The Technical Expert Advisory Group is currently formulating a plan for unsealing the cargo hatches and conducting visual assessments once the air circulation procedure is concluded. Additional technical experts are being deployed to assess potential methods for entering the cargo holds to conduct more detailed inspections. The Unified Command, comprising of the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port, Gallagher Marine Systems, and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, remains closely engaged, coordinating response measures for this incident.
There is concern that movement and shifting of the batteries played a role in the fires aboard the vessel. To mitigate this, the salvage team has diligently worked to limit the vessel’s exposure to severe weather and worked to decrease the cargo’s movement. Additionally, they have kept the holds sealed and employed remote sensing techniques to actively monitor and avoid any potential risks of reigniting the fires.
“We applaud the crewmembers aboard Genius Star XI, whose swift actions kept the fire contained to this point,” said Captain Chris Culpepper, Commander of Coast Guard Sector Anchorage. “This will be an ongoing team effort as we work to safely extinguish the fire, provide any necessary medical care for the crew, and mitigate the dangers associated with a shipboard fire.”
An investigation into the cause of the fire will take place once response efforts are complete.