SIU mariners sailing aboard the car carrier Alliance St. Louis recently put their firefighting skills to the test when a malfunction left the vessel adrift off the coast of Louisiana.
At 3:28 a.m. on Jan. 16, the U.S. Coast Guard first received news of the fire, which started in the engine room of the Maersk Line, Limited-operated, 653-foot car carrier. Thanks to the quick actions and response of the crew and officers on board, the fire was quickly extinguished and no injuries were reported.
“About five minutes until 3 a.m., the bridge got the ‘all call’ that there was a fire in the engine room,” said Bosun Nicholas Smithling, who went on to describe the rapid loss of other critical systems. “We were dressed out and ready to fight within minutes, but the blaze was out of control, and they had to dump CO2 four times to put out the fire. Both the unions – SIU and MEBA – worked together to gain control over the fire.”
The SIU crew included Smithling, ABs Vicente Mansilungan, Adiawor Otumfo, Norman Rodriguez, Durlas Ruiz and Shawn Williams, QEE Herbert Hyde, Oilers Andy Illiscupidez and Malachi Tannis, Steward/Baker Robert Seim, Chief Cook Leopold Calderon, and Steward Assistant Armando Castillo. The officers on board are represented by the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA).
Calderon, a Seafarer for nearly 19 years, said the crew remained composed throughout the ordeal: “There was concern, of course, and some of the people were nervous, but we weren’t panicked. Nobody was hurt. Everybody is fine, and that’s the most important thing. Thank God nothing major happened.”
All 12 of the SIU mariners had received thorough firefighting training during their respective times studying at the union-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Education and Training. Officials from Maersk Line, Limited were quick to credit the crew’s training as responsible for containing the blaze.
Smithling added, “After the fire, the crew had to work together to get fuel from the 5 deck up to the main deck by block and tackle.” He went on to describe the rest of the trip into Houston, on emergency power and running low on water. Tugboats were dispatched to tow the vessel into port, and it arrived in Houston on Jan. 24.
The bosun concluded by thanking the crew for their efforts. “I’d like to thank everybody for helping keep it together. We were running out of water, couldn’t shower, sweating in our beds at night, but everybody really came together,” he said. “It really made a good experience out of a bad experience.”