BREAKING: Fire on Halifax Bound Ship.

The container ship Yantain Express, suffered a container fire yesterday. Efforts to fight the fire were reportedly suspended due to weather.

The ship is a regular caller to Halifax on the EC5 Service and was due today at Fairview cove. That arrival has since been delayed. Hapag lloyd issued the following statement

The crew of 8 officers and 15 seafarers is unharmed. Efforts to extinguish the fire in the containers were launched immediately but have had to be suspended for the time being due to a significant deterioration of weather conditions.

The 7,510 TEU vessel, which is 320 meters long and sails under German flag in the East Coast Loop 5 (EC5) service, was built in 2002 and was on its way from Colombo to Halifax via the Suez Canal. At present, the ship is approximately 650 nautical miles off the coast of Canada.

It is still too early to make a precise estimate of any damage to the vessel or its cargo. Hapag-Lloyd is closely cooperating with all relevant authorities.

Updates will Follow as they are known

UPDATE Jan 4, 1449:
SAR responsibility is with the USCG 5th District (Mid Atlantic) out of Virginia. Awaiting updates from Marlant PAO and USCG 5th PAO.

the last Halifax container fire was in 2001 aboard the 3800TEU Kitano

UPDATE 1542:

USCG 5th District PAO informed me that they were notified of the situation this morning, with the ship approximately 980nm South East of Cape Cod. The USCG watch-standers are monitoring the situation at this time. there is a Good Samaritan vessel on Scene, but no other response at this time.

Photo reportedly from a crew member, sent to

UPDATE 2255:
questions were raised about the authenticity of the above photo. nothing can be confirmed, however there look to be several orange Hapag-Lloyd Containers, and several magenta ONE containers, which suggests a recent photo from a ship operating for the Alliance.

Word is the tug Smit Nicobar is on scene to assist with firefighting, and the BigLift vessel Happy Ranger responded to the initial call and is standing by.

Update Jan 5, 0920:
Hapag-Lloyd spokes person Tim Seifert told me that overnight conditions were still to dangerous for firefighting to continue, and they are waiting on improved weather. the tug did arrive on scene to assist. he was unable to confirm if the photo above is real.

Update 1447:
the supply vessel Maersk Mobiliser has sailed from St. Johns NF to respond. The ship is giving an eta of 4am, Monday the 7th to arrive on scene.

UPDATE 1600:

photo posted to

UPDATE Jan 6, 1200:
12 of the crew have been transferred to the Smit Nicobar, the remainder will be taken off the ship. the Maersk Mobiliser is planning to tow the the ship to Halifax. Weather has improved, and firefighting from the Smit Nicobar is underway.

UPDATE 1300:
the remainder of the crew has been safely removed to the Smit Nicobar. Hapag Llyod reports all crew are unharmed. Firefighting efforts from the tug are ongoing. the ship is now reported to be 800NM off Nova Scotia.

Update Jan 7, 1000:
Maersk Mobiliser encountered heavy weather, and has not reached the ship yet, but is about 80nm away. Hapag-Lloyd has stated that the fire is not under control and has intensified at times. The USCG reports that firefighting is continuing today. The Happy Ranger departed after the arrival of the Smit Nicobar.

UPDATE 1043:

Minor Update – this is now the 5th most popular post of all time.

UPDATE 1252:
Maersk Mobiliser has arrived on scene, and will assist with firefighting efforts before towing the Yantain Express to Halifax.

Update 1428:
the Halifax Employers Association is giving an ETA of the 18:00 on the 16th for the Arrival of Yantain Express. this is probably an optimistic estimate. The tow at a max speed of 5 knots will take about 10Days.

UPDATE Jan 8, 0956:
USCG is reporting that the fire is still burning, with firefighting efforts continuing on and off last night.

UPDATE 1146:
Fire is still burning, Yantain Express is now drifting further from Halifax- now over 1112 nautical miles away.

This has to now be a significant fire. possibly spread to multiple stacks, or into the holds below deck.

The photos below Show what the spacing is like between stacks. Not an ideal place to fight a fire.

Note the Open hold on the right in the photo below.

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More underneath

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Middle hatch

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UPDATE Jan 9 0835:
the tugs are making progress however smoke is still pouring out of the ship according to a Canadian Press Report. the firefighting is taking place under the Direction of Smit, who have likely been hired on as salvors.

UPDATE Jan 10 1000:
Yantain Express looks to be under tow. its now heading towards Halifax at 1.5kn. The HEA is currently showing an eta of the 20th.

Update 1122:
Hapag-Lloyd has released a statement. Wednesday evening the fire was brought under control and is contained. 5 crew were transferred from the Smit Nicobar back to the Yantain express, and the ship was brought under tow by the Maersk Mobiliser, bound for Halifax. a third tug has been dispatched, with an eta of the 13th

UPDATE 1155:
We now have a Damage Report From Hapag-Lloyd:
Further to our CustomerInfo of January 7, 2019 we would like to provide you with following status update:
Based on the currently available information, we have to assume that all cargo in Bay 12 on deck and forward is directly affected by the fire, also all cargo in Hold 1 (Bay 1 to 9). Further, we have to expect that all cargo in Hold 2 (Bay 11 to 17) is affected by fire, smoke and / or damage caused by firefighting water. Damage caused by smoke, heat and / or firefighting water in adjacent areas is possible.
All Reefers in Bay 1 to 24 are without power and switched off. All other Bays with Reefers are continuously supplied with power and in operation.

red line shows stack 24 which is the extent of cargo loss.

Each stack has 3 number assigned to it. Odd numbers are for 20′ containers, and evens are for 40′ containers. essentially this is suggesting that all cargo in the first 8 stacks is effected.

UPDATE Jan 14 1000:

latest from CBC’s Brett Ruskin. I talked to him on Friday. Also Latest position.

UPDATE 1100:
I have been told that Hapag-Lloyd is sending a vessel direct to Halifax. Over the weekend the Tug Atlantic Enterprise arrived at pier 9. Owned by Donjon Marine of New Jersey, they work in a joint venture with Smit providing salvage services. it is assumed to be here as part of the salvage effort.

Atlantic Enterprise at pier 9

UPDATE 1203:
Shanghai trader sailed from Bremerhaven on the the 12th. Hapag Llyod shows it calling on the EC5 service with stops in Halifax and New York. due to arrive on the 18th, according to marine traffic. this will likely move undamaged cargo from the ship. the ship is rated at 5047Teu, and was built in 2005. Owned by Lomar Shipping, this is likely an available vessel for charter.

UPDATE 1324:
The tug Atlantic Enterprise is due to Sail at 9am tomorrow – its currently giving its destination as New Jersey. It arrived from New York.

UPDATE 1500:
the tug Sovereign sailed from Rotterdam with an eta of the 15th. vessel track suggests firefighting efforts have resumed, as weather is reported to be good. The tug is owned by Boskallis – smit’s parent company.

third tug responding
vessel tracks.

UPDATE Jan 15 0750:
The Horizon Star sailed around 6am from Halifax giving Yantain Express as her destination. I have reached out to Horizon Maritime for comment on the tasking.

UPDATE 1318:
TC has received a request for a place of refuge from the salvers.

Position as of noon Atlantic.

due to the length of this post, i have unsticked it from the front page, and replaced it with a link.

UPDATE 1521:
The Horizon Star is apparently bringing a salvage team and supplies to the incident.

UPDATE 2251:

The Philippine embassy in Ottawa released a statement:
“All 17 Filipino seafarers on board the Yantian Express have arrived safely in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on 14 January 2019, after they were evacuated from the burning container ship. Philippine Honorary Vice Consul in Halifax Ms. Elizabeth Eustaquio-Domondon reported that the seafarers were in high spirits and were being assisted by their fleet manager to arrange their return to the Philippines. The Filipino community in Halifax also met the seafarers and provided them with food and other necessities.”

The Tug Atlantic enterprise appears to have sailed out towards the Yantain express, and likely brought the crew back to Halifax. Its unclear how the Crew were transferred from the Smit Nicobar, as the two ships remained about 600km apart.

UPDATE Jan 16 11:50:
G-captain has photos from a crew member of a ship that passed 3 miles from the Yantain Express. the photos were taken yesterday, and smoke is still rising. for the bow of the ship.

Photo: Cameron Brunick via gCaptain

It looks as though the center of the stacks have collapsed and at least 3, if not 4 are significantly damaged. More photos are available at gCaptain

Photo: Cameron Brunick via gCaptain
Photo: Cameron Brunick via gCaptain

UPDATE 1300:
CBC was also provided the photos form the same source.

UPDATE 1330:
Smit Nicobar has sailed for Mexico, which was where it was headed before it responded to the fire. Horizon Explorer is still on route. No word on the Sovereign, which was sailing form Rotterdam. Maersk Mobiliser is in front, so the tow may have resumed at a speed of 2 knots.

UPDATE Jan 17, 0947:
the tug Sovereign has arrived on scene. the Ship may be under tow again, based on speeds and tug position.

UPDATE 2243:
Hapag Lloyd released an update today:
“The salvage operations show continuous progress.

The fire is widely contained and meanwhile the ocean-going tug “Union Sovereign” has arrived at the vessels position on January 15, 2019 to further assist the operations. Another ocean-going tug is on its way.

At this time, it is not yet possible to make a precise estimate of any damage to Yantian Express or its cargo; this can only be more clearly assessed once the vessel reaches a port.

Unfortunately, we cannot provide you with an ETA at the moment; this will be advised as soon as determined. We regret any inconvenience caused by this incident and shall keep you closely informed on actual development of the rescue operation and further proceedings.”

UPDATE Jan 20 2328:
The tow has been underway since the 16th, they have covered ~270nautical miles, making 70 nautical miles per day. Halifax no longer appears to be the destination – One of the tugs is showing Freeport Bahamas as the destination, and the shanghai trader arrived in Savannah Georgia today. That ship was dispatched from Bremerhaven to collect the undamaged containers.

Jan 20 position.

The reason for the change in location is unclear. Certainly not having to deal with North Atlantic weather could be one factor, Another possibility is that Canada refused a place of Refuge. request. I have requested status on this with Transport Canada, and will be attempting to figure out the ships new Destination.

UPDATE Jan 21 1314:
Maersk Mobiliser and Sovereign are giving their destination as Freeport Bahamas. Horizion Star is Headed back to Halifax, with an ETA of the 25th. No Word on a place of refuge from TC or the USCG as of yet.

Freeport does have a sizeable container terminal, equipped for transshipment so its certainly a plausible location.

UPDATE 1433:
We have a response from Transport Canada.

Transport Canada has received the initial request for a Place of Refuge from the vessel MV Yantian Express.
While Transport Canada continues to review the request for compliance with regulatory requirements, the salvage master has not confirmed Halifax as the next port for the MV Yantian Express

Note: I discussed the Insurance implications of this incident, and what a Place of Refuge is in the Chronicle Herald

UPDATE Jan 23, 1255:
the tow still appears to be bound for Freeport. Hapag-llyod released an update yesterday.

Professional salvors continue to assess the situation based upon relevant factors such as safety and operational items, in order to best determine the vessel’s next port of call.
At this point in time we would ask that all US consignees and brokers retract their US Customs entries, if previously made for the MV “Yantian Express” on the intended port calls. This should be performed as soon as possible, however no later than Monday January 28, 2019 .
As Hapag-Lloyd, we intend to remove the manifest for this vessel from the USCBP/ACE files on Tuesday January 29, 2019 . Any subsequent Customs handling instructions will be provided once more details are available.
In case you have further questions at this point about MV “Yantian Express” or your cargo, we have set up a dedicated hotline.
Please contact our experts directly under following telephone number:
+1 833-445-6397
We regret any inconvenience caused by this incident and shall keep you closely informed on actual development of the rescue operation and further proceedings.

UPDATE: Jan 24 1521:
Was quoted in a Canadian Press Piece about this incident. this has been published nationwide. Latest position is Below, via fleetmon and

UPDATE Jan 25 0730:
Hapag Lloyd has released a statement conforming the ship is bound for Freeport. Also interesting to note is that the ship is sailing on its own, with an escort, and not being towed. It looks to be making about 2.5 knots, so the speed has not really improved.

The statement is as follows:

Hamburg, 25 January 2019
“Yantian Express” en route to Freeport

The container fire that broke out on board the “Yantian Express” on 3 January was largely contained and brought under control after one week by immediately launched fire-fighting efforts. Since then, the remaining salvage operations have made considerable progress.

The responsible salvage master from the company Smit has decided today to sail the “Yantian Express” to the Port of Freeport (Bahamas). Once there, the recovery and assessment efforts of the cargo can proceed in a safer environment. At present, the container ship is approximately 1250 nautical miles from the Bahamas and is expected to arrive in Freeport by next week. The “Yantian Express” currently sails with its own machine and in tug escort.

It is still not possible to make a precise estimate of any damage to the “Yantian Express” or its cargo. Hapag-Lloyd is working in close cooperation with all relevant authorities.

The 7,510 TEU “Yantian Express”, which is 320 meters long and sails under German flag in the East Coast Loop 5 (EC5) service, was built in 2002 and was originally on its way from Colombo to Halifax via the Suez Canal.

UPDATE 0922:
Quoted in Bahamas based paper The Tribune

UPDATE Jan 27:
the Shanghai Trader is due in Halifax tomorrow, and appears to be running the EC5 route eastbound, having made stops in Savannah and New York. Hapag-Lloyd released another statement and has now declared general average. I wrote about general average in the Herald a few weeks ago.

Hapag-Lloyds statement is as Follows:

After evaluation of the salvors with regards to safety and operational items, it has been decided that Freeport Harbor, Bahamas will be the next port of call for the Yantian Express, with an estimated arrival by mid next week.
Please also note that General Average was declared. Further details of this General Average process will be provided in the subsequent CustomerInfo.
In case you have further questions at this point about your cargo, we have set up a dedicated hotline and invite you to contact our service team directly at the following number:
+1 833-445-6397
We regret any inconvenience caused by this incident and shall keep you closely informed of future developments.

UPDATE Jan 28:
The ship is now making 10knots under her own power. ETA in freeport is the 1st of February. This is also now the second most popular post on this blog ever.

UPDATE 1043:
The Hapag-Lloyd customer advisory said: “In conjunction with declaring general average, the owners will appoint average adjusters, responsible for coordinating the collection of general average securities and all documentation required from parties with interest in cargo, containers, vessel, and fuel. Cargo interests (or their insurance companies) should plan to contact the average adjusters directly once they are appointed.”

UPDATE Jan 29:
HAPAG-LLYOD has appointed UK-based Richards Hogg Lindley to determine and collect GA and salvage security from each of the parties concerned in cargo on board the ship. Shippers may also be required to pay the cost of the relay of their containers to their bill of lading destination from Freeport. – the ship was missed calls at Halifax, New York, Savannah, Jacksonville and Norfolk

I also heard for the owner of the Shanghai Trader, who told me

“that the Shanghai Trader has been chartered by Hapag Lloyd to carry cargo that would otherwise have gone on the Yantian Express. Afraid certain media reports I’ve picked up have ambiguously been indicating that the Shanghai Trader was be heading toward the Yantian Express to collect her salved cargoes, which I guess is a case of 2 + 2 = 5! “

UPDATE Jan 30:
The Yantain Express arrived off the Bahamas Last night, under her own power, and has an eta at Freeport Pilot of 9am Eastern time. She should be alongside later today, and hopefully i can get some photos from a contact there.

UPDATE 1544:
Hapag Lloyd has posted more information about General Average. In it they confirm that a Lloyds Open Form was signed with Smit

2 principles exist for General Average – Sacrifice and Expenditure. Damage to cargo and Ship caused by firefighting efforts would constitute sacrifice losses. Costs fighting the fire would be expenditure.

Under General Average, the Cargo owners need to provide an Average Bond, and If their Cargo was insured, an Average Guarantee from the insurers, or if uninsured, a Cash deposit. the bond identifies the cargo owner, and triggers the cargo insurers liability.

A salvage security is also required, based on the salvors demand. this is required from each cargo owner as the salvors have a claim on everything saved. When the Master of the Yantian Express Signed the Lloyds Open Form, he separately bound the Ship and the Cargo interests to compensate the salvors for what is saved.

Yantian Express has moved to the inner anchorage off Freeport. the Tugs Maersk Mobiliser and Sovereign remain offshore where the ship was previously anchored.

Update Feb 4:
A Hapag Lloyd Spokesperson told the Canadian Press that the ship is “awaiting clearance to enter the port, and once it does, “the recovery and assessment efforts of the cargo can proceed in a safe environment.” “

UPDATE 1546:
the ship has just tied up at the terminal in Freeport.


Based on the initial inspection, the GA Surveyor has identified 198 containers that were most likely a total loss due to the fire. An additional 460 containers that were stored in the affected area are possibly damaged and will require inspection.

Maersk Mobiliser was released, and is sailing back to Canada. Smit’s tug Sovereign is tied up along side.

UPDATE Feb 13:
The Maersk Mobiliser returned to St. John’s on the 12th. Damage Survey continues – 202 containers are now considered a Total Loss.

UPDATE Feb 19:
the General Average and Salvage securities have been announced. The salvage security was set at 32.5% of Cargo Value, and the General Average security was set at 28% of cargo value. So if you have cargo valued at $100,000 you will need to post a security of 32,500 for the Salvage claim, and 28,000 for General Average. If Cargo owners have insurance, a letter from the insurer indicating they will pay the claim is sufficient. if the cargo is not insured, then a cash bond must be paid to the claims adjuster and salvage arbitrator.

UPDATE Feb 21:
Hapag Lloyd released an update –

“The vessel is actually at a yard in Freeport, Bahamas designated exclusively to receive the distressed containers/cargo. The reason for that are security, health, safety and environmental considerations. The Port Authority is monitoring the preparation of the site and is yet to give their final approval to start discharge operations, which is expected to be received in the next few days. We are in close contact with the local authorities to be able to start discharging of the distressed containers soonest. We hope to receive permission to commence this operation shortly and based on the information currently available, we expect the discharge to take approximate two months.”

UPDATE Feb 22:
Salvage services under the Lloyd’s Open Form contract were terminated on 19th February. Operations to remove the damaged containers from holds 1 and 2 have started.

UPDATE March 5:
Hapag-Lloyd indicated that it is expected to take 5 weeks to discharge damaged cargo.  there is no capacity in Freeport to discharge unaffected cargo, so the ship will likely need to travel to discharge the undamaged cargo, once the damaged containers are removed.

UPDATE March 29:
As of March 26, Cargo operations in Holds 1 and 2 are complete. damaged cargo has been discharged and inspected. Repairs will now be made to the ship, and then the ship will have to relocate to discharge undamaged cargo. there is no eta for this.
while we don’t know the total number of containers aboard, 679 were suspected to be lost or damaged. these container owners would obviously not be paying the GA or Salvage Securities. of the remaining cargo, only 887 containers have provided security, which suggests that most of the remaining cargo is uninsured.

UPDATE April 15:
Undamaged cargo has been restowed on the Yantain Express, and the ship is due to depart Freeport at the end of the month. only 1500 containers have provided salvage security, so this may delay the departure.

The latest update from the GA Adjusters is Below. The Yantain Express will finally be headed for Halifax mid month.

The Yantain Express is finally bound for Halifax. the Latest Update from the GA Adjusters is
Shipowners have advised that repairs to the vessel are nearing completion. Dependent on final technical approval of the classification society and refitting of hatch covers, the vessel is likely to depart from Freeport, Bahamas during the first half of May 2019 with the remaining cargo onboard.The vessel shall then proceed to Halifax, Nova Scotia for delivery of remaining onboard cargoes. The shipping lines will advise the exact date once the forwarding schedule and terminal arrangements have been finally concluded.

UPDATE May 13:
Hapag-lloyd issued another update today – the ship is due in Halifax May 19, with all cargo aboard. From Hapag-Lloyd:

  • Reloading of all containers previously discharged ashore for inspection has now been completed. Accordingly all cargoes, whether security has been provided or not, are now on board the MV “Yantian Express”.
  • Dependent on final technical approval of vessel class, arrival of spare parts and conclusion of repairs, MV “Yantian Express” is now tentatively scheduled to depart from Freeport, Bahamas on May 15, 2019 with an ETA to Halifax, Nova Scotia on May 19, 2019.
  • For those customers who have arranged salvage and General Average security, their cargo will be delivered in the usual way under the relevant contract of carriage. However, all other customers are kindly reminded, that: the salvors will not permit delivery of the cargo until salvage security has been put in place. General Average security needs to be provided in addition prior to delivery of cargo

As of may 13th, 2497 containers have provided security.

This story continues in a separate post with the ships arrival in Halifax.

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9 thoughts on “BREAKING: Fire on Halifax Bound Ship.

  1. Pingback: This Week in the Herald | Halifax Shipping

  2. Ben Goldberg

    With the firefighting activity throwing water on the ship, how do they keep it from swamping? Are the bilge pumps strong enough to pump out the water? Or are they using chemicals to dose the fire?

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