87.3 F
Washington D.C.
Saturday, June 22, 2024

Coast Guard Tries to Keep Cargo Ship Steady at Newark Port as Deadly Fire Continues to Burn

Until the blaze is extinguished, some ships -- mostly other vehicle carriers -- are blocked from entering the channel at the nation's second-largest container port.

The Coast Guard is trying to keep a cargo ship that is expected to be on fire for a few more days from capsizing in port as investigators probe the cause of the intense blaze that claimed the lives of two firefighters.

Coast Guard watchstanders at Sector New York received the initial call of a fire on the Italian-flagged multi-level docked cargo vessel Grande Costa D’Avorio, operated by Grimaldi Deep Sea, at the Port Newark Container Terminal on Wednesday night at 9:38 p.m. The roll-on/roll-off ship with 28 crew members carried about 1,200 vehicles along with some containers, and a handful of vehicles on the 10th level of the vessel were initially ablaze.

A Coast Guard response boat out of Station New York, the Newark Fire Department, and supporting state and local agencies responded to the fire, which quickly spread to the 11th and 12th levels of the ship, Newark Fire Chief Rufus Jackson said. Firefighters who responded were forced back by the intense blaze, and two of the firefighters became separated from the group. Arduous efforts to locate the firefighters as the blaze raged, including by specialized rescue teams, eventually resulted in their recovery.

“Two of our bravest here in this city who without hesitation gave their lives and probably that morning didn’t think they’d be fighting the fire on a ship of five thousand cars,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said at a press conference. “Something they had not trained for. And would not return home that evening.”

Augusto Acabou, 45, of Engine 16 and Wayne Brooks Jr., 49, of Ladder 9 died fighting the fire. Three members of the Newark Fire Department and two firefighters from the Elizabeth Fire Department were injured.

The Coast Guard, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Newark Fire Department, and Gallagher Marine Systems, the representative for the ship operator, established a Unified Command in Port Newark.

“On behalf of the Unified Command, I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to the families and colleagues of the two firefighters who tragically lost their lives, and those injured during the response,” Coast Guard Capt. Zeita Merchant of the Port of New York and Jersey said in a statement. “We continue to work closely with our partner agencies and neighboring jurisdictions. Together, we are pooling our resources, expertise, and equipment to enhance the safety of all responders and maximize the effectiveness of our response efforts.”

“Augusto Acabou served as a firefighter for over 9 years and Wayne Brooks, Jr. served for over 16 years, with honorable devotion, remarkable courage, exceptional professionalism, loyalty, and commitment to the city of Newark and this state,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement. “New Jersey has lost two courageous heroes who dedicated their lives to keeping our communities safe. It is with great sadness that we mourn their passing, and we keep their colleagues and loved ones in our prayers.”

The fire is expected to continue to burn for at least a few more days, officials said Friday, with the gas tanks of additional cars catching fire and hampering efforts to extinguish the blaze. Until then, some ships — mostly other vehicle carriers — are blocked from entering the channel at the nation’s second-largest container port.

Murphy told reporters that the fire had spread to two lower levels and encroached about 300 feet forward overnight. The listing of the beleaguered ship is also “a growing concern, it is currently listing 3 degrees toward the dock,” he said, adding that “a 5 to 6 degree shift is the danger zone.” In an effort to stop that, the Coast Guard and a private marine company have been perforating the hull to drain the massive amount of water that has been used to douse flames.

“There is no timeline as to if or when the ship would reach the danger zone, as it remains to be seen how successful this operation will be,” Murphy told reporters.

The cause of the fire, which began as crew members and port workers were wrapping up the process of loading vehicles onto the ship, is under investigation. The Coast Guard said Thursday that no electric vehicles or hazardous cargo were reported to be on board.

“A formal investigation will be conducted to identify what caused the fire and all parties at the federal, state, and local levels as well as the owners are working closely together during this process,” USCG said Thursday.

“Sadly, during the firefighting operations, Grimaldi Deep Sea was informed that two firefighters lost their lives,” Grimaldi Deep Sea said. “All company’s thoughts, prayers and sympathies are with their families and team currently. At this time, it is not known how the fire started, but the company will undertake a full investigation in close cooperation with all relevant authorities.”

author avatar
Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.
Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

Related Articles

- Advertisement -

Latest Articles