After more than one week of battling a major fire on the deck of their vessel, the crew of the Charlotte Maersk arrived ashore in Malaysia, safe and triumphant. A ceremony was held aboard the vessel to honor the bravery and competence of the 23 members of the crew.
Reflecting on the weeklong fire-fight that began on 7 July, an emotional Captain Dick Danielsen said he was immensely proud of his crew and their performance in a dangerous and tense situation.
“I’ve only seen the pictures recently and I’ve been watching the damaged containers come off the ship. I’m just amazed we were able to contain this fire. The crew did a fantastic job,” he says.
Training and teamwork trump fear
“I was scared, absolutely. It is every seaman’s nightmare to have a fire at sea,” Danielsen said. “I think we were all afraid, but we also knew what we had to do.”
Every Maersk Line vessel is equipped with full fire-fighting equipment and each month, Maersk Line crews conduct fire drills that simulate different conditions. The Charlotte Maersk crew had simulated two on-deck fires so far this year, preparation that definitely helped them, he said.
“The entire crew is quite familiar with the procedure and the equipment, no question about that. From the time the fire alarm bell sounded, it took seven minutes for everyone to gather in the fire station, prepare and begin fighting,” explained Danielsen.
In the case of on deck fires, it’s the chief officer who is in charge of instructing and leading the crew in the fight, while the captain mans the bridge. Aboard the Charlotte Maersk, as the blaze lasted for several days, the chief officer was assisted in this lead role by the second engineer.
Working in teams of two with the fire hoses and taking turns attacking the blaze, the crew successfully contained the fire by soaking the perimeter containers before professional fire-fighting teams were able to board and take over. Throughout, Captain Danielsen and the second officer manned the bridge, directing the fight and handling communication with Maersk Line’s shore based teams, led by vessel management.
Relief and reward
The day after berthing in Tanjung Palepas on 19 July, a ceremony was held for the crew aboard the ship to congratulate them and show appreciation for their remarkable effort. Without their bravery and skill, the Charlotte Maersk and her cargo may have suffered damages of a much greater extent.
Jesper Praestensgaard, CEO of Maersk Line’s Asia Pacific region, presided over the ceremony. He says he was struck by the camaraderie and emotion of the crew.
“To hear them talk about the focus and determination of their mates, the bravery, there was definitely a strong bond between them after this,” he said.
He added that talking to the crew only reinforced what he always tells customers. “I say ship with us because we’re the best, most reliable and we have the best people on our ships. Well, these are our people.”
With some time to relax and reflect, Cadet Mascarenhas said none of them would forget what they’d been through together. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime event. I’m just glad that no one got hurt and the whole crew is safe. No one should ever go through this, but I value this experience and will forever remember it.”
The cause of the fire is still being investigated