Coast Guard and partner agencies respond to fire at Port of Wilmington

WILMINGTON, Del. – The Coast Guard, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Wilmington Fire Department, and New Castle Fire Department responded to a fire aboard a Dole Containerized Fruit Carrier at the Port of Wilmington, late Monday evening.

There were 30 people onboard at the time of the incident, and no reported injuries.

The vessel contacted Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay at approximately midnight, reporting an engine fire aboard the ship shortly after leaving the Port of Wilmington. The vessel quickly activated its firefighting system and safely moored back to the pier. The Coast Guard dispatched a boat from Station Philadelphia to establish a safety zone, while responders from Wilmington Fire Department, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Wilmington Fire Department and New Castle Fire Department worked to ensure the fire was contained.

“I believe three things saved the crew and prevented this fire from turning into a major incident: the crew’s immediate actions when the fire erupted, integrated safety systems, and robust partnerships across the port” said Chief Warrant Officer Todd Wardwell, acting as the lead Federal On-Scene Coordinator Representative.

Crews aboard commercial vessels must be proficient with safety protocols and in emergency situations. There are no fire departments at sea so a crew must be trained and a ship designed to contain and fight any fire aboard. In this case, the crew took initial actions and energized a carbon dioxide system to flood the engine room and rob the fire of oxygen.

Local response agencies collaborated to contain and monitor the situation from both land and sea, all of which belong to a port salvage and marine firefighting group. This salvage and marine firefighting group was established in 2018 to build and sustain port-wide preparedness and coordination necessary to facilitate the safe, effective, and unified response to any major fire in the maritime environment.

“The crew’s rapid actions, ship’s safety designs, and multi-agency response to this maritime fire validated safety requirements and the value of coordinated port-wide planning efforts and exercises before a crisis event occurs” said Capt. Jonathan Theel, Sector Delaware Bay Captain of the Port.

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