Fishing vessel destroyed by fire at sea – crew of 25 rescued

The long liner fishing vessel South West Eagle of the Merlus Group was destroyed in a fire at sea early on Sunday morning and prompted the crew to abandon the ship some five nautical miles off Pelican Point.
The vessel was returning from the fishing grounds to Walvis Bay with a haul of hake, when a fire broke out shortly after midnight on Sunday.
According to a reliable report the crew of South West Eagle could initially keep the fire under control, as the burning vessel was sailing for Walvis Bay. A sister ship, Ambrose Bay, was standing by to assist should something go wrong. Ambrose Bay’s skipper informed the shore skipper at Walvis Bay at around 02:00 that the fire was kept under control and that the vessel was making its way to Walvis Bay.
However, at around 03:00 things turned for the worse when the auxiliary engine driving the vessel’s onboard firefighting system broke down. With the firefighting system knocked out the fire soon raged out of control and the skipper gave the order to abandon the ship.
At that moment in time heavy fog and smoke put further challenges to the crew of the burning vessel as well as the skipper of the Ambrose Bay who was spearheading the rescue effort.
Two tugs from the port of Walvis Bay also sailed for the stricken vessel. The port captain of the port of Walvis Bay accompanied one of the tugs in person and was also seen boarding the burning vessel at some point, as the tugs were taking over the function to fight the fire.
Ambrose Bay was taken on tow by one of the tugs after the fire was back under control and the vessel was docked at Hangana Seafoood Processor’s quay around 06:00 yesterday.
“The fact that our crew of 25 men were safe and uninjured can be attributed to a few factors. The fact that all received basic safety training and kept calm during the procedures to abandon the ship were the most important factors.
The fact that the crew were saved in very difficult conditions aggravated by the smoke and fog is a miracle and we are thankful that our colleagues are safe”, a company representative said yesterday.
An investigation into what caused the fire has begun.

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