Dutch-flagged vessel catches fire off Latvia, crew evacuated

Feb 22, 2023, 3:20 AM | Updated: 3:35 am

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — A Dutch-flagged container vessel en route from Lithuania to neighboring Latvia caught fire in the Baltic Sea early Wednesday morning prompting the 15-strong crew to be evacuated and leaving the vessel to drift in the Gulf of Riga, off the Latvian capital.

The JR Shipping company, based in the Dutch port of Harlingen, said in a statement that the 168-meter (184-yard) container vessel Escape suffered a fire in the engine room.

“Following unsuccessful attempts to extinguish the fire, the master of Escape has taken the prudent measure to evacuate the ship,” the shipping company said. “All 15 seafarers of Escape … have safely been taken onboard the nearby vessel Kairit which is now proceeding to Riga Bay. There are no injuries to the crew of Escape.”

The exact cause of the fire is not yet known, JR Shipping said, adding that “a salvage company has been contracted to respond to the ongoing incident and secure the ship.”

Cor Radings, a spokesperson for JR Shipping, told The Associated Press that the ship “is carrying all sorts of goods” and it wasn’t immediately clear if the vessel’s cargo contained any hazardous material.

“It’s likely, but I can’t confirm as obviously a vessel of that size with the containers on board will normally also have (hazardous) cargo on board,” Radings said in a telephone interview.

Two tugs with firefighting capacity are on their way to the vessel, which was en route from the Lithuanian port city of Klaipeda to the port of Riga.

Escape was built in 2011 and has a gross tonnage of 17,000 tons, the Latvian public broadcaster LSM said,

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Dutch-flagged vessel catches fire off Latvia, crew evacuated