In the predawn hours of May 14th, 2021, a container ship experienced an engine fire approximately 50 miles off the coast of Monterey, California, a dangerous situation only a short distance from a federally protected marine reserve. The engine fire left the vessel powerless and adrift with 24 crewmembers stranded aboard. Immediate concern was for the safety and well-being of the ship’s crew and the stability of the vessel.
Witt O’Brien’s responded on behalf of the ship’s managers and assumed the role of Qualified Individual, leading a Unified Command that included representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, the State of California, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Port of Oakland authorities. This effort demanded a range of unique solutions, including relocation of the command post; addressing vessel crew member safety and subsistence needs; inclement weather conditions; coordination of salvage and marine fire-fighting teams; development of a dead ship tow plan; and coordination of appropriate final berthing arrangements for post incident activities.
This complex response lasted two months. Our on-site and virtual partnership with the vessel owner successfully addressed the immediate life-threatening danger to the crew as well as potential marine life endangerment. We also played a pivotal role in managing the incident until the vessel was safely moored. Our team also supported the owners through a series of post incident issues concerning cargo disposition, vessel repairs, and underwriter coordination.