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Barbours Cut Cargo Ship Fire Kills 2 M/V Stride Crewmembers, Critically Injures a Third

A fire aboard a cargo ship docked at the Port of Houston tragically claimed the lives of two crew members early yesterday morning and sent a third to the hospital with severe burns.

M/V Stride Fire Broke Out in Engine Room

The January 8th blaze erupted around 3:30 a.m. aboard the M/V Stride, a Panama-flagged ship managed by the Danaos Shipping Co. While it’s not clear how the fire ignited, officials with the Baytown Fire Department have since confirmed that it started in vessel’s engine room.

All three victims were found in the engine room, where they were attempting to battle the fire. Two unidentified crewmembers were pronounced dead at the scene, and a third was airlifted to a Houston hospital in critical condition.

Fire crews reported that the blaze had been extinguished shortly after 7:30 a.m.

M/V Stride Was Being Loaded at Barbours Cut Terminal

The M/V Stride container ship had been docked at the Barbours Cut Container Terminal since Sunday, January 7th.

 The 27-year-old vessel was built in 1997 and is 597 feet long (182 meters) with a capacity of 2,174.  According to Container News, OSCO Shipping Lines had chartered the ship from Danaos to operate a service connecting the Port of Houston with Guatemala, Honduras and Colombia. That service was launched in June 2021 as a joint operation with CMA CGM.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the U.S. Coast Guard are among the agencies investigating the Port of Houston container ship fire. So far, officials have confirmed that the vessel was alongside a fuel barge and being unloaded when the blaze broke out.

So far, there’s no timeline for when the investigations into the Barbours Cut cargo ship fire might conclude. Depending on the complexity and scale of an incident, an NTSB investigation can often take a year or more. Once the probe concludes,  the Board will issue a publicly available report detailing their findings and recommendations for preventing similar disasters in the future. 

While not enforceable, NTSB recommendations carry significant weight and have been instrumental in driving safety improvements across various transportation-related industries.

Container Ship Fires Are on the Rise

Container ship fires like the M/V Stride disaster are becoming increasingly common in both U.S. coastal waters and around the world. In fact, according to the 2023 Allianz Safety and Shipping Review, there have been 64 reported fires on containerships in the past five years alone.

Just last month, for example, the Genius Star XI  was ordered to remain off the Alaska coast after a fire fueled by a cargo of lithium-ion batteries broke out in its hold and continued to burn for days. Fortunately, all 19 crew members aboard were able to escape the vessel uninjured.

In July, a cargo ship carrying thousands of cars off the Dutch island of Ameland caught fire in the North Sea, claiming the life of one crew member and injuring 22 others. The prior year,  another cargo ship transporting 4,000 luxury vehicles, including Porsches and Bentleys, caught fire and sank off the coast of the Azores.

The Allianz report cites several factors driving the uptick in container ship fires, including new types of cargo being transported, such as electric vehicles (EVs) and other goods powered by highly flammable lithium batteries. It is also estimated that mis-declared dangerous goods, such as chemicals, batteries, and charcoal, factor into roughly a quarter of all container ship fires.

At the same time, onboard fire safety rules, firefighting systems, and risk-management practices haven’t kept up with the growing risk. 

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Our Undefeated Maritime Lawyers are monitoring developments related to the Port of Houston container ship fire and will post updates as new information becomes available.

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