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Grimaldi car carrier fatal fire in Newark contained after five days

Photo: USCG unified-command-responds-fire-port-newark-vehicle-carrier-ship-grande-costa-davorio
Five days after it erupted, the deadly fire aboard Grimaldi’s vehicle carrier Grande Costa d'Avorio, docked at Port Newark, New Jersey, has now been contained.

The fire, which sadly took the lives of two firefighters from the Newark fire brigade, had started in the upper decks aboard the 2011 built vehicle carrier, which had been loading used automobiles, bound for export, at Berth 18 in the port. In a statement, the US Coast Guard (USCG) said, “the fire is contained on the 11th deck and is being suppressed and no longer spreading to other areas of the vessel. Responders are also continuing dewatering operations on the lower decks. Due to successful dewatering, the vessel has been further stabilized.”

In an update on 10 July the USCG said: "As of Sunday, the 11th deck is being monitored and overhauled to address any remaining heat sources. Responders are dewatering spaces as necessary to ensure continued stability."

Following the outbreak of the fire on the evening of Wednesday, July 5, the USCG, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), Newark Fire Department, and Gallagher Marine Systems (GMS). hired by Grimaldi, had set up a Unified Command in Port Newark- which was working closely with the local firefighters.  GMS had been monitoring air quality in the vicinity of the fire; DonJon Marine was working as a salvor.

The port was partially closed, with PANYNJ Director of Port Operations, Bethann Rooney, saying: “The Port Authority continues to remain focused on maintaining operations across the port…”

Besides the firefighters from Newark, responders from neighboring towns- Elizabeth and Jersey City, had also been deployed to fight the blaze. In a widely quoted response to a press conference query, PANYNJ’s Rooney noted that: “"We do not have a fire department within the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey…we currently rely on the local municipalities, but again as this investigation unfolds, everything is on the table for consideration".

A report published in May, 2022 by Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS), a major property and casualty  insurance carrier, said:  “Fires have also become a major loss driver for car carriers. Among other causes, they can start in cargo holds, caused by malfunctions or electrical short circuits in vehicles, while the open decks can allow them to spread quickly. The growing numbers of electric vehicles (EVs) transported by sea brings further challenges, given existing counter-measure systems may not respond effectively in the event of an EV blaze. Losses can be expensive, given the value of the car cargo and the cost of wreck removal and pollution mitigation.”

Local sources have said that it is unlikely that Grande Costa d'Avorio was carrying EVs.