A mechanical malfunction aboard a 600-foot tanker ship docked at the Port of Alaska caused two fires Friday evening and Saturday morning, authorities said. Both fires were quickly contained by the ship’s crew, officials said. No injuries or damage to the port were reported.
The ship was the Hong Kong-flagged Atlantic Lily, the U.S. Coast Guard said Saturday.
Anchorage Fire Department dispatchers responded Friday evening just before 10 p.m. to reports of a “a very, very large backfire boom that everybody heard” at the port, Anchorage Fire Department Assistant Chief Alex Boyd said Saturday.
The boom was a result of an ignition of fuel vapor within one of the ship’s boiler stacks, Boyd said. The smoke ignited unburned fuel in the stack, causing visible flames to shoot out the stack. By the time fire department crews had arrived, the ship’s crew had contained the fire, Boyd said.
“At approximately 10 p.m., thick, black smoke was seen billowing from the exhaust stack of the 600-foot foreign-flagged tank vessel, following by a loud boom and flames,” said a written statement from the U.S. Coast Guard.
The vessel was in the process of delivering some 300,000 barrels of jet fuel for use at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, according to a statement issued by the city.
“The boiler will not be restarted until after fuel off-loading is complete, probably early Sunday,” the statement said. “Atlantic Lily officials hope to complete repairs and testing and to get U.S. Coast Guard approval to depart late Sunday morning or early afternoon.”
The Port of Alaska, AFD and the U.S. Coast Guard created a unified command and stood by as the crews of the vessel worked to extinguish the fire and manage the incident, Boyd said.
Coast Guard officials “are onboard Atlantic Lily and monitoring the situation. Fuel off-loading resumed and technicians are making repairs,” the city said.
According to the Coast Guard, “It was determined that an issue with the vessel’s auxiliary boiler caused an improper fuel-to-air mixture, igniting a buildup of soot in the exhaust stack which resulted in a loud boom and flames.”
Because the ship was under the jurisdiction of a foreign nation, Anchorage crews were not permitted to board the ship but stood by in case assistance was needed, Boyd said.
The department had received reports throughout the evening about an acrid, burning smell in downtown Anchorage that Boyd said was later determined to likely have been connected to the ship’s mechanical issues.
On Saturday morning, while the ship’s crews were offloading fuel from the vessel into tanks at the Port, “the unburned fuel within the stack again ignited,” causing a similar small fire, Boyd said. AFD and the U.S. Coast Guard again stood by while the ship’s crew put out the fire, Boyd said.