Resilience on the High Seas: Genius Star XI Overcomes Cargo Fire Ordeal to Resume Voyage

In a saga reminiscent of maritime resilience and perseverance, the Genius Star XI, a general cargo ship navigating the treacherous waters of the Pacific Ocean, has triumphantly resumed its voyage after battling a cargo fire ordeal that threatened to derail its journey. Nearly eight weeks after initially reporting fires aboard the vessel, which is registered in Panama and operated by Taiwan’s Wisdom Line, the ship has finally received clearance to proceed with its original voyage from Alaska to San Diego, California.

The vessel’s harrowing ordeal began on December 25, 2023 and again on December 28, when it reported fires in its cargo holds, suspected to be caused by the dislodging and shifting of its cargo of large industrial lithium-ion batteries during a rough Pacific crossing. Despite the crew’s valiant efforts to extinguish the flames using the onboard CO2 fire suppression system, the severity of the situation necessitated a change of course for Dutch Harbor, Alaska, under the guidance of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Under the leadership of Captain Christopher Culpepper, Federal On-Scene Coordinator, and amidst severe weather conditions that impeded salvage efforts, a collaborative endeavor ensued to tackle the crisis. Salvage team members and experts mobilized to assess the situation, with thermal imaging confirming the extinguishing of the fires upon the vessel’s arrival at the anchorage. However, concerns of a reflash persisted, prompting the engagement of a Technical Expert Advisory Group to provide consultation on the specialized operations required to mitigate risks associated with the damaged cargo.

After meticulous venting of the cargo holds and installation of an air circulation system, the vessel was cleared to dock at the Unalaska Marine Center on January 30, marking a significant milestone in the arduous recovery process. At the center, operations continued to triage, characterize, and repackage damaged battery components, ensuring compliance with safety regulations and protocols. Notably, despite the challenging conditions and remote location, the vessel underwent thorough inspections by the U.S. Coast Guard, emerging with a clean bill of health and no deficiencies recorded.

Reflecting on the remarkable feat of maritime cooperation and resilience, Bernie Nowicki, State On-Scene Coordinator, lauded the collective efforts that enabled the successful resolution of the crisis. As the Genius Star XI sets sail once more, its AIS signal projecting a journey’s end in San Diego on February 21, the maritime community celebrates a triumph over adversity. Yet, amidst the jubilation, the cause of the incident remains under investigation, underscoring the imperative of continued vigilance and safety measures in the ever-unpredictable realm of seafaring adventures.

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