Fire breaks out on vessel at NMB harbour
There were dramatic scenes in the Port Elizabeth harbour on Sunday morning when a fire broke out aboard a large fishing vessel berthed near the bulk manganese ore terminal, opposite a massive fuel tank farm in the harbour precinct.
The interior of the 39m green-and-white South African-flagged Lubbetje, which is classed as an offshore support vessel, caught fire shortly before 10am in the western corner of the harbour.
The fire is believed to have started in the galley of the 37-year-old vessel, which was built in The Netherlands.
With hot and humid weather during the early part of the day, the fire was extinguished just as an offshore breeze began picking up speed across the harbour waters.
At least six large fire engines, emergency medical services, police and other emergency services responded, along with a port tugboat equipped with fire-fighting capabilities.
The blaze, which produced large plumes of smoke, was contained shortly before noon.
Security guards stationed at the perimeter of a cordon thrown around the incident site prevented the media from getting close enough to the vessel to see the extent of the damage.
The vessel was still fully afloat after the fire had been extinguished and no major damage to the exterior of the boat was visible from a distance.
With just one main road to the quay where the vessel was moored as well as the fuel tank farm and the manganese dump site, the incident took place amid an influx of manganese ore-carrying trucks – many hauling double trailers.
Some of them were halted and made to wait in a long line at the Baakens Street entrance to the harbour while the fire was still burning.
A number of bulk fuel tanker trucks were also seen entering the port, while a manganese-hauling train with scores of wagons also continued operating in the vicinity of the burning vessel.
A number of patrons seated on the elevated deck of the Port Elizabeth Deep Sea Angling Club, which overlooks the yacht basin, enjoyed a bird’s eye view of the drama – with the fire being fought just a few hundred metres away.
Yachts and other craft entered the yacht basin and traversed other parts of the harbour, unhindered by the fire.
A member of the South End fire station, who did not want to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media, said the station had been alerted to the fire just before 10am.
“Two service vehicles, three pressure pumps and a [water] hose layer were dispatched to the ship,” he said.
“The fire was brought under control at 11.49 and completely extinguished by 1.09pm. “No one was injured.” According to several vesselmonitoring websites, the trawler is owned by Premier Fishing, which could not be reached for comment.