Car carrier major fire, Pacific

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…Search Continues for Missing Sincerity Ace Crewmen***

…As 14 Migrants Caught Attempting to Cross Channel on Stolen Trawler***

Fire erupted on board of a car carrier SINCERITY ACE in the evening Dec 31 in the Pacific, halfway between Japan and Hawaii.

The ship was disabled and started to drift in vicinity 27N 170E, situation unclear – four crew reportedly tried to abandoned the ship on a life raft, remaining 17 stayed on board and continue fighting fire.

USCG and nearby ships are on alert, car carrier GREEN LAKE (IMO 9158288) and LNG tanker SM Eagle (IMO 9761827) on the scene, apparently engaged in salvage. At least three other ships are approaching distressed SINCERITY ACE. 

USCG report: 
The Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC) in Honolulu received notification from JRCC Japan at 1:04 a.m. of the situation.

Watchstanders in Honolulu immediately issued a SafetyNet broadcast requesting the assistance of vessels in the area and directed the launch of the Hercules from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point.

Two additional vessels, a car carrier, and a tanker are en route. The Coast Guard is also launching a second Hercules from Air Station Barbers Point.

In the meantime, the U.S. Coast Guard, Navy and good Samaritans on board two merchant vessels are continuing the search for two crewmen from the car carrier Sincerity Ace following a fire 1,800 nautical miles northwest of Oahu, Hawaii.

16 crewmembers have already been rescued by four merchant vessels. The Coast Guard reports that three of the five missing mariners reportedly were located but remain in the water as they are unresponsive and unable to grab onto life saving equipment to be brought aboard. Search efforts are focused on the two remaining potential survivors in a search area of 5,832 square nautical miles (6,711 square statute miles).

An Air Station Barbers Point HC-130 Hercules aircrew has re-deployed from Wake Island, following mandatory crew rest, to assist in the search, and the crews of the merchant vessels New Century 1 and Genco Augustus are actively searching the area. 

Weather conditions on scene are reported as 15 to 18-foot seas and winds at 17 mph with reduced white caps improving visibility.

Involved in the search to date:

– Two Air Station Barbers Point HC-130 Hercules aircrews
– A Navy 7th Fleet P-8 Poseidon aircrew
– Crew of the Green Lake
– Crew of the SM Eagle
– Crew of the New Century 1
– Crew of the Venus Spirit
– Crew of the Genco Augustus

The Sincerity Ace is currently adrift on the high seas. A salvage plan is being formalized, and commercial tugs have been dispatched.

On Monday, the master of the Sincerity Ace reported a significant vessel fire, ongoing firefighting efforts and an intent to abandon ship. The 650-foot (199-meter) Panama-flagged vessel headed to Hawaii from Yokohama, Japan. She is managed by Shoei Kisen Kaisha. 

Meanwhile, French police have intercepted 14 migrants at Boulogne who were allegedly intending to cross the English Channel on a stolen fishing trawler. The interdiction occurred in port after suspects were spotted in the act of breaking into the vessel. 

The migrants detained are all Iraqi nationals, and include one mother and one child. An additional two individuals are sought on suspicion of human smuggling, according to AFP.

This latest incident follows days after the UK government reported a spike in the number of people caught while trying to cross the Channel and enter Britain using small boats. About 230 migrants were discovered while attempting to make the crossing last month, including more than 100 who were intercepted by French police before their departure. The others were detected at sea or on arrival near Dover. 

In response to the rising number of crossings, the UK is recalling two patrol vessels from a migrant rescue mission in the Mediterranean to join the sole ship that is currently conducting maritime security operations in the Channel. 

Members of the opposition have described the announcement and the response plan as a political ploy to drum up support for Prime Minister Theresa May’s controversial Brexit plan. The agreement – the product of months of negotiations with Brussels – comes up for a decisive up-or-down vote in Parliament in mid-January. If it is not approved, Britain will leave the EU without a transition plan or a trade agreement at the end of March. 

“There’s no question that with Brexit, and also with the approach of the meaningful vote in January, people are being whipped up about migration issues, because the government thinks this is the best way of frightening people to vote for their deal,” alleged shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, speaking to The Guardian. “It’s the [Nigel] Farage technique: ‘hordes’ of people trying to enter the country. You frighten people about that.”

Fleetmon with additional report from Maritime Executive