Ship carrying US troops' cars headed back to Germany after fire
A cargo ship that caught fire earlier this month while transporting cars and household goods belonging to American servicemembers will return with its cargo to Germany for inspection, further delaying the delivery of its contents.
The 52,000-ton MV Courage remains docked in Southampton, England, where on Thursday engineers finished venting the carbon dioxide used to suppress the fire, according to a news release from the U.K. Maritime and Coast Guard Agency. No one was injured in the blaze, which began in the ship’s cargo hold on June 2, as it steamed off the British coast.
Departing from Bremerhaven, Germany, the ship was scheduled to arrive in Baltimore on Monday, the first of several East Coast stops to unload cargo belonging to servicemembers moving from Europe. Other cargo aboard the vessel was bound for American servicemembers in the U.K.
Current plans call for a detachment with the Army’s Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, or SDDC, to board the ship in Southampton in the coming days for an initial inspection of the damage. The ship will then return to Bremerhaven, where its contents will be off-loaded for a more thorough inspection before being loaded onto a replacement vessel. The ship is expected to arrive in Germany in roughly two weeks.
The Courage was carrying commercial vehicles and, according to the SDDC, 461 cars belonging to military personnel and 204 household goods shipments. The fire is believed to have damaged only the cars, although inspectors have been unable to enter the hold to determine which ones.
Thirty-two of the cars came from servicemembers in Naples, Italy, according to Lt. Cmdr. Kerry Baker, with Naval Supply Systems Command.
The company contracted to move the cars, International Auto Logistics, has been contacting servicemembers with vehicles on the ship. A spokeswoman for the company said it will handle all claims arising out of the fire.
International has been criticized for long waits for vehicle delivery since taking over the contract last summer.
This is not the first time DOD employees’ vehicles have been damaged on an American ship. A fire broke out on an American ship bound for Bremerhaven in 2001. Twenty-one vehicles were destroyed and about another 150 suffered varying amounts of damage, according to a TRANSCOM release.
Less than a year earlier, about 160 vehicles were totaled on an American ship out of Baltimore. The ship encountered rough seas and a piece of equipment broke free and pierced a fuel tank. The fuel contaminated the majority of DOD employees’ vehicles on board.
American later sued P & O Ports Baltimore, which stowed the piece of equipment, for damages.
Steven Beardsley reported from Naples, Italy.
Adam Mathis reported from RAF Mildenhall, England.