More than 23 crew members have been evacuated, but four seafarers are unaccounted for, after a fire in the hold of the 15,262 teu Maersk Honam could not be contained.
According to the Indian Coast Guard (ICG), the vessel was around 340 nautical miles away from the Agatti Island in Lakshadweep, and four merchant ships in the vicinity were asked to help.
"The Indian coastguard service swiftly responded and said that MRCC Mumbai coordinated the immediate rescue of 23 out of 27 crew through merchant vessels in the area". Five other ships and two aircraft-Coast Guard's Dornier D 228 and Navy's Boeing P8i-searched for the missing crew members in the region throughout Wednesday.
The ship is reported to have been en route from Singapore to Suez in Egypt and is now 900 nautical miles southeast of the Omani coastal city of Salalah.
Twenty three crew members were rescued from the sea by a merchant vessel ALS Ceres, which was diverted to the spot by the Mumbai-based Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC) of the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) after getting a distress call from the ship around 9.45 pm. An explosion is reported to have followed the fire with flames rising 25 m above the main deck of the vessel to the bridge.
The spokesperson said: "What we can say is that this is a very serious fire".
Maersk Line said the crew of the vessel Maersk Honam sent out a distress signal after unsuccessful firefighting efforts on Tuesday. The fire onboard the Maersk Honam continues and the situation of the vessel is very critical'. Weather conditions in the area are now fair'.
The 27-strong crew included 13 from India, nine from the Philippines, two Thai nationals and one each from Romania, South Africa and the United Kingdom. "The evacuated crew members are obviously distressed, with two crew members now receiving medical first aid on board the ALS Ceres".
The Wall Street Journal is reporting the vessel was carrying unsafe cargo, although the cause of fire, which broke out in a cargo hold, is still unknown and the fire continues to rage. All impacted customers will be contacted directly. Maersk Line will investigate the matter thoroughly in cooperation with all relevant authorities.