TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — A Dutch-flagged container ship sailing to Lithuania from neighboring Latvia caught fire in the Baltic Sea on Wednesday morning, prompting the evacuation of its 15 crew members. The ship drifted in the Gulf of Riga, near the Latvian capital.
The Escape, a 168-meter (184-yard) freighter, suffered a fire in the engine room, shipping company JR Shipping, based in the Dutch port of Harlingen, said in a statement.
“After unsuccessful attempts to extinguish the fire, the skipper of the Escape took the prudent step of evacuating the vessel,” the firm said. “The 15 sailors from the Escape have been safely accommodated on the nearby vessel Kairit, which is now heading for Riga Bay. There are no injuries to the crew of the Escape.”
The exact cause of the fire was not yet known, JR Shipping said, and “a salvage company has been engaged to respond to the ongoing incident and secure the vessel”.
The ship “carries all kinds of cargo,” Cor Radings, a spokesman for JR Shipping, told The Associated Press, and it was not immediately clear if the ship contained any hazardous materials.
“It’s likely, but I can’t confirm that because obviously a ship of this size with the containers on board will normally also have (hazardous) cargo on board,” Radings said in a phone interview.
Two tugs with firefighting capabilities were heading towards the vessel, which was en route from the Lithuanian port city of Klapeida to the port of Riga.
The Escape was built in 2011 and has a gross tonnage of 17,000 tonnes, according to Latvian public broadcaster LSM.