The mundane process of shipping thousands of vehicles from overseas factories to domestic ports, ahead of distribution to dealers, still contains an element of risk. And few situations are as feared by sailors as a fire at sea.
Reports are rolling in about the fate of the Sincerity Ace, a Panamanian-flagged car carrier en route from Japan to the United States. Ablaze and adrift in the mid-Pacific, the ship, which has a capacity of 5,200 vehicles, has been abandoned. A rescue is underway, as is a salvage operation.
According to Automotive News, the ship’s captain reported a fire Monday morning. The 10-year-old ship, chartered to Mistui OSK Lines by owner Shoei Kisen Kaisha, reportedly loaded its cargo at Nissan terminals in Japan and was en route to its first stop in Honolulu, Hawaii, when the fire broke out. Other ports of call on the ship’s itinerary included Mexico and stops along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard.
The last time something like this went down was 2006, when the M/V Cougar Ace rolled over on its side in the Pacific with 4700 Mazdas aboard. There’s a bit more tragedy here, though:
While 16 members of the Sincerity Ace’s crew were reportedly rescued by merchant vessels responding to the distress call, U.S. Coast Guard aircraft [were] scouring the rough seas for others. Seatrade Maritime News reports two missing crewmen, with three others presumed dead. Ocean swells in the are are said to be 15 to 18 feet high.
Since this report first appeared, one of the crewmen was found; the Coast Guard suspended its search operations, and the fire continues to burn.