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Russian-Operated Ro/Ro Catches Fire Off Japan

japan auto lines
The Angara before her departure on the accident voyage (Japan Auto Lines)

Published Jun 27, 2022 3:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

A Russian-operated ro/ro caught fire and burned during a voyage from Japan to Vladivostok, according to Japanese authorities. 

At about 0700 hours on June 25, the Sierra Leone-flagged, Cypriot-owned ro/ro Angara (IMO 9124043) departed an anchorage off Toyama, Japan and got under way for Vladivostok. She had a cargo of 570 used cars on board, according to Japanese outlet Hokkoku. At about 1430 hours she caught fire, the Japan Coast Guard reported.

AIS data provided by Pole Star confirms that at about 1430 hours local time, Angara dropped speed to 1.5 knots and changed heading. She appeared to drift on a northeasterly course, and at about 0400 on the morning of the 26th, her AIS signal disappeared.

The Japan Coast Guard vessel Hamayuki responded to the emergency and helped rescue the 25 members of the car carrier's crew. They were all returned to shore safe and unharmed, but the Angara burned through her cargo decks and her accommodations section, the 9th Regional Coast Guard told Japanese media. A photo of the casualty provided by the Japan Coast Guard shows scorch marks on the vessel's port side and an active fire in way of the bridge deck (below). 

Angara on fire off Wajima (Japan Coast Guard via Hokkoku)

All members of the crew are Russian nationals, and the Russian consulate in Niigata is working on the question of how and when to send them home. "The crew members are accommodated in a hotel, they were not injured, and they have the opportunity to contact their relatives," Consul General Mikhail Sergeev told TASS.

The vessel's commercial operator, Vladivostok-based Japan Auto Lines, reported in a social media statement that it is temporarily suspending acceptance of new cargo at its terminals in Japan, along with all shipments departing Japan. It has not yet issued a statement on the circumstances of the casualty.

While the cause of the fire has not yet been established, used car cargoes have known fire risks that have been well-identified by marine insurers and safety regulators.  

The Angara (ex name Sayama 2) is a 1995-built ro/ro flagged in Sierra Leone, a registry ranked on the black list of the Tokyo MOU flag state performance consortium. She has operated under her current name and ownership structure since June 2021.