Burning Car Carrier Abandoned In Pacific Ocean; Two Missing, Three Confirmed Dead

U.S. Coast Guard, Navy and two merchant vessels are searching for two missing crew members from the car carrier Sincerity Ace which caught on fire approximately 1,800 nautical miles (2,000 miles) northwest of Oahu, Hawaii, the Coast Guard reported on Tuesday. According to the update, good samaritans aboard four merchant vessels have rescued 16 of the 21 crew after the Panamanian-flagged vessel caught fire Monday during a voyage from Japan to Honolulu.

Photo shared to gCaptain’s social media. Photo: Chelsea Martin

According to Gcaptain, three of the five missing crew members were reportedly located, but were unable to be recovered as they were unresponsive and unable to grab onto life saving equipment, the Coast Guard said with search efforts are focused on the two remaining potential survivors in a search area of 5,832 square nautical miles (6,711 square statute miles).

The burning car carrier is currently adrift in seas reported as 15 to 18-feet and winds at 17 mph. Reduced white caps have improved visibility, the Coast Guard said, adding the following update:

“An Air Station Barbers Point HC-130 Hercules aircrew has re-deployed from Wake Island, following mandatory crew rest, to assist in the search. The crews of the Motor Vessel New Century 1 and Genco Augustus are actively searching the area. JRCC Honolulu watchstanders are continuing to identify merchant vessels in the area able to respond and assist."

The merchant vessel crews and a Navy 7th Fleet P-8 Poseidon aircrew will continue to search overnight for the unaccounted-for crew members. Meanwhile, merchant vessels Green Lake, SM Eagle, and Venus Spirit, which diverted to the scene on Monday, have resumed their commercial voyages.

"We are thankful for the assistance the crews of these merchant vessels have given us during this event significantly reducing possible response time,” said Lt. Duane Zitta, Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu. “Their quick actions provided for the rescue of 16 members of the crew who would otherwise still be in the water and are continuing to aid us.”

As Gcaptain notes, the owners of the Sincerity Ace are coordinating with the vessels for the transport of the rescued crew members as a salvage plan is being formalized. Commercial tugs have been dispatched by the shipowner. Involved in the search to date:

  • Two Air Station Barbers Point HC-130 Hercules aircrews
  • A Navy 7th Fleet P-8 Poseidon aircrew
  • Crew of the Motor Vessel Green Lake
  • Crew of the SM Eagle
  • Crew of the Motor Vessel New Century 1
  • Crew of the Motor Vessel Venus Spirit
  • Crew of the Motor Vessel Genco Augustus

JRCC Honolulu received the initial notification of situation from JRCC Japan at 1:04 a.m. on Monday, December 31. The master of the Sincerity Ace reported a significant fire on board, ongoing firefighting efforts, and an intent to abandon ship.

Watchstanders in Honolulu immediately issued a SafetyNet broadcast requesting the assistance of vessels in the area and directed the launch of the Hercules aircrews from Air Station Barbers Point.

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The 650-foot (199-meter) Sincerity Ace is a Panamanian-flagged car carrier and was on a voyage from Yokohama, Japan to Honolulu, Hawaii. The ship was built in 2009 and has capacity of 6,400 vehicles. It is managed by Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd.