Saving The Factory Ship Athena
By James Donahue
The 344-foot factory ship Athena became the scene of a dramatic rescue of over 100 crew members after fire broke out
amid thousands of cardboard boxes October 27, 2010 in the Atlantic while operating some 270 miles off the southwest coast
Ninety-eight members of the crew of the 18-year-old fish processing vessel escaped in lifeboats after the fire broke
out in the hold where 270,000 cardboard boxes were in storage. The vessel also was carrying ammonia and bunker fuel, which
could have been a volatile mix.
A nearby container ship, Vega, answered the Athena’s distress call and successfully rescued the crew members
from the life boats within an hour after they left the burning ship.
The captain and 12 other members of the ship’s crew stayed aboard the Athena to fight the flames. A British Coast
Guard brought fire fighters to the vessel to assist in battling the fire. In the meantime, the ship was running at about fifty
percent power toward the port of Falmouth.
The Athena was completely abandoned on October 29 after the rest of the crew and the Coast Guard firefighters were
overcome by carbon monoxide fumes. They were airlifted onto a stand-by vessel.
A salvage team moved in to continue to battle the stubborn fire while
tugs brought the smoking ship to Falmouth. Harbor officials would not allow the vessel to enter the port, however, until the
fire was extinguished and the ship was determined save to be in the harbor.
It took 13 days before the fire was at last reported extinguished
and the ship allowed to enter Falmouth Port, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said. The salvage company was expected to
turn the ship back to its owners for repairs.