LPG carrier fire in Kerch Strait burns out after six weeks

A month and a half after two LPG tankers caught fire near the Kerch Strait, the blaze has finally burnt out, according to Russia’s Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transport (Rosmorrechflot).

Turkish-operated LPG carriers Maestro and Candy caught fire during a ship-to-ship transfer operation on January 21st. Candy had burned out by the end of February, and the fire on the Maestro died on the evening of Sunday March 3rd, 44 days after it began. The vessel’s propane gas cargo was the source of the fire, and Rosmorrechflot said that the danger of an explosion made it impossible for salvors to extinguish.

Of the 32 sailors working aboard both vessels, only 12 were rescued, while 10 are confirmed dead and 10 are missing.

The Tanzanian-flagged vessels shared a post office box address in Anguilla. Both vessels had been operating in the Black Sea region in the month before the incident, but they were offline when the conflagration occurred.

Both ships appear on the list of vessels known to the US Treasury to have been involved shipping petroleum to Syria, while the Maestro appears to have been banned from the LPG terminal at the Azov Sea port of Temryuk due to alleged violations.

The speculation therefore was that a ship-to-ship transfer of LPG was taking place to circumvent port access restrictions or sanctions.