Sixteen bodies were recovered over the weekend from the containership Ocean Blessing, which was involved in a collision with a tanker in the Strait of Malacca off Indonesia a week earlier.
Fires raged on both ships for days and still haven't been extinguished on the boxship.There were 46 people on board the two vessels. Five seamen from the Hong Kong-managed boxship remain unaccounted for. One crewman from the 95,000-ton tanker Nagasaki Spirit was killed, two rescued and 22 are missing.
Hopes that any of the 27 still missing could have survived are all but gone. Suggestions that fishing vessels might have taken some to small villages so far have proved optimistic.
The Panamanian-flag containership, owned by Lomita Shipping Co. and on charter to a third party, was managed by Orient Overseas Container Line Ltd. of Hong Kong.
"The Ocean Blessing is now beached on a sandbank near (the Indonesian port of) Medan so we can put out the remaining fire," Stanley Shen of Orient Overseas told The Journal of Commerce. The ship "was listing badly and if they poured any more water in, she might have sunk in the channel."
Most of the bodies were discovered in the port accommodation section.
"The starboard side is still too hot to enter," Mr. Shen said Monday. It has also not yet been possible to get down to the engine area.
The 27,000-deadweight-ton vessel was carrying cargo to the Persian Gulf from Singapore when the collision occurred Sept. 20 off the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The tanker was carrying 40,000 tons of crude to Brunei from Saudi Arabia.
The plan is to tow the containership back to Singapore for further investigation of the accident. Reports from the scene, as yet not confirmed, say two of its holds have yet to be opened for fear of allowing oxygen to fan smoldering fires there.
According to these sources, the ship was carrying charcoal among its load of 1,500 boxes, "and there is little worse than that."
It's not yet clear how the accident happened. The skipper of the tanker radioed a partial distress message suggesting his ship had been attacked by the bands of pirates that infest the area, but officials are skeptical of this.
The Ocean Blessing's bow punctured the No. 4 tank of the Nagasaki Spirit. Experts here suggest heavier crude oil spewed out and formed a kind of skin on the water and decks.
Lighter oil, freed from the inert-gas atmosphere of its tanks, burned fiercely and the heat from that, in turn, was sufficient to set the heavier oil alight and keep the conflagration going.
The Liberian-registered tanker has been detained by Malaysian authorities since it drifted into that country's waters, according to reports from Kuala Lumpur. The ship will be held until the question of pollution is resolved, officials said.