Navy Tug Fights Fire Aboard Freighter in Liberia

Monday, August 14, 2006
USNS Apache (T-ATF 172) responded to a shipboard fire aboard a commercial freighter while repairing the port of Monrovia, Liberia’s, damaged commercial pier and surveying the city’s harbor, Aug. 10.

The engine room of Tahoma Reefer, an Estonian commercial freighter also paying a call on Monrovia’s port, burst into flames in the early hours of the day. Later that morning, just as smoke from the burning vessel was spotted from Apache’s bridge, the U.S. Embassy in Liberia phoned the ship and asked the crew to respond.

Using the ship’s rigid hull inflatable (RHIB) boat, Apache Chief Mate Troy Bruemmer and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Pete Sharpe, officer-in-charge of the 12-member embarked Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 and three other crew members, rushed to the scene. “When we arrived, we witnessed the deck house of the ship engulfed in flames,” said Sharpe. “All the crew members and the harbor pilot were on the bow, some without life jackets. We returned to our ship to get more life jackets and additional divers to assist.”

While the crew aboard Apache’s RHIB rescued the nine men aboard the freighter, the tug’s civilian master, Capt. Charles Rodriguez, put his ship into action. “As the chief mate, warrant officer and divers removed Tahoma’s crew from the starboard side, Apache approached the ship’s port side and commenced fighting the fire,” said Rodriguez.

Using the tug’s starboard fire stations, Apache worked to put out the flames. More than four hours later, Tahoma’s fire was under control. “Actions under unusual and hazardous situations is what makes life at sea so rewarding and different every day,” said Capt. Nick Holman, commander, Sealift Logistics Command Europe. “The cool heads and fast hands of Apache’s crew and embarked Navy divers during this emergency situation represents seamanship at its best.”

No crew members were injured during the operation. Apache is a noncombatant ship operated by 16 U.S. merchant mariners employed by the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command. Source: From Sealift Logistics Command Europe

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