3 feared dead as salvage mission launched for disabled car carrier in Pacific

Merchant vessels responding to distress calls have rescued 16 crew members from a large car carrier adrift in the Pacific Ocean, about 1,800 miles northwest of the Hawaiian island of Oahu, following a fire, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The Sincerity Ace, a Panamanian-flagged roll-on/roll-off vessel with a capacity of 5,200 vehicles, was headed to Hawaii and U.S. mainland ports with Nissans, and possibly other vehicles.

The vessel master reported a significant fire early Monday morning and intentions to abandon ship. According to the Coast Guard bulletin, three crew members are feared dead and two remain missing. Navy and Coast Guard aircraft, as well as commercial vessels in the area, are searching for the missing crew members in 15- to 18-foot seas.

The Sincerity Ace, built in 2009, is owned by Shoei Kisen Kaisha and chartered out to Mistui OSK Lines, a major vehicle carrier. Shoei Kisen Kaisha is formalizing a salvage plan and has dispatched commercial tugs to the scene, the Coast Guard reported.

No details about the cargo have been officially disclosed, but MOL’s vessel schedule shows the Sincerity Ace loading vessels at Nissan auto terminals in Yokohama and Kanda. The car carrier was bound for Honolulu, followed by Mazatlan, Mexico; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Port Canaveral, Fla.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Newport News, Va.; and Baltimore.

Nissan Motor Co. confirmed it has about 3,500 vehicles on board the troubled carrier. 

“We have no information on the condition of the vehicles at this time,” a spokesperson told Automotive News. “Our thoughts are with the crew members as well as the safety of the rescue teams.”

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In 2006, Mazda’s cargo of 4,700 vehicles had to be scrapped after the MOL vessel Cougar Ace lost stability and listed heavily on a voyage from Japan to North American West Coast ports. The vessel was righted and salvaged after being towed to harbor for repair in the Alaskan islands.

Urvaksh Karkaria contributed to this report.