Shisha sends Hapag-Lloyd boxship up in smoke

Germany’s Federal Bureau of Maritime Casualty Investigation has issued a detailed 73-page report into the dramatic fire that ripped through Hapag-Lloyd’s Yantian Express boxship a year ago while en route to Montreal.

The accident investigators have pinpointed a box taken on in Vietnam with a misdeclared cargo as the likely source of the fire. The burnt out container was found to have coconut charcoal rather than the coconut pellets specified in the cargo documents, likely being exported to be used for shishas.

The German authorities sent an email to the forwarder and the consignee of the cargo, requesting further information on the cargo but did not receive a reply from either party.

The cube-shaped pieces can also be used for barbeques. If transported in large quantities, the investigators found the substance can ignite at a temperature of less than 50 degrees.

The fire on the 7,500 teu ship raged for many days. A total of 662 boxes were damaged of which 320 were completely destroyed in the inferno. No crew were injured during the blaze.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Dark black coal/charcoal like materials, are prone to getting overheated very slowly, often discreetly especially if some oily or volatile material present within the mass usually gets extremely overheated/vaporized in very thin layers also above involved oily/volatile material’s flash point and/or auto ignition temperature air/oxygen of empty spaces/voids supports initial combustion and subsequent explosion/inferno starts chain thermo chemical reaction to create a large fire as well as in this case most probably!!!!

  2. Vessel was due to dock in Halifax, not Montreal. Following rework and repairs Yantian Express returned to Halifax from Freeport in The Bahamas.

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