Crew rescued after tanker catches fire off Sharjah coast

Vessel went up in flames about 4pm, UK Maritime Trade Operations reports

Plumes of smoke rise from the Panamanian tanker about 30km off the UAE coast on Wednesday. The crew was rescued safely and early reports suggest it was 'an accident during maintenance operations', officials said. Courtesy: Wam

Emergency services rescued crew members after a fire broke out on a vessel off the coast of Sharjah on Wednesday.

The tanker went up in flames about 4pm, a representative from the UK Maritime Trade Operations told The National.

The unloaded Panamanian-flagged tanker was about 30 kilometres off the country's coast between Sharjah and Abu Musa island in the Arabian Gulf, and sent a distress call.

The ship, identified as the crude oil tanker MT Zoya 1, previously had 16 Indian and Pakistani crew who were stranded aboard the vessel for a year, unable to come ashore amid a legal dispute over payments. The crew were repatriated in June 2018 but the ship remained off the UAE coast.

The Federal Transport Authority said all departments - including the UAE coast guard - worked to safely evacuate the vessel of its crew, who were unharmed, and extinguish the fire.

"Teams of rescue and emergency response at ports started providing the necessary help once they received the distress call and rescued the tanker's crew," the authority said.

It confirmed the tanker, which has a capacity to carry 2 million barrels of crude oil, was "not loaded with any oil shipments and early reports attribute the incident to an accident during maintenance operations".

A "proper investigation" into the cause of the fire is under way, an official from the UAE's National Media Council said.