Haulier fears camping stove accident may have caused ferry fire

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A Bulgarian haulage boss whose company lost 30 trucks on the fire-stricken Grimaldi Lines Euroferry Olympia has said it is “likely" the fire was caused by an accident with a lorry driver's camping stove while cooking in a cab. It is nonetheless just a suspicion, and at the time of writing, the exact source of the fire is unknown. Meanwhile, more lorry drivers and hauliers have publically slammed Grimaldi Lines, accusing it of poor customer service and criticising the standard of cleanliness on the Euroferry Olympia.

Haulier fears camping stove accident may have caused ferry fire
Photo: Greek Fire Brigade

The latest reports from the Greek media this morning stated that 10 persons who were onboard the vessel are still missing. The vessel is being transported to the port of Astakos as the fire fighting and search operations continue.

It is said the staff involved in the operation have been equipped with oxygen and special uniforms as the level of carbon dioxide exceeds 500 Ppm. Moreover, it is reported that rescue workers are only able to do stints of no more than 30 minutes as visibility is very limited.

Videos shared by the Greek fire brigade yesterday show what the scene is like on the boat, while the image above, a freeze-frame of the fire brigade footage, shows a line of trucks burnt to a crisp.

As the crisis enters its fifth day, the relatives of the missing are understandably distraught and urging for rescuers to do everything they can to bring people back alive. Among them was the wife of a Greek truck driver, who yesterday called on rescuers to follow the path of the Belarusian citizen who had escaped the fire.

The source of the fire remains unknown, and it is likely a full investigation will need to be conducted before there is a definitive answer.

However, the co-owner of a Bulgarian haulage firm that lost 30 trucks in the fire is of the opinion that an accident with a gas canister may have caused the tragedy.

Speaking to Bulgarian TV Channel Nova, Ilian Filipov, who co-runs PIMK Ltd, said:

“In my opinion, this [the fire] is most likely from a gas cylinder, because I don’t want to tell you – in every Bulgarian or Turkish truck there are at least one or two gas cylinders or hotplates.”

According to Nova, the haulage boss “admits that there is no company that can deal with this problem” as Filipov says when cooking stoves are confiscated, one inevitably finds its way back into the cab at some point.

If Filipov’s speculative hypothesis is correct, then there is the question of why a driver or drivers chose to spend the night in the cab of their lorry. In theory, they should have had a place to sleep on the ferry and the rules prohibit sleeping in the cab on the vessel.

Among the drivers who have spoken to the press, opinion is divided on the question of how many truckers chose to sleep in the cabs while on the Euroferry Olympia.

Georgi Prisadov, an international truck driver, told Nova TV:

“It is forbidden to sleep in the truck, you have to rest. There are cabins provided. It is not possible to sleep in the truck, because it is narrow and stuffy downstairs.”

However, it is known that at least one driver was in his cab at the time of the fire. The only body that has been found so far was seen inside one of the lorry cabins.

One theory is that some lorry drivers believed the rooms provided by Grimaldi Lines were in such a state that it was actually more comfortable to sleep in their vehicle. This is the opinion of Bulgarian lorry driver Svetoslav Naidenov, who told Nova TV:

“The cabins have never been cleaned. The sheets have not been changed, they are just turned over. Anybody would prefer to stay in the cab, because otherwise it is a great misery.”

The HGV driver, who was onboard the ferry when the fire occurred, said that while the vessel’s alarm clearly sounded after the fire, he saw no sprinkler system being activated.

Another issue that has been highlighted in the Bulgarian and Greek press is how tightly lorries are packed onboard the ferry.

Lachezar Dinov, another lorry driver who survived the fire, told Nova TV about the problem, and reaffirmed the negative opinion about Grimaldi Lines’ rooms:

“The door can open a maximum of 20 cm if another truck stops. The conditions of the ferry are not bad – they are disgusting. At the moment, the cabins are disgusting. Maybe that’s why most colleagues prefer to stay in the trucks.”

Another trucker who commented on the way trucks are crammed in was Mr. Mikroulis, who is friends with two lorry drivers missing on the Euroferry Olympia. He described the vessel as a “mobile hearse at sea”, telling Greek Newspaper avgi.gr that if a driver doesn’t get out of the cab immediately, the proximity of the truck in the next lane can make it impossible to get out.

The same truck driver also alleges that on one occasion he was even removed his room on the ship due to an overbooking. He claims we was then forced to sleep in a makeshift room that he ended up being locked inside.

There has also been criticism regarding the ferry operator’s communication with customers following the fire.

As we reported yesterday, Templar European Logistics, who had 3 trucks and drivers onboard the Euroferry Olympia, described the treatment it had received from Grimaldi Lines as “shocking” and vowed never to use its services again.

Ilian Filipov of PIMK has also been critical. He told Nova TV:

“I was expecting a call with some sympathy and an offer of help if we needed it. I didn’t expect everything. Just one phone call was enough to make you feel that someone is sympathetic about your misfortune.”

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