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West Coast Sailor Captures Container Ship Fire Drama

West Coast sailor and renowned photographer Louis Kruk awoke from an overnight stay in Panama last Monday when he happened to witness the drama of a container ship fire. The Maritime Executive reported the 11,000 TEU* Cape Kortia reported a fire in its engine room while maneuvering toward the PSA Puerto Panama International Terminal, at Balboa.

Cape-Kortia fire
Commuters crossing the Puente de las Americas (Bridge of the Americas, seen above) reported thick smoke blowing across the bridge.
© 2023 Louis Kruk

“It is generally very peaceful, quiet, packed full of views, with ships ghosting to and from the Canal, just a lovely place to stay,” Louis wrote of his accommodations at the Radisson Panama Canal. “This morning, while getting ready for breakfast, which preceded my 1100 Air Panama flight to my boat in Bocas, I stepped out onto my deck, and, WOW, I thought, this is not the typical scene.”

fire on ship
Smoke billows from Cape Kortia’s funnel.
© 2023 Louis Kruk

“The ship did have at least two tugs in attendance,” Louis continued. “Trust me, none of the other ships passing to or from look like they are on fire. None of the other ships are frantically, repeatedly sounding their horn with FIVE blasts.”

Cape Kortia w/sailboats in foreground
The boats in the foreground are on moorings at the Balboa Yacht Club. “Many yachts stage there prior to transiting the Canal,” Louis wrote.
© 2023 Louis Kruk

According to Newsroom Panama, firefighters from the Clayton, Balboa, and Plaza Amador stations assisted in extinguishing the fire, which they say occurred in the ship’s engine room. Also in attendance were Panama Canal Authority tugboats.

The Cape Kortia, which hails from Malta, was arriving in Panama after a trip from ports in South America including its last call in Callao, Peru. No injuries were recorded, though there are unconfirmed reports of the container ship’s having a minor collision with a bulk carrier during the incident.

Louis spent the night in Panama to await a connecting flight and captured the images with “…a relatively primitive, ancient DSLR Nikon D90 with an 18-200 DX lens.” Though he no doubt used an upgraded model for his entry in the 2022 Mirabaud Yacht Racing Image contest and exhibition.

Louis rejoined his own boat, s/y Cirque, on Tuesday afternoon. You can see more of his photography work here.

*TEU — 20-ft equivalent unit — is a measure of volume in units of 20-ft-long containers.


  1. Joe mckeown 1 year ago

    Nice photo Lou, have a fun season on your boat mate!

  2. Joachim Pruefer 1 year ago

    Dear Louis. You are becoming a famous photographer !
    How was your trip on the race boat ?
    I just came back from Tenerife in January.

    Greetings from Shelter Pay Marina

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