Four crew members have been taken to hospital after a fire on board a livestock carrier in Fremantle Harbour One of the crew, suffering from burns is in a critical condition. All four crew members taken to hospital are suffering from smoke inhalation.

PHOTO: Rebecca O'Donovan 7 News

Emergency services were called to the Birksgate road berth at North Fremantle about 8am. The fire is now contained but is still burning this afternoon.

There were unconfirmed reports of an explosion.

DFES Acting Superintendent Paul Heal said the fire spread rapidly through the crew's accommodation area.He said there was no clear cause of the blaze and fire investigation officers were waiting for the fire to be extinguished before they could start their investigation. Photo right : Rebecca O'Donovan/7 News

Acting Supt Heal said the compartmentalised nature of the ship had made it very difficult to tackle the fire."We've got crews at the moment working very well, they are just gaining access via different access points around the ship, around the accommodation area," he said.Stock feed reserves, which can be flammable, are not positioned near the fire area.The damage to the vessel is confined to the accommodation area.

The crew member suffering the most serious injuries and who was transported on priority to Fremantle Hospital was confirmed as one of the members of the ship's own initial fire response."There were some crew members in the accommodation area, they started their own fire attack before we arrived," Acting Supt Heal said.

Acting Fremantle Port Authority Harbourmaster Stuart Davey said the vessel had been in port for several days and it was in the beginning stages of preparing to leave."The ship hasn't started any loading at this stage, they purely got some sheep's feed on board but absolutely no cargo had been loaded at this stage."It would have just been doing its surveys and preloading checks," he said.The vessel was due to load cattle but it is unknown where the ship was headed.
Shipping movement in the inner harbour and parts of the outer harbour has been shut down until the fire is brought under control. St John Ambulance treated the 46 of the overseas-based crew members at the scene after they were exposed to smoke and fire.

"As anyone who has been exposed to a fire on the ship that they've been living on, they are a little bit unsettled but they seem to be coping quite well with everything at the moment," St John Ambulance metropolitan manager Joel Moore said."They don't need ongoing medical treatment at this stage ... they just need a final assessment and approval to make sure there's nothing major going on," he said.The crew were given the medical all-clear and have since left the area on Transperth buses for an unknown location.More than 50 firefighters remain at the scene and are hopeful the fire will be completely out by 4pm.

The ship has its own firefighting systems and has a fresh water capacity of more than 2.5 million litres.According to its owner Wellard's description of the vessel, the 180m ship normally has a crew of 45 people.It has the capability of transporting 75,000 sheep or 18,000 cattle.Authorities have also asked people living north east of the harbour to remain indoors because of fumes.

Source : The West Australian