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Moroccan authorities are investigating after an explosion killed at least seven crewmembers and others injured aboard a bulker chartered by a company in Ethiopia. The vessel Toro Rosso (91,384 dwt) was anchored off the port of Jorf Lasfar waiting to proceed in to load Moroccan phosphate fertilizers.

Reports of an explosion and subsequent fire in the engine room of the vessel which was built in 1997 reached the port authorities shortly after 10:00 a.m. (local time) on May 30. The vessel was approximately eight nautical miles offshore which complicated the rescue operation.

Details about the ship are unclear other than it is registered in Panama. Management has been unknown since late in 2023. The vessel started operations for Japan’s K Line in the 1990s but has been traded multiple times over the years. Her last inspection is listed as 2022 when she was detained for multiple safety issues. The Equasis database lists her class as withdrawn.

The Moroccan authorities are saying there were 28 crewmembers aboard, mostly Syrian nationals, and they initially removed three bodies from the vessel. Some reports are indicating possibly as many as a dozen people were also badly injured with burns and removed by the pilot boat and several tugs before two helicopters were also used to ferry the injured ashore. 

The latest indication is that four additional crewmembers succumbed to their injuries with some reports indicating that a search was still underway on the vessel. The latest death toll is set at seven with nine others injured in hospitals. The other crewmembers were also reported to have been evacuated from the vessel and in the care of the port agency.

Jorf Lasfar is a primary port for the export of fertilizers. Last year it set a new record handling the 100,000 dwt Patricia Oldendorff which was loading a consignment for India. Port officials emphasize that stringent safety measures are followed during the handling of the dangerous material.


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