Fire aboard cargo ship in Port Newark now out; Union pushes for new hires

Tuesday, July 11, 2023
Port Newark cargo ship fire now out; Union pushes for new hires
The fire aboard the Italian cargo ship Grande Costa D'Avorio that broke out last week at Port Newark is now out, the Coast Guard said Tuesday.

PORT NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- The fire aboard the Italian cargo ship Grande Costa D'Avorio that broke out last week at Port Newark is now out, the Coast Guard said Tuesday.

The next step is investigating the cause of the fire and breaking down the ship for scrap.

"The salvage process could easily be one to two months," Coast Guard Capt. Zeita Merchant said during a news conference.

Two veteran Newark firefighters died fighting the fire. Augusto Acabou, 45, and Wayne Brooks, Jr., 49, are set to be laid to rest on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

Left: Wayne Brooks, Jr. and right: Augusto Acabou

The ship was carrying used cars destined for Africa with a stop in Providence, Rhode Island in between, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

"The decks of the ship is essentially a parking garage," Port Director Beth Rooney said. "What we had burning were components and parts of cars."

Tests of the air and water around the ship's berth came back below actionable levels, said Kevin Perry of Gallagher Marine Systems, the company hired by the ship's owner, Grimaldi Group, to extinguish the fire and conduct salvage operations.

The Port Authority ruled out that volatile lithium-ion batteries could have been the cause of the fire.

WATCH: Update on deadly cargo ship fire at Port Newark from UnifIed Command

Meanwhile the Newark firefighters' union held a separate news conference Tuesday.

Union leaders voiced concerns about what they describe as aging, poorly maintained firefighting equipment and inadequate staffing levels in the department.

The union says the City of Newark has 80 firefighter jobs currently unfilled.

Derick Waller reports from Port Newark on the deadly cargo ship fire.

Michael Giunta, president of the Newark Firefighters Union, says trucks are being sent out with a contingent of one captain and two firefighters each, despite industry standards calling for crews twice that size.

"According to the city's budget, the Newark Fire Division has 80 unfilled firefighter positions - and even that fails to meet the industry standard set by the National Fire Protection Association," Giunta said.

Governor Phil Murphy says staffing should be increased, but he has not committed to providing state resources to make it happen.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka released the following statement:

"I find accusations of intentional understaffing and insufficient training of our public safety personnel very hurtful, and a personal affront to everything my administration and I stand for. I find the timing very questionable."

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The fire after they became trapped while fighting a fire on

The fire broke out in five to seven cars on the 11th and 12th floors of a ship that was carrying about 5,000 vehicles.