Machinery Spaces Casualty: A Real Life Accident

On August 2015, a dredger left Dagenham and proceeded along the east coast of the UK to its designated loading area. Approximately 1 hour before arrival at the loading area, the officer of the watch called the third engineer to prepare the machinery for loading. Third engineer in engine room and changed the alarm and monitoring system from its remote to local control for manned machinery space operations. He then, started No.2 generator and transferred vessel’s electrical load from shaft alternator on to No.2 generator and prepared the dredging pump which would be powered by the shaft alternator. Due to a defect, No.3 generator was unavailable for use. Loading commenced, after which there was no further communication between the bridge team and the third engineer prior to the accident. Loading proceeded as planned, when a fire detector activated. Fire detection panel on the bridge indicated that the fire was within engine room. Alarm was reset on the fire detection panel, which was situated on the bridge, but it immediately reactivated, sounding throughout the accommodation on each occasion. The alarm was then reset again but it activated for a third time, alerting the rest of the crew, some of whom had already responded to the initial alarm and had proceeded to the bridge. The remaining crew then mustered rapidly on the bridge, which was the designated emergency station, except from third engineer, who was on watch alone in the engine room, and the chief officer, who was asleep following his period of duty. Third engineer, was burned in fire and later die. On account of fire, which was extinguished following activation of the CO2 smothering system, the vessel lost all power and remained at anchor with its dredging equipment partially deployed for 9 days until it could be taken under tow and delivered to a repair facility.

What caused the incident?

The third engineer was attempting to repair a failed fuel pipe when fuel, under pressure in the pipe, ignited.

  1. No one else on board was aware of a failed fuel pipe or that the third engineer had apparently decided to repair it.
  2. The third engineer was using a portable angle grinder to access the repair site, and had underestimated the risk of doing so.
  3. Possible contributing factors to the third engineer’s underestimation of risk were that he had neither carried out a formal risk assessment nor sought a permit to work prior to commencing the repair.

10 necessary actions to be followed in case of  machinery spaces casualty

  1. Advise engineer officer on watch.
  2. Call Chief Engineer / Inform Bridge
  3. If necessary shut down operations in Engine Room.
  4. Co-ordinate with Bridge Operation of Emergency Squads.
  5. Verify Status of Engine Room Staff and Operations.
  6. Check for navigational hazards in vicinity.
  7. If necessary - make appropriate sound signals.
  8. Exhibit NUC shapes/lights as necessary.
  9. Switch on VHF - Channel 16.
  10. Prepare for anchoring if considered necessary

SQE Marine has further prepared a detailed checklist aiming to inform about the necessary actions to be followed, in case of machinery spaces casualty.