The Incident

A fishing vessel called a port to unload its catch prior to being refuelled from a road tanker on the quay. At that time, the ship’s main engine and a generator were running to provide power for operations being carried out on deck.

During the unloading, a crewmember saw smoke emitting from the engine room, when they raised the alarm. Consequently, refuelling was stopped and the crew mustered on the quay to establish that everyone was accounted for.

The engine room vent flaps were all closed down, the fuel shuts-offs were operated and the engine room was flooded with CO2 from the vessel’s fixed fire-fighting system.

When listening to the alarm, the port authority called the fire service, who quickly arrived on the scene. They assessed the situation, and roughly 20 minutes after the CO2 had been released they opened the engine room door and declared the fire extinguished.

The fire didn't burn for a long time, that's why the damage to the engine room was limited to wiring and smoke damage.

The precise cause of the fire was not determined, but the source was likely to be an electrical control box on the side of the main engine.

The fishing vessel was towed to a shipyard for repairs before returning to service.

Lessons Learned

  1. The benefits of conducting regular fire drills are clearly evident from this accident. Once the alarm was raised the crew were able to react quickly and minimise the spread of the fire. Establishing that all crew were accounted for enabled the fixed fire-fighting system to be released swiftly after closing down the engine room.
  2. The sooner the fire-fighting system is activated, the greater the chance of success, and less damage may result.
  3. Coupled with drills is the need to ensure safety equipment is maintained and can be operated effectively. Ensure vent flaps are free to move, can close effectively and that your fixed fire-fighting system is maintained using authorised contractors. This safety equipment may not help you fish, but it may save your life one day.
  4. Although the fire was not fuel-related, during fuelling operations it is a good idea to minimise running machinery, and ideally a crew member should be posted in or near the engine room. This will ensure that someone is available to react swiftly to any emergency given the higher risk of fire spread during fuelling. Equally, having a crew member in the wheelhouse will ensure any alarm that sounds can be acted upon quickly