The incident

At around 0123 on 21 November 2019, ro-ro cargo, motor vessel Eurocargo Trieste had left Livorno, for Savona, Italy. There were 25 crew members onboard and the vessel was laden with trailers.

At around 0220, shortly after dropping off the outbound pilot, a fire broke out around the starboard main engine. The engine-room crew initially tried to fight the fire but soon had to vacate the space. The crew members were then mustered, and the firefighting team tried to enter the engine-room to fight the fire.

Due to thick smoke and difficulties to enter the space, the fire-fighting team retreated, and the master decided to flood the engine-room with CO2. The gas was released at 0230. The vessel contacted Livorno’s port authorities at 0240 requesting fire-fighting assistance.

At 0304, the first pilot boarded the vessel and at 0320, a tugboat started the deck boundary cooling. The Livorno Fire Department personnel boarded the vessel at 0410 and at around 1200, the fire-fighters reported that the fire was under control.

However, the vessel lost all power and was subsequently re-berthed at 1720, with the assistance of tugs. None of the crew members were injured and no pollution occurred, but the vessel’s engine-room sustained heavy damage.

 

Probable causes

The safety investigation concluded that the fire was most likely caused by fuel spilling accidentally onto a hot surface, near the entrance to the purifier room.

Once the fire started, it spread quickly due to the presence of combustible material, leaking heavy fuel oil and lubricating oil around the engine and its bilges.

See also: Emergency Procedures: Fire onboard

 

More findings

  • The smoke detectors, although operational, failed to alert the crew of the existence of a fire immediately, as they probably had been silenced for a short period of time, while the vessel was in port.
  • Combustible materials in the form of leaked fuel, leaked oil, braided PVC pipes (to direct the leaks), plastic containers to collect drained oils, oil in the bilges and the vicinity contributed to the propagation of the fire.
  • It is highly likely that the leak in the CO2 system compromised its effectiveness.
  • Evidence indicated that the doors to the fuel oil modules and separator rooms were open.

In addition to allowing the spread of the fire, this most probably would have further compromised the effectiveness of the CO2 system, since each of these rooms had their own battery of CO2 bottles for fire-extinguishing.

  • The delay to stop the port main engine is likely to have contributed to the fire taking hold.
  • The decision-making process of the master would have been very complex, involving at least cues (possibly conflicting), technological data, information from fellow crew members, interpretation of that data and a decision to act, either in one way or another.
  • The leakage of CO2 in the storage compartment is likely to have occurred when the main valve was accidently closed, soon after releasing the gas.
  • There was a delay between the fire being detected and the port authorities being informed of the emergency onboard.

Recommendations

In view of the conclusions, Transport Malta recommends the owner to provide guidance in the vessel’s SMS on good housekeeping practices with reference to monitoring of oil leaks.

 

Explore more herebelow:

Eurocargo Trieste report