Fuel Tank’s Faulty Emergency Shut-off Control Cable

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On 11 July 2016, the tug ‘Ken Mackenzie’, with 2 people on board, reported a fire in the engine room while transiting the Fraser River, British Columbia. The 2 crew members abandoned the vessel and were picked up by the assist tug Harken No. 5.

The incident

According to a report released by Canada’s Transportation Safety Board, the vessel Ken Mackenzie was heading to Fraser River, on 11 July 2016. During a crew change, the day shift crew informed the relieving crew a smell of diesel in the engine room. After conducting research, the crew didn’t find any short of leakage.

Later the same day, the master of the vessel noticed smoke coming from the engine room’s forced exhaust vent. He then use the VHF radiotelephone to notify the Harken No. 5, before him and the crew abandoned the vessel and entered to the assist tug.

Before exiting the ship, the master shut off the fuel supply and return valves to the engine room from the main deck, TSB reports.

Probable cause

As TSB mentions, the fuel oil piping of the ship consisted of a 6 mm fuel hose and an 8 mm copper tube. A single hose clamp held the copper tube and the flexible fuel hose together. The connection between the flexible fuel hose and copper tubing parted and sprayed diesel fuel onto components of the generator. The fuel on the generator components ignited, causing the fire.

Findings

Findings as to causes and contributing factors

  1. Although a diesel smell, indicative of fuel leaking, had been detected in the engine room, the crew was unable to identify the source of the smell and continued to operate the vessel.
  2. The copper tube installed in 2009 was smooth and did not have serrations or a bead at the end. A single hose clamp held the tube and the flexible fuel hose together.
  3. The connection between the flexible fuel hose and copper tubing, which returned diesel fuel from the generator to the fuel tank, separated, resulting in diesel fuel spraying onto components of the generator.
  4. The fuel on the generator components ignited, causing a fire

Safety action taken

On 02 February 2017, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada issued a Marine Safety Advisory Letter to Transport Canada (MSA 01/17) and a Marine Safety Information Letter to the owners (MSI 02/17). These letters provided information about the shortcomings concerning the polyethylene-based control cables that were used to operate the emergency shut-offs for the fuel tanks.

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Source: Transportation Safety Board of Canada

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