Auxiliary Engine Room Fire Off Madeira Destroys Vessel!


On 30th June 2016, the m/v Black Watch sailing from Ponta Delgada, Azores to Funchal, Madeira sounded fire alarm system indicating that a fire had established in the Auxiliary Engine Room.

Fire breaks out 

  • The captain activated the Code Bravo on the public address (PA) system alerting
    all crew and passengers of the emergency in order to initiate the emergency
  • The fire originated on the No.2 Auxiliary Engine (AE2) in the vicinity of the on-engine fuel filters at the aft end of the generator.
  • The vessel suffered significant damage to the entire starboard side of the auxiliary
    engine room including transformer room aft and all ancillary equipment located in the vicinity of AE2.

Emergency Procedures

  • The fire-fighting effort was severely hindered due to a failure of the voltage stabilizer on the emergency generator resulting in intermittent loss of power throughout the ship affecting fire pumps, bilge pumps, lighting, breathing apparatus (BA) compressor, and communications.
  • Despite the loss of the emergency generator affecting essential firefighting systems, the crew confirmed the fire in the auxiliary engine room had been extinguished and no injuries
    had been sustained by any of the 1,061 passengers and crew onboard.
  • However, the vessel developed a 3° list to port due to water being used to extinguish
    the fire settling on the port side of the vessel with no ability to either remove
    or drain down the water.
  • The vessel managed to proceed to Funchal, Madeira under its own propulsion arriving on the 02nd July whereupon the cruise was terminated and the passengers were repatriated back to their respective country of origin.
  • The Bahamas Maritime Authority commenced the Marine Safety Investigation onboard on the 03rd July 2016.

Key observations

  • The fire broke out in the vicinity of the on-engine fuel filter located at the aft end of AE2. The ignition source cannot be identified post incident due to the significant damage sustained to AE2.
  • The fire continued to burn generating temperatures in excess of 660°C within the auxiliary engine room, destroying the majority of evidence and preventing investigators from determining the actual cause.
  • The firefighting effort was severely hampered through a combination of material, system and human element factors, at times, resulting in crewmembers acting independently to achieve a positive outcome often deviating from Company policy and procedures.
  • Local release buttons were activated in accordance with Company procedures; however, a continuous supply of water through the nozzles could not be achieved as designed due to a loss of power, regardless of the unknown condition of the nozzles. The verification process in combination with the testing and inspection procedures coupled with the onboard system knowledge is likely to have impacted the operation of the fixed application system.
  • A lack of adequate containment resulted in smoke and heat being able to migrate to adjacent compartments and beyond. The degraded structural integrity of fire dampers enabled smoke to escape from the space enabling fresh air to enter the compartment, effectively feeding the fire.

Seniors unaware of rules

  • The procedure for separation between the affected space and staging area was not adhered to through a lack of understanding of basic firefighting principles.
  • The continued requirement to investigate whether a fire was present within adjacent compartments after BA stocks had been depleted resulted in crewmembers being placed at risk by entering compartments whilst wearing EEBD’s without knowing the danger that existed.
  • A minority of senior Officers demonstrated throughout the course of the incident insufficient knowledge of systems, firefighting techniques and command and control methods resulting in these individuals using their own experience to determine the best course of action, without approval or consultation with Command.

Vessel unprepared

  • The vessel was not adequately prepared in the event the fire escalated to a point where abandonment was deemed by Command as the last resort to preserving the safety of life. The lifeboats were not lowered to the embarkation deck allowing ready access by passengers and crew.
  • Despite a recent drill identifying a discrepancy in the onboard procedures, no action was taken to clarify the procedures and rectify the deficiency.

Recommendations for the operator

  • Review the procedure for allocating the location of drills onboard to ensure realistic training occurs regularly within all engine rooms.
  • Review the requirement of periodic testing of emergency generators and consider implementing a mechanism whereby their condition is tested to ensure they are capable of operating in a condition in which they are expected to fulfill on all Fred Olsen vessels.
  • Recommend refresher training for all senior Officers within Fred Olsen on advanced firefighting techniques.
  • A review of the roles and responsibilities of team leaders detailed within the emergency organization manual.
  • Consider implementing a vessel system familiarisation-training package to ensure all team leaders understand the limitations and capabilities of emergency systems.
  • Consider increasing the level of fire protection within engine rooms on board all vessels owned by the company.

Actions taken

  • Owners agree to review their inspection and reporting systems and to discuss the necessity to review system/layout in view of applicable rules and regulations and make changes as deemed appropriate.
  • Owners have implemented a method to use AMOS as a means to coordinate and record drill deficiencies.
  • Owners are working on a change to the Emergency Organisation Manual to ensure it accurately reflects the routine for adequately preparing crew and guests in the event of a Code Bravo incident.
  • The owners have implemented a routine to ensure emergency generators are tested on 80% load for 1 hour every 7weeks.

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Source: BahamasMaritime


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