Can a Failed Auxiliary Engine Governor Cause Funnel Fire?

Incident: Funnel Fire
Main Engine: DALIAN MBD – B&W 6S60MC
Auxiliary Engine: No Information
Vessel type: Chemical Tanker
Location: Shipyard



What Happened:

A Complete overhaul of the main engine was done and the auxiliary engines were started to bring the ship to live.  As the auxiliaries were started to warm-up the main engine, the frequency of the shipboard power supply went down due to failing governor of the auxiliary engines . Suddenly the ship’s funnel was in the fire and the ship’s staff were unaware of it.

At this juncture the question is: how can a failing auxiliary engine governor cause funnel fire?


Here is the sequence of events which happened over a short period of time.

Sequence of Events:

Before attempting a start on the main engine, the 2nd engineer was asked to start and test the boiler for 5 to 10 minutes for its proper operation. While testing this the other engineers and the crew were preparing the propulsion plant by starting various auxiliary machineries like the pumps, compressors and the heaters. The diesel generator was unable to cope with the falling frequency resulted due to sudden start of various auxiliary machinery. This caused a low-frequency power supply, whereas the boiler was still firing. The 2nd engineer left the boiler unattended to attend the diesel generators and solve the low-frequency problem.


The low frequency forced the boiler draught fans to run slow. This resulted in less air for the fuel, adding to that the boiler was on ‘Auto’ mode with all alarms gagged. The flame failed while the fuel was still being atomized into the furnace. In order to restore the power frequency to appropriate levels the testing of the main engine was postponed to the next day. The auxiliaries were shut down one-by-one and this resulted in the frequency of power getting restored back. The boiler fired with the right air-fuel ratio and the accumulation of unburnt fuel within the furnace caused dark smoke from the funnel, which passed through the whole shipyard. As the load on the boiler increased, since it was in ‘Auto’ mode, the unburnt fuel caught fire as it travelled all the way out from the funnel stack. Images shared here have been taken during the funnel fire.

Interesting right?

The fire could only be stopped by shutting down the whole system ie.,  by making the ship ‘dead’. The ship’s staff were fortunate not to suffer from a boiler explosion. One major loophole is that all these attempts have been made with all alarms gagged.

Share this story with your friends and fellow mariners.

Do you have such interesting stories? Share it to the world through us!

Write to us at and join our elite panel as an expert!

About the Author:

DSC_0603.jpgMr. Wolfgang Gensch has over 32 years of service experience with MAN B&W. Over the past 7 ¼ years while employed with MAN B&W, he has attended to more than 440 vessels for different purposes. In the past forty years, Mr. Gensch had attended to over 600 vessels and carried out different work covering all fields on diesel engines and turbochargers, from normal docking, to troubleshooting, to overhaul, repair and rebuilding work on older and newer engines.  His area of expertise is quite vast from a simple inspection up to intensive repair work such as repositioning of crankshafts on 2-stroke engines.  He is  Senior Technical Consultant at DETC – Singapore.

Consult Mr. Wolfgang for FREE through MFAME.



  1. Correct, the boiler flame detector must “see” a flame to keep fuel valve open, however one can have an uncontrolled fire in the the boiler if a burner fuel valve has been leaking into the boiler prior to lighting the boiler off. This may not require any bypass of safety devices.

  2. Dear friends and colleagues, as a retired chief engineer and seaman with 46 years of my life spent at sea and on vessels of all size I cannot let the story go unassisted because there are grave mistakes in the flow of events which could lead the young folks to wrong decisions. There is mentioned ” Auto-mode” and “all alarms gagged”. This is unusual in real life. If an auxiliary engine cannot cope with exceeding load request it will of course result in lower revolutions, lower frequency and lower voltage. The inbuilt generator protections will shut down the power supply and a black out will occur. This cannot be overrided by gagged alarms. The same and even more strict rules apply to the boiler. If due to unsufficient air supply the flame becomes affected, the flame eye and the internal cobustion chamber pressure sensor will shut down the fuel supply to the burner. This cannot be gagged. There might always possibilities that people who know what they are doing have overrided all mentioned safety devices but that is near to a criminal intent and no insurance company will pay a dime for consequences as fire in the funnel. Stories told like this are nice for readers but distorting for folks who want to know the real life .

Comments are closed.