Engine Room Fire Onboard Chemical Tanker


Transport Malta’s Marine Safety Investigation Unit has issued an investigation report into the engine-room fire on board the Maltese registered oil / chemical tanker GRETA K within Leixões port limits on 21st March 2023.

The incident

At about 1542 (LT) on 20 March 2023, Greta K departed Sines, Portugal, loaded with a cargo of oil products, bound for Leixões, Portugal, with an ETA of 1500 on 21 March 2023. Soon after picking up the pilot for Leixões, and as the vessel was about to enter the port, a fire was detected in the engine-room at around 1518 on 21 March 2023. The engine control room was vacated, the quick-closing valves (QCVs) were activated, and the engine-room fire dampers were closed. After all the crew members were accounted for, the vessel’s fixed, carbon dioxide (CO2) fire extinguishing system was released at 1530, with the crew members boundary cooling the area.

At about 1537, tugboat Tetris arrived on the scene and started boundary cooling of the casing around the funnel. At 1544, the CO2 pressure was reported to read zero, confirming the discharge of the bank of CO2 cylinders. Tugboat Prometeu was made fast forward at 1600, to prevent the vessel from drifting ashore. The vessel was towed away to seaward and by 2103, all crew members were disembarked due to safety concerns.

Despite the port authorities’ efforts to extinguish the fire, the fire fighting continued up to 27 March, until salvors appointed by the Company declared that the fire was extinct at 1345. On 28 March, the vessel was berthed at 1730, with the assistance of three tugboats.



The purpose of a marine safety investigation is to determine the circumstances and safety factors of the accident as a basis for making recommendations, to prevent further marine casualties or incidents from occurring in the future.

Fatigue and Alcohol

Analysis of the hours of work records showed that they were not in excess of those required by the STCW and the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (as amended). The safety investigation was unable to determine the quality of the crew members’ rest, however, in the absence of any evidence that would indicate otherwise, fatigue was not considered a contributing factor to this accident.

Alcohol tests were not carried out as most of the crew were landed ashore due to safety concerns. However, the crew members’ actions did not suggest that alcohol was a contributing factor to this accident.


Findings and safety factors are not listed in any order of priority.

Immediate Cause of the Accident: Fuel oil sprayed out from a fuel pipe flange that was either not tight or became loose due to vibration.

Conditions and Other Safety Factors

  • A gap in the main engine turbine’s exhaust gas piping insulation provided the heat source to ignite the leaking oil spray;
  • The engine room’s smoke and heat detectors did not detect the fire as they appeared to have been either isolated or faulty;
  • Failure of the hyper-mist fire extinguishing system was likely to have contributed to the spread of fire and further damage to the machinery and engine-room;
  • The damage to the automatic fire damper during the early stages of the fire may have likely contributed to prolonging the fire as it reduced the effectiveness of the CO2 and kept the fire alive with an intake of air from the damaged ventilation.

Other Findings

  • The routine functional test of the hyper-mist system on 19 March 2023, did not ascertain the system’s proper functionality;
  • The fire detectors appeared to have been faulty for more than three days prior to the fire and remained unreported.

Actions taken

Safety Actions Taken During the Course of the Safety Investigation

The Company ensured that Greta K was safely manned at all times. During the ship’s stay in Leixões, Portugal, crew members and members of the salvors’ team remained on duty for safety reasons and to ensure that developments were assessed on a 24-hour basis. Moreover, a manning of 12 crew members was constantly kept on board during the repairs at the shipyard in Genoa, Italy.


In view of the conclusions reached and taking into consideration the safety actions taken during the course of the safety investigation,

The Company is recommended to:

  • 04/2024_R1 Circulate the findings of this safety investigation to all vessels under its management;
  • 04/2024_R2 Review the routine testing regime of the hyper-mist system on board and consider the re-routing of the system and / or establish that it is suitably
    protected to withstand elevated temperatures;
  • 04/2024_R3 Inspect the shielding of pipe flanges carrying fuel oil and heated surfaces, to eliminate the risk of fire.

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Source: Transport Malta