Fuel Oil Leak Causes Engine Room Fire



Thomson Majesty was enroute to Calvi, France from Livorno, Italy with 1478 passengers and 579 crew members. On the day of the departure, the OOW looked towards the CCTV monitors and observed smoke and flames from auxiliary engine no. 4. The auxiliary engine was immediately stopped by pressing the emergency stop button, the circuit breakers for the preferential tripping were opened, and the alarm raised. The watertight doors were closed and the oiler, who was in the engine-room at the time, grabbed a fire extinguisher to fight the fire.

In the meantime, the chief engineer, who was in the officer’s messroom, heard a loud noise in the alleyway. Upon enquiring, he walked out of the messroom and noticed smoke in the alleyway. He was also informed of a fire in the engine-room.  The chief engineer rushed to the engine-room, where he observed that auxiliary engine no. 4 had been stopped whereas the three other auxiliary engines were still running. Taking stock of the situation, the chief engineer informed the master of the fire and status of the engine-room. The chief engineer requested that the fuel oil feed and booster pumps for auxiliary engine no. 4 and the ventilation fans are stopped, and fire flaps closed. In the meantime, within 19 seconds, the fire had become more intense, the smoke was more dense and visibility was significantly reduced.

The engine-room fire squad had also assembled under the supervision of the chief engineer. Within a few minutes of the assembly of the fire squad, the fire was brought under control and extinguished with the use of portable fire extinguishers. Due to the fire, the rubber bellows fitted on the cooling water line in way of auxiliary engine no. 4 was damaged and leaked heavily. Consequently, before the crew members could identify and rectify the problem, the cooling water expansions tanks leaked dry and the running auxiliary engines shut down automatically due to the activation of the fresh water high temperature alarm at about 2200. The situation was, however, alleviated with the automatic starting of the emergency generator.

Subsequently, the damaged bellows was replaced, the system replenished, and purged from air. Power was restored at about 0200 on 22 October 2016 and the vessel returned to Livorno with two auxiliary engines and two main engines running. No injuries had been reported.

Probable Cause

The engineers had carried out maintenance on the auxiliary engine on the day of the fire. Maintenance records indicated that the main fuel oil supply and return lines had been dismantled and replaced with new pipes. The fuel lines were fitted in close proximity of the fire seat and therefore the initial inspection of the crew members was directed towards that area.

When the fuel oil return pipe was disconnected from the high pressure pump on unit no. 6, it was observed that the O-ring was damaged. The pipe was located very close to the turbocharger and the aft exhaust gas manifold. It was therefore confirmed that the fuel oil leak had originated from the fuel oil return pipe because of the damaged O-ring.

Actions Taken

During the course of the safety investigation, the Company issued a Fleet Circular, outlining the following:

  1. Crew members assigned to the engine-room must be alert on and prepared for risks associated with hot spots.
  2. Crew members shall ensure that exhaust lagging or heat shields are properly replaced / renewed after completion of any work on the main or auxiliary engines
  3. The importance of identifying fire hazards and taking measures to eliminate fuel leaks
  4. Leakage alarm systems should be tested regularly
  5. Routine maintenance, inspections and testing of fire-fighting equipment, including drills and exercises for enhancing crew training in their use, should be carried out effectively;
  6. The importance to spend some time to critically review procedures and practices to determine what can go wrong (risk assessment)
  7. The importance for crew members to be aware of the location of the ventilation system fire dampers and shutdown devices/remote stops
  8. The importance for the ship’s engineer to be aware of the location of the water-mist system and its operation
  9. The importance of not ignoring the alarm system, which may otherwise prevent timely actions;
  10. The critical importance of following up an updated PMS/AMOS system;
  11. The chief staff engineer shall supervise the repair and maintenance of critical systems and ensure that checks are carried out following routine maintenance or repair works;
  12. Reference is to be made to the results of the thermographic inspection, which has been carried out on all the main and auxiliary engines on board Thomson Majesty and another ship under the Company’s management.

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Source: Transport Malta


  1. Here is another example why It’s important that crew is being alerted ahead of a dangerous situation to avoid potential escalation into a fire.

    For critical machinery spaces DASPOS specializes in durable fire protection solutions to meet demands within the maritime industry, which has resulted in the LEAKAGE ALARM SYSTEM “LAS-10” an ATMOSPHERIC OIL MIST AND GAS / HYDROCARBON LEAKAGE DETECTION SYSTEM.

    The system is designed to detect fuel oil leakages in an early stage by measuring differential pressure over a filter in a special designed detector unit. It measures all hazardous hydrocarbons and gives warning before a fire will ignite. Pending on the size of the engine room spaces, multiple detector units are strategically placed throughout the higher risk areas. The detectors have an airflow of approximately 10.000 Liter/Min, assuring prompt detection. Each detector communicates with a central control device and keeps watch keepers alert in case of a detection. http://www.daspos.com

  2. I saw one statement in the description of the even that “Watertight Doors Closed” by the OOW after the fire was detected. Watertight doors in E/R are provided to ensure vessel’s damage stability and must be closed shut everytime the vessel ventures out to sea. By the way how did the vessel go out to sea with them open? The bridge too is supposed to have indications that states that these doors are shut. In that case would also state that there has been a failure of ISM too here.


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