Fuel Spillage Causes Fire Aboard RoRo Vessel

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The Swedish Club details the events that lead to fire aboard a ro-ro vessel.

The Incident

A ro-ro vessel was underway and was expected to sail through heavy weather at Beaufort 10 the following day with waves of about 6-8 metres. The cargo comprised vehicles, containers and jerrycans on flat racks. Before loading commenced the Chief Officer went ashore to inspect the cargo. He inspected the jerrycans which were secured
with quick lashings through the handles of each row and secured to bars on the flat racks. He was concerned that the jerrycans were placed on flat racks and not in containers, as there were no sides around the flat racks to protect them. However, he decided to accept the cargo on board.

The flat racks on the forward part of the weather deck were secured with two lashings (and some with three or four) at each end. Some of the units were secured with lashings along the length of the unit. The containers
were secured with a combination of web lashings and chains.

The following morning the Chief Officer and crew inspected the cargo and the Chief Officer found only minor issues to correct, with some slack lashings that needed to be tightened, and some lashings needing to be added to certain units that were a bit loose or did not have ideal angles.

Later in the morning the wind increased, the vessel started to roll and the Master slowed down to about 10 knots. Around lunch time the wind increased even further and the vessel slowed down to about 6 knots. The vessel was now sailing through Beaufort 10 and waves of
about 8 metres. This caused one of the containers to come loose which hit one of the
flat racks containing jerrycans.

Due to the heavy rolling, the Master believed it to be unsafe for the crew to go onto the weather deck and re-lash the container. A
number of the jerrycans fell onto the deck and spilled fuel. As water was washing over the weather deck the Master assumed that any fuel would have been washed away by the
water, but it could be seen that this
was not the case.

Fire aboard vessel

From the cameras on the bridge, sparks could be seen on the weather deck from the moving containers.

To prevent a fire from starting the electricity was turned off for the reefer units on the weather deck and the sprinkler system was started. The Master hoped that this would
wash away all the fuel on deck, but this too was unsuccessful. Large flames could then be
seen on the weather deck through the vessel’s cameras. The Master activated the fire alarm and broadcast a mayday over the VHF.

The crew were assembled and all accounted for. The burning cargo was in the forward part of the weather deck. The fire crew approached the blaze from the side walkways and from the stern on the weather deck. The sprinklers were also running. There were now flames up to 30 metres high.

Several explosions occurred from fuel containers and jerrycans. The crew fought the fire for about five hours until they finally got it
under control. The vessel eventually berthed
safely at the next port.

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Source: The Swedish Club

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