Lack of Insulation in Pipe Results in Fire Aboard


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued an investigation report on a Fire aboard Commercial Fishing Vessel ‘Raffaello’ while it was moored at the pierside of the Satala shipyard, and estimates of the damage caused by the fire was at $2 million.


On January 17, 2016, a fire broke out on board the uninspected commercial fishing vessel Raffaello while it was moored to the fishing vessel Judibana at the Satala Shipyard in Pago Pago Harbor, Tutuila Island, American Samoa. The fire started in the captain’s stateroom just forward of the machinery space exhaust trunk and was extinguished the next morning by the crews from both vessels along with shoreside firefighters. One of the 17 crewmembers on the Raffaello suffered minor burns while fighting the fire. Damage to the vessel was estimated at $2 million.


Investigators determined that the ignition source of the fire was a 15-inch section of the starboard generator exhaust pipe at the top of the exhaust trunk without insulation (lagging). Approximately 2.5 inches away from the uninsulated exhaust trunk were charred 2-inch-by-4-inch wooden studs and 0.25-inch plywood sheathing used for a partition of the master cabin bathroom. Investigators concluded radiant heat traveled uninhibited to the wooden partition, heating and charring the wood until it ignited. The fire was caused by a long process of wood deterioration known as “pyrolysis”.

Based on testimony from the navigator, the exhaust lagging on the starboard generator was changed annually. However, investigators did not find any records or other evidence verifying that the task was accomplished each year or any evidence indicating why the insulation was missing.

Probable Cause:

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the fire aboard the commercial fishing vessel Raffaello was the lack of insulation on the starboard generator exhaust gas pipe resulting in the ignition of combustible material in close proximity.

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Source: NTSB


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