Experts concern at axed sea fire service

EXPERTS investigating a terrifying blaze on board a passenger ferry carrying more than 600 people today expressed concern at the lack of firefighting cover for the North Sea.

EXPERTS investigating a terrifying blaze on board a passenger ferry carrying more than 600 people today expressed concern at the lack of firefighting cover for the North Sea.

The fire on board the P&O Norsea – caused by oil leaking from a fuel pipe – was the last attended by Suffolk's firefighting at sea team before it was axed.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch said although the firefighters were not needed at that accident, the presence of experienced professionals was of "great support" to the ship's crew.

The MAIB criticised forces that had withdrawn cover for being "inconsistent with the philosophy" of an amendment to the law six years ago, which expected fire brigades to help out in such emergencies.


You may also want to watch:


The Evening Star launched a campaign after Suffolk decided to axe its sea team and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has pledged to restore cover.

In its report on the Norsea, the MAIB recommends changes to international regulations to prevent such an accident happening again.

Most Read

Hundreds of passengers gathered at muster points ready to be evacuated from the vessel as it drifted eight miles off Great Yarmouth last September.

No-one was killed in the incident and the only person hurt was a third engineer, who discovered the fire and tried to put it out and suffered smoke inhalation.

It was the second fire in two weeks on the roll-on roll-off ship – though both incidents were unrelated and had different causes.

The MAIB said the fire was started by the failure of a low-pressure fuel pipe on the main diesel generator in the engine room towards the back of the ship. The pipe had fretted against its clamp and housing, wearing a small hole in the pipe.

Vapour was heated by the generator and caused a flashpoint, starting the fire.

The third engineer who found flames shooting out of the generator tackled the fire with an extinguisher but could not put it out.

A full-scale emergency alert was given, the engines shut down and the engine room injected with carbon dioxide gas to put out the fire.

"Before this accident, there was no formal procedure for the checking the security of the fixing arrangements for low-pressure fuel lines on the engines and generators of the Norsea," said the MAIB.

"Following their own investigation of the accident, the owners have introduced a monthly procedure for checking the security of these pipes, clamps, mounting bolts and inspection of pipework for chafing.

"They have also fitted additional clamps to this pipework. As a result, it is judged that MAIB needs to make no further recommendation to the owners."

Because fuel pipe failures are a common cause of ship fires, engine manufacturers Wartsila have been recommended to put extra instructions in their manuals about the problem.

It recommended that the International Maritime Organisation takes action to ensure that the fuel supply to each engine can be isolated from the machinery control room, as well as making some changes to ro-ro ship design.

WEBLINK: www.maib.dft.gov.uk

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus