Fuel safety advice issued after Manhattan Bridge container ship explosion caused death at Port of Felixstowe

Manhattan Bridge container ship docked at Felixstowe port, where a boiler backfired in the engine ro

Manhattan Bridge container ship docked at Felixstowe port, where a boiler backfired in the engine room killing a crew member. Picture: ARHCANT LIBRARY - Credit: Mike Pennock

Strict emission regulations have been highlighted as factors in a ship’s boiler room explosion, which claimed a sailor’s life and left another with severe burns.

Celso Banas, 35 and from the Philippines, was killed while working on the Manhattan Bridge as it berthed at the Port of Felixstowe on January 19.

An inquest, opened earlier this year, recorded that an explosion of steam in the boiler room led to Mr Banas being struck by debris, inflicting multiple injuries, which caused his death. The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) published safety advice based on its separate investigation into the explosion yesterday.

MAIB said the Japan registered Manhattan Bridge’s second engineer was investigating a boiler flame failure alarm along with Mr Banas, an engine room oiler, at the time of the blast. It said Mr Banas suffered “severe injuries” and died soon after the explosion, while the engineer suffered burns to his arm and face, which required a skin graft.

The findings of an accident site investigation, prompted MAIB to publish safety advice about issues it says may be linked to the initial boiler flame failure.

Leading up to the accident, MAIB said the boiler fuel supply had been switched from heavy fuel oil to marine gas oil to comply with international emissions control standards.

Examinations of the boiler fuel system identified a build up of “waxy deposits” which were found sufficient to restrict fuel flow.

MAIB said industry reports indicated an increase in engine performance problems in colder waters following the implementation of a “more stringent” sulphur emissions limit. This has been attributed to the increased paraffin content found in some fuels, which can lead to the formation of waxy deposits if temperatures fall.

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The deposits, in turn, can cause boiler flame failures

MAIB’s “safety lessons” state it is “essential” that vessel operators consider the effect of temperatures on the fuel they use.

It adds that the risk of waxy residue developing can be controlled by close monitoring and regular fuel filter inspections.

The Japan Transport Safety Board is conducting a separate investigation of the accident and will produce its report “in due course”.

The inquest into Mr Banas’s death is scheduled to reconvene on July 28.

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