Broken fuel valve caused an engine room fire

Photo credit: Swedish Club
Photo credit: Swedish Club

In its latest monthly safety scenario, the Swedish Club has explained an incident where a broken fuel valve above the auxiliary engines started spraying fuel oil over an exhaust pipe, causing a huge explosion and a fire in the engine room.

A vessel was lying alongside loading cargo. The Chief Officer called the engine control room (ECR) to ask the duty engineer to start an extra auxiliary engine so he could begin to ballast the vessel. The oiler answered the phone in the ECR and went to look for the Third Engineer to tell him to start the second auxiliary engine.

The Third Engineer called the Chief Officer and told him that the second auxiliary engine was online and that he could start the ballast operation. Ten minutes later a huge explosion was heard in the engine room. The Third Engineer could see flames and smoke coming from the auxiliary engines.
The Third Engineer escaped from the ECR and when he was outside the engine room, he broke the glass for the fire alarm and activated it. At the same time the vessel blacked out, but 15 seconds later the emergency generator kicked in and the power came back on. All engines were stopped.

The general alarm was sounded by the Master and all the crew were mustered. All fire dampers and fire doors for the engine room were closed, and the fire teams were suited up in firefighting gear and started boundary cooling the engine room and funnel.

The Master decided to release 40 cylinders of CO2 into the engine room. Half an hour later another 30 cylinders were released. The crew monitored the temperature of the engine room which was coming down. About an hour after the first CO2 was released, smoke stopped coming out of the funnel.

Probable cause

In the ensuing investigation it was discovered that a fuel valve had broken above the auxiliary engines and sprayed fuel oil over an exhaust pipe which caused the fire. It should be mentioned under SOLAS regulations there should be insulation on the exhaust pipe and that the valve should also be protected.

Read another story related to the Swedish Club: Swedish Club case study following multiple explosions onboard after cargo fumigation

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