Hot work failures led to fire on a commercial fish processor the Aleutian Falcon

The Aleutian Falcon moored before the fire
The Aleutian Falcon moored before the fire

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has published a report about a fire on the commercial fish processor Aleutian Falcon while the vessel was docked for repairs at the Trident Seafoods shipyard in Tacoma, Washington.

Firefighting crews from the Tacoma Fire Department responded, and the fire was extinguished four days later. No one was on board the vessel at the time of the fire, and there were no injuries reported. An estimated 20–30 gallons of hydraulic oil leaked into the water but were captured by a containment boom. The vessel was declared a constructive total loss with an estimated value of $16,460,850.

On 3 August 2020, the Aleutian Falcon docked at Trident Seafoods’ shipyard facility in Tacoma, Washington to begin its maintenance and repair (M&R) period in anticipation of the 2021 processing season. One of the worklist items scheduled to be conducted during the M&R period was to crop and renew a section of corroded steel bridge deck plating. The corroded section of plating ran beneath the aftmost transverse bulkhead on the port side of the house.

The steel would be cut out using oxy-acetylene cutting torches and electric grinders with cutting wheels. The job was considered “hot work,” since these tools could produce sparks.


1 Probable cause

The NTSB determines that the probable cause of the fire aboard the fish processor Aleutian Falcon was the company’s supervisory personnel inadequately planning for hot work, as well as shoreside workers’ inadequately protecting hot work areas, allowing slag from hot work to ignite combustible material near an insulated wooden bulkhead of a walk-in refrigerator that had not been removed or sufficiently protected. Contributing to the casualty was the ineffective communication between the supervisory personnel, marine chemist, and workers.

2 Lessons learned

It is critical for supervisory personnel to evaluate hot work areas for fire hazards to ensure that affected spaces are completely understood, prepared, and protected for planned hot work in accordance with regulatory guidelines, company policies, and marine chemist certificates. Adherence to proper policies and procedures is vital to completing a safe hot work operation. Additionally, crewmembers and personnel involved in hot work should be able to identify hazards and take action to remove or mitigate potential risks to the vessel.

Download the report: NTSB Aleutian Falcon report

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