Leaking lube oil caused fire on trawler says NTSB investigation report

Image courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard
Image courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released its investigation report into the fire and subsequent sinking of the fishing vessel Master D.

About 0030 local time on August 31, 2018, the Master D was transiting with three crew members in the Gulf of Mexico 45 miles southeast of South Padre Island, Texas, when a fire in the engine room was discovered. After unsuccessfully trying to extinguish the fire, the crew abandoned the vessel without injury. The fire continued to burn until the vessel sank the next day. An oil sheen approximately 400 yards by one mile was visible in the water after the sinking. The estimated property damage exceeded $162,000.

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the fire aboard the vessel was leaking lube oil from the diesel generator that contacted a hot engine surface and ignited. Contributing to the eventual sinking was the failure of fire-damaged nonmetallic hoses connected to through-hull fittings below the waterline.

The fuel oil supply valves for the main diesel engine and the generator were located in the engine room. After the fire was discovered, the valves could not be reached by the crew due to the intensity of the fire and smoke. The burning vessel’s diesel engine continued to operate for about an hour after the crew departed.

Prior to the accident voyage, the captain had notified the company that there was a lubricating oil leak on a seal on the vessel’s single diesel generator. The company contracted a mechanic to repair the seal while the vessel was at the dock. However, prior to departure, the captain noticed that the oil leak continued, but he thought the issue was manageable.

Click to download the report in full: MAB1921

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