At 0918 on 4 August 2020, the liquefied petroleum gas/ethylene carrier Moritz Schulte suffered an engine room fire while discharging a cargo of ethylene alongside the port of Antwerp, Belgium. The newly promoted third engineer, who was working on an auxiliary engine fuel filter, had not effectively isolated the fuel system and both he and an adjacent auxiliary engine’s hot exhaust were sprayed with fuel under pressure. The fuel spray penetrated the exhaust insulation and ignited.
Prompt actions by the crew closed down the space to limit the spread of fire. The subsequent crew muster identifed that the third engineer was missing and had last been seen in the engine room. The master prohibited the release of the CO2 fixed firefghting system and ordered the fire party to search for and recover the third engineering officer.
The vessel’s search and rescue team made two attempts to enter the engine room, both of which were unsuccessful due to smoke and heat. The third attempt made a sweep of the area of the engine room where it was assessed that the third engineer would be, but he was not found. A shore fire team located him an hour after the start of the fire. He was recovered ashore but died 9 days later from the effects of smoke inhalation.
The investigation found that, despite the vessel having a full range of safe systems of work in place, the third engineer, who had worked for the company for over 5 years, died while attempting an unnecessary job conducted in an unsafe way at an inappropriate time, without a risk assessment and in the absence of any direct supervision of the task. Analysis of the third engineer‘s training programme activity log found that only two of the 65 rank-specifc tasks he was required to undertake before his promotion to third engineer had been completed with the requisite evidence. It also found that the training system permitted line management to confirm that training had been completed without evidence being provided. This facilitated his promotion twice when he was not ready.
Other findings included a lack of any evidence of poor visibility enclosed space rescue drills or escape drills using Emergency Escape Breathing Devices.
The company’s investigation identifed 32 actions relating to: communication, crew and competence management, safety management and technical management. The company has since equipped its four vessels that were built before July 2003 with additional Emergency Escape Breathing Devices.
As a result of the actions already taken, no recommendations have been made.
Download the report: Moritz Schute Incident Report, Red Ensign Group