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Article written by Joe Maguire, Technical Manager at Skuld P&I Club. The Club would like to draw attention to the continued dangers of fires which originate in the machinery space. Specifically, where the cause of the fire is as a result of a flammable liquid spraying onto a hot surface.
Typical root causes for such incidents have been identified as:
– Missing pipe brackets/supports on oil systems leading to increased vibrations and subsequent cracks or even breakage of the oil piping system.
– Missing cup over the fuel injector valve.
– Original insulation or screening of hot surfaces was not maintained correctly.
– Original insulation or screening of hot surfaces was not sufficient for preventing oil spray onto hot surfaces.
– Insulation soaked with oil caught fire when sufficiently heated up.
– Oil leakages from engine components like exhaust valve indicators spraying onto the exhaust manifold.
The global passenger ferry industry has averaged more than 1,000 fatalities per year since the 1960s, with the great majority occurring on domestic voyages in Asia and Africa.
From 1966 to 2015 there were 750 recorded fatal accidents involving passenger vessels, resulting in 59,600 fatalities. Ninety-three per cent of ferry accidents occurred during domestic voyages, with 90% of fatalities occurring in just 20 countries and 76% in 10.
Transport Malta’s MSIU issued an investigation report on the fatality of a crew member onboard the Maltese-registered chemical tanker ‘Scot Berlin’ in August 2017. The immediate cause of the accident was the entry into a space which had a significant presence of toxic gases suspended in the air.
The vessel arrived at Marsaxlokk Oil Tanking Terminal loaded with two parcels of cargo. Following the completion of cargo operation, the crew members started the ballasting of the vessel since her next trip to Spain was a ballast voyage. Ballasting in the forepeak tank started under the supervision of the second mate.
According to TT Club, container fires are a far more regular occurrence than most people would realise. Statistics show there is a major container cargo fire at sea roughly every 60 days. So, tackling fires and subsequent investigations are complex and vitally important activities.
With increasing container ships size increases the risk of a fire incident increases too. Despite some regulatory and technical advances, the fact is that the ability to respond to a cargo-related fire at sea has not progressed as needed in recent times.
To tackle a fire in a hold, TT Club notes a CO2 system will be installed if the ship is carrying dangerous goods. The gas released from a CO2 system can displace the oxygen in the hold and smother the fire. However, for CO2 to be effective, the hold must be closed to retain the gas and prevent oxygen ingress.
If an incident has taken place in a container stowed on deck, water will be the only option available . Nevertheless, it is unlikely to extinguish a fire inside a container in the short term.
The West of England P&I Club has warned operators and others involved of the dangers of carrying nickel ore. Carrying nickel ore can be dangerous, because of the risk of liquefaction of the cargo on passage when the moisture content is higher than the cargo’s Flow Moisture Point (FMP).
After a number of ships being lost, with liquefaction of their nickel ore cargoes suspected of being the cause, the West of England Club published a Notice some years ago addressing the Dangers of Carrying Nickel ore. This Notice is still in forced and was re-issued as No.13 2017/2018 – Dangers of Carrying Nickel Ore from Indonesia and the Philippines – Mandatory Notification Requirements (re-issued).
The Club reminds operators of the risk of liquefaction with this cargo, as showcased by the loss of the ‘Emerald Star’, which claimed the lives of 11 seafarers in October 2017.