Marine Safety Forum has issued a safety alert following an engine room fire aboard one of its member’s ships. The issue raises concerns about the potential for fire when oil purifiers leak onto hot surfaces. Have you checked yours lately?
Says the alert, which raises several safety issues:: “Recently onboard one of our vessels a fire occurred in the engine room space in way of the fuel oil purifier unit and port main engine. This resulted in a blackout situation, a temporary loss of propulsion and damage to engine room equipment, wiring etc.
“The vessel informed the platform at the location, they were well clear of the installation (1.5 nautical miles) in the drift off position. There were no other vessels in the area. The vessel was in contact with the Coast guard throughout the incident and they were kept abreast of the situation. The fire was extinguished by ship staff.
“Power was restored and the vessel made way to port for remedial repairs and incident investigation. There were no injuries or environmental impact sustained due to this incident; however the potential for a less favourable outcome was present.”
The seal between the purifier main body and cover was not effective enough in preventing fuel oil leaking out. Lagging and shielding in way of the Port main engine exhaust and turbo charger was not effective in preventing exposure to the hot surfaces below (The turbo charger outlet was the most likely initial ignition point), allowing fuel oil to come into contact with hot surface. The purifier unit had a number of plastic hoses fitted to it. It is felt that this had an impact on the extent of the damage, as when these melted they allowed more fuel to feed the fire.
Engine room staff were not following company and SOLAS requirements in not keeping the water tight door between the engine room and bowthruster room closed at sea. This allowed the fire fighting system to flood into bowthruster engine room rendering the bowthruster inoperable until the area was vented. This had become custom and practice as the engine room is manned at all times.
The root cause of the fire was a faulty or defective sealing arrangement on the fuel oil purifier unit. A major contributory factor was the ineffective heat shielding of hot surfaces on the adjacent port main engine, specifically the turbo charger outlet) Allowing fuel oil to come into direct contact with hot surfaces.
Use of plastic and non-braided rubber hose for the transferring on hydrocarbons is prohibited onboard it is felt this was another contributory factor. No claims or defect had been raised to alert the technical department that steel or shielded pipe-work had been replaced with rubber hoses.
The failure to keep the water tight door closed between the engine room and bowthruster room spaces was considered not to have been an issue onboard as the engine room was always manned 24hours, however in these circumstances it led to a source of power and propulsion being temporarily immobilised.