Aug 192008

MAIB’s report on the Figaro incident in December 2007 in which an accidental activation of the ship’s CO2 smothering system led to the vessel losing propulsion and electrical power in rough weather, sending it drifting toward Wolf Rock off the southern English coast, reads almost like an adventure story full of derring-do and not a little personal courage and is well worth the read.

All the same, it shouldn’t have happened. Says MAIB: “The investigation identified that the maintenance instructions for the CO2 system were contradictory and vulnerable to misinterpretation. The crew of Figaro were unfamiliar with the equipment and were unable to recognise the problem that occurred during the routine test, or realise the risk posed by leaving the system in an unstable condition. The incident also highlighted some areas where ETV procedures could be improved to help maintain the successful reputation that this service has gained.”

There were four cadets aboard who, one hopes, learned much that will enhance the decisions they make in their future careers.

Since 1993 nearly a dozen incidents of accidental CO2 release have been notified to MAIB. In those incidents, as in the Figaro case, no-one was killed or injured but the event could have ended up very differently.

In 2004, the Master, Chief Officer, Chief Engineer and Third Engineer of the YM People were killed in the CO2 room when CO2 was accidentally released 430 miles east of Sri Lanka. The circumstances were similar to that aboard Figaro – lack of familiarity and training with the CO2 system.

How well do you know the system aboard your ship? Bear the following tips in mind”

  1. Treat a CO2 room as an enclosed/confined space and make sure someone knows you’re in there.
  1. When opening the door to a CO2 room, stand back. A leak in the room can lead to a build-up of pressure that can blow the door outwards and hurt you.
  2. Always keep the door latched open when someone’s inside a CO2 room. It will make escape and, if necessary, rescue a lot easier.
  3. Ensure ventilation is running whenever someone’s inside the CO2 room.

IDESS Interactive has a modestly priced ($35) downloadable module on CO2 firefighting and CO2 room hazards as part of its Basic Fire Fighting Computer-Based Training System. Check it out here.

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