For some five hours the main engine ran with retarded timing. A build-up of unburnt fuel eventually led to a fire that resulted in the vessel being abandoned. Says the newly release investigation report by the UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch, MAIB, “The crew did not have the technical competence to diagnose or rectify the fuel injection pump timing problem, and did not foresee the potential consequences of continuing to run the malfunctioning engine.
When the smoke in the wheelhouse intensified, the skipper had no hesitation in ordering his crew onto deck to make preparations for abandonment. This decision, taken at an early stage of the escalating situation, was paramount to the successful abandonment of Denarius.
As a result of a crewman bravely going aft along the shelter deck and down onto the main deck to retrieve the thermal floatation suits andlifejackets, the crew were suitably attired prior to abandonment. This would have greatly enhanced their chances of survival if they had been forced to enter the water. However, the opportunity to close the aft weathertight door, having retrieved the equipment, was missed.
The skipper’s actions of going to the cabin below decks to collect pyrotechnics and warm clothing might have placed him in danger, but his presence of mind to take the portable radio and EPIRB undoubtedly gave the crew the best possible chance of being rescued, especially since the coastguard had not been alerted. However, there was ample room for pyrotechnic storage abovedecks on Denarius. Had the flares been stowed in such an area, they would have been more readily available in an emergency and thus avoided the need foranyone to go below decks. Additionally, there were quantities of pyrotechnics in each liferaft.
After launching the liferafts the crew had some difficulty pulling them alongside Denarius due to the resistance created by the water ballast pockets and the drogues, which were packed in such a way that they deployed upon raft inflation. This is done liferafts deploying automatically from a sinking vessel remain in the vicinity to give swimmers the best possible chance of reaching them. Seafarers should bear in mind that, in the event of manual launching, they should keep the painter line as short as practicable, thus reducing the distance a deployed drogue would have to be pulled through the water to bring the raft alongside.