Barbecues are great way to encourage crew bonding, boost morale, and improve shipboard atmosphere but it’s a good idea to make sure that it’s only the burgers that get burned and not you fellow crew, suggests Singapore’s Maritime & Port Authority, MPSA. The warning was triggered by several recent incidents.
In the case of Ile De Sein, bunkering operations were underway in Honolulu. The engineering team carrying out the operation had arrived the previous day on a flight from France. By 1930 on 5 May 2015 the marine diesel oil tank nu,ber two was nearly full. After sounding, the cadet closed the ball-valve actuated by a counterweight but omitted to close the cap.
Soon after an engineer was preparing, from the control cabin, the shifting of the filling from the MDO tank number two starboard to the MDO tank number one centre. An operator error during the filling valve opening – closing sequence on the tanks, resulted in the tank venting pipe and sounding circuit overpressure.
Without the cap fuel vapour was able to escape through the sounding tube and, as flammable vapours will, found an amenable source of ignition.
A well-drilled firefighting team tackled the blaze appropriately and extinguished it. Says BEAmer: “The most important damages were located on electrical bunched cables (6600 volts), control organs and cabinets for DA1 and 2. Restarting of the mooring generating set after repair of its power supply.”
Although BEAmer says: “The engineer team who was coordinating the bunkering operation joined at Honolulu on the day before. The fatigue, due to the joining travel from France and to the jet lag, had probably contributed to the operating error in controlling the MDO tank filling valves” it offers no recommendation regarding mitigation of the effect of jetlag and travel fatigue and limits itself to “The crew’s attention should be drawn to the fact that the closure of a fuel tank sounding pipe, only by the ball-valve, do not provide vapour tightness.”
Unfortunately, the report does not determine whether a checklist was required by onboard procedures. Checklists, although much derided, are a tool designed to reduce the chances of error in sequential tasks.
Honolulu is 11 hours behind France and the more than 15 hour flight crosses a dozen time zones. Such long flights disrupt the body and brain’s natural cycle, the circadian rhythm, and the engineers’ bodies would still have been operating on ‘Paris time’. Such long flights incur fatigue, even if one sleeps during the flight.
To put that into context it would take between five and ten days to recover from jetlag and travel fatigue. Some recommendations say allow a day’s rest for each time zone crossed, but this may not be possible in a real world setting. The engineers aboard Ile De Sein had, at most, 24 hours.
Nevertheless, it is important for shipping companies to take account of it in their schedules.
So, work in advance if you can, here are some recommendations:
Be fully rested before you travel. Don’t make the mistake of making your self tired so you’ll sleep on the flight.
If you can, gradually adjust your meal and sleep patterns to fit those of your destination. Often this may not be a practical option for a seafarer but if you can do it will help.
Your travel arrangements may not be yours to decide but if you can, try and arrive in daylight. On arrival stay awake until until your normal sleep time local time.
Once on the plane set your watch to the time at your destination, it’s a psychological trick that may help.
Stay well hydrated during the flight and avoid alcohol or coffee if you can.
Stretch your legs, walk up and down, exercise during the flight. This is good practice anyway because it will help reduce the chances of deep vein thrombosis.
If the flight is long enough sleep on the plane at the same time as you would sleep at your destination.
On arrival, get as much daylight as possible and get some exercise.
Taking doses of melatonin, the so-called ‘sleep hormone’, may help but it does have some risk so only take it under medical supervision.
Do not take sleeping pills for the flight.
How do you deal with jetlag? What does your company do to reduce it effects on seafarers?Tel us in the comments section below.
In an unprecedented move Maersk has released CCTV footage of an engineroom fire aboard Maersk Iowa to help determine the cause of the fire. The footage was posted on the gCaptain site.
A statement from Maersk, published by gCaptain says: “The video footage (posted on gCaptain today) depicts the mechanical failure of a main engine air start valve resulting in an explosion and fire in the engine room of the Maersk Iowa while underway on January 10th, 2015. No one was injured by this incident, and thanks to the quick and professional emergency response of the officers and crew, any potential further damage was contained with no harm to the environment. The Company has shared this particular video footage with the USCG, Lloyd’s Register and other internal and external stakeholders in an effort to understand its root cause for implementing corrective action across our fleet. The video has also been shared with our ships crews’ as a training aid.”
Investigations into the 11 December 2014 engine room fire aboard Oceania Insignia continue into the engine room fire aboard the cruiseship Oceania Insignia which cost three lives but the US Coast Guard has already issued a safety alert. It highlights maintenance issues and the important of having a personal evacuation plan.
Marshall Islands-flagged, the 50,000 gt Insignia was built in 1998. The vessel was refurbished in 2014 and, says Oceania: “has undergone a multimillion-dollar transformation to create a virtually new ship”.
Near London’s Tower Hill Memorial to merchant seafarers who died in World War 1 and World War 2 is the church of All Hallows By The Tower. Established in 675 it’s the city’s eldest church at thirteen hundred years old.
It was here that John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the United States, was married in 1797. William Penn, who founded the state of Pennsylvania, was baptised and educated here.Continue reading »
Everyone knows, or should know, that rags contaminated with certain types of oil can self-ignite,or spontaneously combust, in places like waste bins but freshly-laundered tea-towels can also do so and lead to a galley fire warns a safety alert from Marine Safety Forum.
A night watchman on a vessel was carrying out his usual tasks and after washing the galley tea towels, they went into the tumble dryer. Once finished approximately 20 tea towels were stacked in a pile and placed on top of the galley freezer.Continue reading »
Owned by Odfjell Asia, operated by Ceres Hellic Shipping Enterprises and flagged in Singapore, Bow Mariner left New York at 0500 on February 28, 2004, 22 of her cargo tanks empty except for the vapour of Methyl Tert-Butyl Ether. The tanks were not inerted. Six of the ten remaining tanks contained 13.5 million litres of ethanol.
Aboard her were three Greek senior officers: Captain Efstratios Kavouras, Chief Officer Spiridon Melles and Chief Engineer Legantis-Eley Anasthasiou, and 24 Filipino crew, including Third Officer Lugen Ortilano on his first voyage as a licenced officer and second assistant engineer Edimar Aguilar, who joined the ship twenty three days before.
Only four other crewmembers survived the next 14 hours: Electrician James Bactat, Chief Cook Dominador Marentes, Messman Reynaldo Tagle and Able Seaman Ramon Ronquillo.
The three senior officers had created a climate of fear and intimation on the ship. Junior officers were prohibited from eating the the officer’s mess. They were prohibited from reading the Safety Quality and Environmental Protection Management documents, or from carrying the jobs specified in it. Senior officers did not train their subordinates in the technical and administrative skills they needed to operate the vessel safely.
The vessel carried no immersion suits. Fire and lifeboat drills were rare. Safety training records and the minutes of safety committee meetings were little more than fiction.
It was the second to last day of February, it was cold, with the air temperature at 4.4 Celsius, the sea a little more than a degree higher at 5.5 Celsius. There was a two metre sea running east and a 15 knot wind Northwest.
Third Officer Ortilano was officer of the watch from 0800 to 1200. A little before 10.00 hours, Captain Kavouras gave the order that would doom the ship. He told Ortilano to have the crew open the 22 empty tanks that had held MTBE and Ortilano followed that order.
MTBE vapour is heavier than air, it would not simply rise into the air and disperse when the tanks were opened. It can flow along a surface until it finds a point of ignition. It has a flashpoint of -25.6 degrees Celsius, well below the air temperature. The tanks were full of its vapour. As tank cleaning proceeded, those vapours were displaced, emerging onto the deck and collecting in pockets in corners and spaces.
Vapours like MTBE need a certain amount of oxygen in order to ignite. If the amount of vapour is below a certain level, called the Lower Explosive Level or LEL, it won’t explode. If the amount of vapour is above a certain level, called the Upper Explosive Level, UEL, it also won’t explode. Between these two levels it will explode if there’s a source of ignition.
When the tanks were opened, air entered the tanks, diluting the MTBE vapours to somewhere between the LEL and the UEL..
Put simply, when Third Officer Johnny Acuna replaced Ortilano at 11.50 with instruction from Chief Officer Melles for Ortilano to help with tank cleaning at 13.00, the ship was already a floating bomb. There was a strong smell of MTBE vapour on deck All it needed was a spark.
The tanks were not gas-freed, so Boatswain Aquilino Tabilin put on SCBA gear equipped with steel bottles and took an air-operated Wilden Pump into the tanks to remove residual MTBE from the cargo tanks with the help of an Ordinary Seaman and a Deck Cadet. By the time Ortilano arrived, the number nine centre starboard and wing tanks had already been emptied of remaining MTBE and Tabilin was working in the number eight starboard cargo tank.
Boatswain Tabilin’s entry into a cargo tank filled with explosive vapours wearing SCBA followed no known safe procedures to put it mildly.
At 13.30 the Wilden pump failed. Tabilin had it hauled out of the tank. While he was trying to repair it, Captain told him to get the Norclean Eductor, a kind of industrial vacuum cleaner used for draining combustible fluids, from the midship deckhouse.
When it arrived its drum was damaged so Kavouras told Ortilano to get two standard drums and have them adapted to replace the damaged one on the Eductor. The drums were strengthen, but there was no bonding between the drum itself and the lid, a precaution designed to prevent build-up of statical electricity.
The first drum was finished at 15.00 and taken on deck. At 17.05, Ortilano and an Engine cadet carried the replacement drums to the deck. The crew had already gone to eat but the Eductor had been mounted on the first drum, and the suction hose lead through the Butterworth opening near the the number eight starboard cargo tank expansion trunk, but the unit was not in operation.
Ortilano had lunch and at 17.30 went to his cabin to rest in readiness for his next watch.
Meanwhile, Ramon Ronquillo and Pumpman Tomas Ventenilla were blowing down cargo lines with compressed air. They probably weren’t aware that this was a bad idea. Blowing down cargo lines can create a static electrical charge which can spark and ignite any explosive fumes still in the pipe. They should have used an inert gas.
At 1800 the crew reported for overtime and went to work. It was twilight and the deck lights were switched on.
Ortilano, Bactat and Ronquillo were in their rooms, sleeping or resting. Chief Cook Marentes, Messman Reynaldo Tagle and messman Rosello were cleaning the galley. Second Assistant Engineer Aguilar was doing his rounds.
As Aguilar placed his hand on the handle of the engine room door, he heard the first explosion. By the time he reached the interior stairwell on his way to his room, the ship was already listing to starboard. He couldn’t open the door to his room. He went up to the bridge and got a lifejacket from the Pilot room.
In his cabin on the port side, Electrician Bactat heard a noise, the ship moved violently and began to list to starboard. Opening the window blinds he saw orange flame. He grabbed his coveralls and lifejacket struggling against the list, he made his way up to the bridge, where some of the windows were broken. He met with four others and made his way down exteriors ladders to the deck, the list making it hard to climb down.
In the galley, Chief Cook Marentes heard a boom and the ship shook violently. Messman Rosello started to panic. Marentes told him to calm down and get a life jacket, then came another, ear-shattering explosion. He went to his own cabin to get his lifejacket. His lifeboat station was on the port side but because of the list he went down an exterior ladder to the winch deck.
In his cabin, Ortilano head a sudden series of explosions, then a loud boom. Through his forward windows he saw flames. Dashing out into the passageway he saw AB Elmer Manahan who told him to get his lifejacket. Ortilano went back into his cabin, got the lifejacket, and exited the accommodations aft.
In a group were Captain Kavoras and Chief Engineer Anasthasiou, talking in Greek, together with four other crew members, including Messman Tagle who couldn’t understand what they saying. They were waiting for instructions, but none were given.
There was no question of using the lifeboats. Because of the list, the port lifeboat almost certainly could not be launched. The starboard lifeboat seems to have been caught by the explosion and fire. Its bow was damaged by the flames and more damage occurred as it fell from its falls in the blast.
Ortilano asked Captain Kavouras whether a distress signal had been sent. Kavouras did not reply. Ortilano went to the bridge, activated the DSC alarm and sent out a mayday.
He didn’t wait for a response. He went up to the bridge top, activated the EPIRB and cast it overboard.
Meanwhile, Tagle followed Captain Kavaoras, Chief Engineer Anasthasiou and the rest of the group to the winch deck on the starboard side. For a moment he covered his eyes. When he look up, the rest had gone over the side. There was a third explosion and someone called to him in Tagalog to jump. Tagle jumped into the water.
As the ship listed an estimated 30 degrees, Electrician Bactat, with a second group, made his way to the starboard winch deck and simply walked into the water. He found a piece of wood and clung to it.
The ship came back on an even keel, her bow sinking rapidly. Aguilar, Marentes and Ronquillo got to the stern railings and held on, determined not to enter the water until the last possible moment. It wasn’t something they’d be trained to do: They’d remembered the movie Titanic.
Ortilano climbed from the bridge top down to the winch deck. Their were people in the water, the lights of their lifejacket lights shining in the darkness. A life raft floated off starboard, still attached by its painter. Ortilano told the men at the stern railings to wait until the ship sank further. He waited himself, then, from a height of three or four metres jumped into the liferaft.
Aguilar jumped for the lifeboat, missed, fell into the water and climbed into the liferaft. Then Ronquillo jumped and climbed in, followed by Marentes.
They found the life raft equipment, cut the painter, and searched for survivors. Ortilano lit flares, hearing cried for help each time. He called out to them to swim towards the flates. Two men, so covere in oil as to be unrecognisable, got close enough to be helped into the life raft, messman Tagle and Electrician Bactat.
At 1937, the Bow Mariner sunk under the waves, her deck lights still shining until almost the last moment.
Top, above side scan sonar images of Bow Mariner on the seafloor, courtesy NOAA. Compare to photo below from Marine Marchande.
Rescue efforts were already underway by the US Coast Guard and two ships that has seen the explosion. A Coast Guard helicopter, CG 6026, arrived at 19.28. There were more than a dozen lifejacket lights floating in the water and spotted the life raft with signs of people aboard.
Battling darkness, fumes, and the heavy fuel oil that covered the survivors, it took half an hour to rescue the six men from the liferaft. They were flown to Norfolk Sentara Hospital. The helicopter was grounded due to contamination.
The only survivors were those in the life raft, Ortillano, Aguilar, Marentes, Ronquillo, Tagle and Bactat.
A second helicopter, CG 6588 located a body in the water. Wearing only a shirt and a gold necklace, it showed evidence of traumatic injuries to the head, legs and arms, perhaps a sign that he had been caught by one of the explosions. It was Chief Officer Melles.
Five other bodies were eventually recovered. Each one dead by drowning associated with hypothermia.
Of the remaining 18 bodies, the sea took them for eternity.
The damaged starboard lifeboat. Fourth engineer Ajoc was found alive, holding onto the boat’s lifelines but died on the way to hospital. USCG photo.
Capsized port lifeboat.
There are so many lessons to be learned from the Bow Mariner incident that it’s hard to know even where to begin.
What sparked the explosion isn’t known and hardly matters. The situation was such that disaster was inevitable.
The senior officers confused arrogance and intolerance with leadership. Educating and training subordinates to work safely is part of leadership.
As we saw in the first series of Maritime Accident Casebook, it isn’t uncommon for senior officers to get complacent about the cargoes their ship carries, to assume they know better than the guys who wrote the safety procedures. It’s a life-threatening assumption.
Make sure your subordinates are aware of safe procedures, make sure they know what’s in the SMS, or in this case, SQEMS.
Encourage them to be safety aware and pro-active to take the initiative if they see what they believe to be an unsafe situation.
Ensure you have a good working relationship with your subordinates, it might save your life.
It might be a good idea, too, that they know how to make a distress call. Lugen Ortilano didn’t give his vessel’s position, which could have led to a delay in response to the emergency. He didn’t wait for a response to his call. Both are understandable since the ship was a bomb, all the same it’s worth ensuring that those who might have to make such a call practice how to speak calmly and clearly and give the ship’s position and its situation. Valuable time could be saved.
But let’s look at survival. Those aboard the life raft survived. Those who did not wore lifejackets that would have kept them afloat. Why didn’t they live?
The water was just 5.5 degrees Celcius. Two things happened when the men jumped into that sea. The first was cold shock. It was difficult to control breathing, their heart rate soared, and their blood pressure went up. It was hard to think clearly. For a few critical minutes, they were totally incapacitated. Cold shock can kill.
Those who survived cold shock were victims of hypothermia. Our bodies need warmth, indeed, they generate warmth. But in a cold sea, the body’s core temperature can fall so far that it can’t be maintained. It induced a fatigue, a fatal desire to sleep. In that situation, sleep is death. With unconsciousness, they drowned.
Aguilar, Marentes and Ronquillo were right to delay entering the water for as long as possible. The sooner you’re in the water, the sooner you die.
Of course, it’s best not to get in the water at all, get a lifeboat if you can.
When in the water, huddle together as much as possible and try and keep others awake.
Depending on the water conditions, some survival techniques commonly taught may not be useable. Dr. Frank Golden, a specialist in survival, gave the following suggestions to Maritime Accident Casebook:
Regardless of the water temperature, be sure wear a lifejacket, especially in cold water.
Before getting into the water, put on as much clothing as possible. and put something on your head, it will reduce heat loss.
If you can, keep your arms as close to the body and legs together to reduce heat loss.
Tighten crotch strop to ensure a near 40° angle of flotation and to help keep the back of head out of the water to reduce heat loss.
Keeping yourself warm, is the best way to keep yourself alive.
Today, Lugen Ortilano has a framed letter in his wall commending him for his heroism that night. Perhaps once in a while he wonders why such heroism should have been necessary in the first place.
Towing vessel Safety Runner tied up on the Mobile River next to two Kirby barges at the Oil Recovery Company Gas Freeing Terminal, ORC, unaware that the barges were being cleaned of residual diesel. Shortly afterwards the engines aboard Safety Runner began racing and could not be shut down, there was a fire which spread to the to the barges, resulting in explosions.
Three people sustained serious burn injuries. The total damage to the vessel and barge was estimated at $5.7 million.
Poor operations manuals and uncertified personnel played a key role in the incident.Continue reading »
Once upon a time they were called ‘second-hand’ but today it’s fashionable to call them ‘pre-loved’ – old cars and trucks. Unfortunately they come with an increased risk of fire when being transported to their last resting place as the fire aboard the DFDS ro-ro ferry CoronaSeaways.
At 0215 on 4 December 2013, a fire was discovered on the main deck of Corona Seaways while the vessel was on passage from Fredericia to Copenhagen, Denmark. The crew mustered, closed the ventilation louvres, established boundary cooling and operated the fixed CO2 fire-extinguishing system.
Although smoke continued to escape from the louvres, steady temperatures in the vicinity of the fire indicated that the CO2 had been effective in controlling it. At 0640, the vessel entered the Swedish port of Helsingborg, where assistance was provided
by the local Fire and Rescue Service.
The vessel suffered light structural damage and the loss of some minor electrical supplies. Three vehicles and six trailers were severely fire-damaged and other vehicles suffered minor radiant heat damage. The fire was caused by an electrical
defect on one of the vehicles’ engine starting system.
A Renault Premium 250.18 truck had been driven about 240km before arriving at Fredericia and then onto the vessel. Neither the drivers nor stevedores reported any mechanical, electrical or instrumentation issues. However, the truck had not been driven for the previous 11 months and there was no evidence that any checks had been carried out to prove its roadworthiness or general safety, including the integrity of its electrical and mechanical systems.
Existing damage to a battery cable meant that even though the vehicle was parked with the key in the ignition in the Stop/Park position an electrical short, with resultant heating, could still occur, as seems to have happened in this case.
MAIB’s report on the incident says: “The carriage of used vehicles and equipment that do not have appropriate road worthiness certification and whose history and condition are unknown, brings increased risks when compared with the carriage of well maintained vehicles that are in regular use“.
Although DFDS has fire risk control systems in place that might have prevented such a vehicle fire these oly applied to dedicated car transporters not to ro-ro ferries. Says MAIB: “Contrary to the spirit of the MCA’s Code of Practice and the master’s ‘Unsafe Cargo’ notice, there was no evidence that the vessel’s crew carried out vehicle safety checks. Neither the SSMM nor the onboard risk assessments covered the carriage of used vehicles and equipment”.
MAIB also noted: Injection of CO2 into the main deck was delayed, allowing the fire to develop, because it took time to establish the fitter’s whereabouts during the crew muster. The reason why the CO2 fire-extinguishing system apparently failed to discharge the allotted quantity of CO2 as designed remains unexplained. The main deck ventilation louvres were not fully closed and some of the crew were unaware how to correctly operate them. This allowed air (oxygen) to feed the fire and potentially affected the CO2 concentration levels needed to extinguish the fire. The cargo deck ventilation fans were not operated as required by the current regulations. This increased the fire risk due to the potential build-up of flammable
vapours from vehicles.