FIRE ABOARD MOTOR TANKER


28th Dec 2006

DESCRIPTION OF INCIDENT

Vessel was on charter to one of the major oil companies carrying on oil production in the Gulf of Thailand. On Aug 18th, 2001 around 2300 hrs the fire alarm activated in all senior officer's cabins as well as in alleyways and the bridge. Motorman on watch who was in compressor room on starboard side engine room 2nd level heard a loud explosion & within few seconds the smoke became thick. He rushed out of the engine room and simultaneously third officer on deck watch raised the alarm by voice. By 2310 all crew had mustered, fire fighting party and technical squad activated all Quick Closing V/Vs and closed fire dampers. There were only two accesses to E/R; one from outside on main deck boiler space and other through the accommodation. By 2320 smoke had thickened and started leaking from accommodation liftwell as well as engine room blower intakes.

First entry in to engine room by the fire party identified the fire on the generator. By now no power was available and engine room was under emergency power and emergency pump was brought in to action. By 2355 fire could not be controlled in spite of having activated Q. C. V/Vs as well as sealed off all air intakes. Master was advised about fire going out of control. Vessel was serving as floating storage tank and was loading at a slow rate. Loading was suspended and master on advice of chief engineer ordered to release halon in to engine room, without delay. Stand by tugs that were on stern were summoned to back up boundary cooling. tugs were on duty to keep the ship away from SBM. With release of halon, fire was brought under control and extinguished by 0200 hrs.

CAUSE OF FIRE

Although the engine's HP fuel injection Pump and injectors were totally encased (Man- B & W Scandia Verken, engine rating 650 KW/1000 KVP), the low pressure fuel supply line (3.0 Bar) were not protected.

The engine was provided with fuel pressure Transmitter and low FO. pressure switch. At the time of fire engine was running on gas oil as conventional HFO & MDO were not available in the oil field. Due to no apparent reason, small bore 8.0mm pressure switch on fuel pressure worked out of the ferrule, and straightened out directing a jet of fuel on to the ceiling that was 9.0m high. The reflected gas oil spray landed on the gas outlet casing lagging of Turbo charger as well as T/C blower filter. Fuel that was sucked in to T/C ignited resulting in explosion of turbocharger. Hot flames caused extensive damage to the turbo charger; adjoining cyclic head valve cover melted off, and stator cables of turbo-alternator one deck above and passing above the diesel generator also melted.

LESSON DRAWN

It must be emphasized that engineer must be aware of exposed fuel & oil pipes that are in the vicinity of hot spots such as exhaust pipes, which can lead to a very serious fire in the event of failure of not only pipe, but also the failure of ferrule securing the pipe. It is a good practice to check tightness of such vulnerable pipes. This incident and a similar incident a few days earlier in European waters had prompted the class DNV recommending protection of all such pipes that are in close vicinity of hot spots with anti-splash tapes. One such tape that was eventually supplied is DNV class approved F-N tape. Vessel's owner issued circular to all the vessels under it. To identify such vulnerable spots and guard them with anti-splash F-N tape.

After the fire had extinguished when entry was made to restore normalcy, vessel had lost all the air; emergency hand compressor was ineffective. Since air is left open for gen. it had drained out due to failure of gaskets under intense heat. Jacket water pipe gasket also melted off resulting in no water in expansion tank and engine. Vessel had to run temporary 3-PH wiring to emergency power board for running hydrophore pumps. Vessel had to make a small reducer and connected one nitrogen bottle to start generator.