Ship was a bulk carrier sailed from Vancouver to Mumbai. The cargo carried was sulphur and sodium borate. Holds 1 and 3 had sulphur and 2,4,5 had sodium borate.

Ship discharged the cargo partly and was sent to outer anchorage. After 20 days, the ship was called into inner anchorage for discharging the cargo.Chief officer was at the station along with cadet, electrical officer and carpenter. When the anchor was heaving up, after 2 or 3 shackles, the windlass stopped. While checking for the cause, noticed smoke coming from No. 3 hold. Mast house door was open. All holds were battened down.

Chief officer informed bridge to shut off power from engine room to forward, which was complied.The chief officer, wanted to have a quick check to assess the situation, took DCP portable extinguisher, and put on a SCBA and entered on tween deck. Electrical officer, cadet and carpenter were kept at the entrance of the mast house. He could not find any flame or thick smoke. Cargo was not loaded on tween deck, but the sprayed out sulphur (while loading) had caught fire due to a short circuit in the electrical cable, which was passing through.

The fire was extinguished with the portable extinguisher. Same time the SCBA whistle alarm came, hence the chief officer decided to leave the place. When he came up, to his surprise, he did not find any body there in the mast house entrance. All the three persons had vanished, assuming that the chief officer had already died.Master wanted him to give up the operation, since the vessel was on a time charter, the chief officer felt he should rectify before going in. C/E and his colleagues could open up a junction box nearby and isolate the circuit. After the smoke subsided ( about ½ an hour), chief officer and electrical officer re-entered the, tween deck and rectified the shorted cable.Vessel was in time at the pilot station, picked up the pilot and reached the inner anchorage and cargo discharge started without any time delay.

Points to be noted : 1)Fire alarm was not sounded.2)Responsibility for personnel to be defined and allotted for enclosed space entry.3)Without realising the situation, the persons ran off from the scene. This should be avoided, and the personnel have to be educated.