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Pressure testing leads to engine room fire and collision

  • What happened?

    During the towing of a structure to a location, the tug vessel crew were carrying out a pressure test on the fuel oil system.

    During the test, fuel oil started spraying out of a gasket in the engine room.

    The fuel oil spray was ignited by the heat of the engines.

    The fire in the engine room caused a short circuit, which was followed by a blackout.

    As the power supply failed, the tow tug started drifting.

    The tow tug drifted past a transport barge. The protruding structures on the transport barge struck the tow tug.

    Tow tug collission with transport barge
  • Why did it happen?

    Unreliable gasket material was used in the fuel oil system.

    The permit to work (PTW) failed to address the related risks of pressure testing.

    The emergency generator failed to start, resulting in a blackout.

    The fire extinguisher system did not activate (the fire was extinguished with a combination of the sprinkler system and the residue fuel oil burning out).

    The engine emergency stop button in the engine control room could not be accessed by the crew – too much smoke had escaped from the engine room.

    The crew were not familiar with characteristics of fire-fighting systems on-board.

    There was reliance on third-parties’ expertise during design, build, commissioning, and operations.

    Location where the pressure test was conducted
  • What did they learn?

    All crew should fully understand emergency and fire-fighting systems on vessels, including how they operate and specific characteristics of the systems and how effective they are.

    Any non-standard activity should be subject to control of work procedures.

    The organisations involved need to communicate proactively when non-standard activities are required.

    Ensure that the permit to work is used as an effective communication tool of the risks involved.

    Damaged equipment
  • Ask yourself or your crew

    What are the risks involved in pressure testing fuel oil systems?

    How could something like this happen on our vessel?

    What fire suppression systems do we have on our vessel?

    How do this work, and how effective are they?  How could they fail?

    If fire broke out on our vessel, what is your role and what is the process to follow?

    Ask your crew - icon
Published on 17/07/21 759 Views 0 likes

A crew were carrying out a pressure test on a tow tug’s fuel oil system when oil started spraying out of the gasket. The oil started a fire onboard, which caused a blackout. Without power, the tow tug drifted and hit a transport barge. Original material courtesy of IMCA