Engine Fire Highlighted Training and Guidance Issues
The U.K. Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has release its report on the catastrophic engine failure on the crew transfer vessel Windcat 8 off the Lincolnshire coast on September 7, 2017 citing the need for more crew training.
Windcat 8 was on passage to Grimsby, U.K., from the Lynn Wind Farm in the North Sea with two crew and eight windfarm technicians on board. Shortly after setting off, the vessel’s port engine suffered catastrophic damage and caught fire. The passengers were quickly transferred to Windcat 31, and the fire was contained within the port engine space and soon extinguished. Windcat 8’s port engine was badly damaged and the vessel was towed to Grimsby by Windcat 30.
The MAIB investigation identified that the catastrophic damage to Windcat 8’s port main engine was caused by the failure of a piston connecting rod big end shell bearing, which resulted in the connecting rod assembly releasing and penetrating through the engine crankcase.
No guidance was provided on board Windcat 8 that specified the actions to be taken in response to differing engine alarms. Therefore, the vessel’s master had to rely on his experience and knowledge to decide on appropriate responses. On this occasion, when the port engine high oil temperature alarm activated, the master immediately reduced the engine’s speed to idle and instructed the deckhand to investigate. As the engine’s cooling and lubrication systems appeared to be working normally and the alarm had reset, the master then resumed passage at 21 knots.
At the time, this action was logical and well-intended, says MAIB. However, in hindsight, that the alarm remained unexplained and the engine was not protected by an automatic shutdown arrangement, a more cautious approach in the use of the engine would have been appropriate before it was again put under load.
The transfer of the eight windfarm technicians from Windcat 8 to Windcat 31 within five minutes of the fire in the port engine space being detected indicated that the master gave high priority to their safety.
However, the closing down and isolation of the port engine space lacked co-ordination. The fixed fire extinguishing system was rendered ineffective because not all the port engine space vents were closed prior to its release.
MAIB notes that there was no guidance or instructions on board Windcat 8 regarding action to be taken on the activation of engine alarms. Emergency checklists kept on the vessel’s forward cabin console included actions to be taken in the event of abandonment, collision, grounding, man overboard and fire.
During 2017, the master had completed 16 emergency drills, including fire drills, on board other Windcat vessels and a man overboard drill on board Windcat 8 during the afternoon of September 7. The deckhand had completed 23 emergency drills in 2017 including five fire drills. The fire drills did not include any engine space fire drills on board Windcat 8.
A recommendation has been made to Windcat 8’s owner, Windcat Workboats, to provide training and guidance on the action to be taken for all critical propulsion alarms and to introduce measures to ensure its crews understand the principles of the installed fixed fire-fighting systems and are fully familiar with procedures for their operation.