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Fatal Fire Highlights Flawed Onboard Culture

Arco Avon

By MarEx 2016-09-04 20:02:41

The U.K.’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch has highlighted an onboard culture of working alone in its investigation report into the fatal fire on the suction dredger Arco Avon on August 18, 2015.

A fire broke out in the engine room of the dredger while the vessel was loading a sand cargo approximately 12 miles off Great Yarmouth, U.K. The fire claimed the life of the vessel’s third engineer, who was attempting to repair a failed fuel pipe when fuel, under pressure in the pipe, ignited.

The third engineer’s decision to act autonomously without informing either the OOW or CEO was contrary to documented standing orders but was commensurate with the onboard culture of regular lone working.

The fact that sparks generated by using fixed and portable angle grinders produce a hot work hazard is not currently acknowledged in marine industry guidance, says MAIB. Additionally, the contents of IMO circular MSC. 1/Circ.1321, which recommends a six monthly inspection of fuel system pipework to be included in a vessel’s SMS, had not been formally promulgated to the U.K. shipping industry.

Merchant Shipping Notices relating to personal protective equipment in engine rooms are inadequate, suggesting that cotton garments could provide fire protection, MAIB found.

Additionally, the ship Captain’s medical guide gave confusing and inconsistent advice on the treatment of serious burns.

The death of an experienced officer serves as a salient reminder of the risks that crews can be exposed to when policies and procedures designed to mitigate such risks are not followed, and recognized safe systems of work are allowed to lapse, states MAIB. “Robust risk assessments and safe systems of work are important barriers that prevent marine accidents. Everyone, from the individual seafarer to the senior company executive ashore, needs to develop shared company safety cultures that make the use of risk assessments and safe systems of work an unquestioned part of life.”

The report is available here.