Ferry Fire Prompts Call for Rule Changes


By MarEx 2015-11-12 09:30:31

The U.K. Maritime Accident Investigation Branch has released its report into the engineroom fire on the Pride of Canterbury. As a result of the investigation the ship manager, engine manufacturer and class society have all been tasked with action to prevent similar incidents in the future.

On September 29, 2014 as Pride of Canterbury was approaching Calais, it became apparent that the starboard controllable pitch propeller was not responding, so the starboard shaft was declutched and the two starboard main engines were stopped. 

The prevailing weather conditions were such that the master was content to proceed using one shaft and one bow thruster. As the ship approached its berth, a pipework joint in the starboard controllable pitch propeller system ruptured, spraying oil on to the exhaust uptakes, starting a fire. The main engine room was evacuated, the general emergency alarm was sounded and the passengers were mustered at emergency stations. 

The ferry berthed safely, the fire was extinguished using the ship’s hi-fog system and a fire hose, and the passengers and cargo were disembarked normally.

The investigation determined that the back pressure valve in the starboard controllable pitch propeller hydraulic system had jammed shut, resulting in the return line oil pressure rising to the point where a flanged pipework joint failed. The failed joint, along with others in the system, was not shielded to prevent a spray of oil in the event of joint failure. The back pressure valve was found to be worn and had not been tested for functionality during its 23 years of service.

Safety issues

The potential for the whole controllable pitch propeller hydraulic system to experience high pressure had not been adequately considered, states the report, and the method for annually testing the controllable pitch propeller system’s back pressure and safety relief valves was not specified.

The lack of a high pressure alarm prevented immediate awareness of high pressure in the system, and an effective joint shield could have prevented the spray of oil onto the hot engine uptake.

The storage of combustible materials near the two main engines allowed the fire to spread.

Actions taken

P&O Ferries has completed a program of modifications to Pride of Canterbury and its three sister ships as they attend refit. 

Wärtsilä has issued a technical bulletin specifying back pressure valves should be replaced after 15 years and Lloyd’s Register has been recommended to propose to the International Association of Classification Societies a unified requirement for high pressure alarms to be fitted in controllable pitch propeller systems.

The full report is available here.