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Casualty briefs

Mar 27, 2017 12:40 PM

Improper fuel line fittingcited by NTSB in ship fire
A fire in the auxiliary engine room aboard the containership Gunde Maersk started minutes after the vessel left Seattle, and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators determined it likely stemmed from an improperly installed fuel line fitting.

The 1,200-foot Danish-flagged ship operated by Maersk Line departed Terminal 46 at 0502 on Dec. 8, 2015. Seven minutes later, as the vessel prepared to leave Elliott Bay, the ship’s auxiliary engine No. 1 caught fire.

Gunde Maersk’s firefighting system worked as designed: High-pressure mist equipment activated automatically to put out the fire, the NTSB determined. Ventilation systems shut down and dampers closed to keep oxygen away from the flames.

“Investigators determined that the fire was caused by fuel leaking from a dislodged 1.5-inch-diameter O-ring in the fuel supply line to the No. 3 cylinder fuel injection pump, located near the top of auxiliary engine No. 1,” the NTSB said.

The fuel line was pressurized, and some fuel landed on spray shields while the rest flowed through gaps in the cylinder heads to the exhaust side of the engine, investigators determined. The ignition point was never identified, although the NTSB considers red-hot exhaust piping a leading candidate.

Crewmembers replaced O-rings throughout the ship’s fuel system within a month before the fire, and investigators believe “the leak occurred because the fitting was not tightened with a torque wrench as prescribed in the manufacturer’s written procedures.”

Four tugboats towed the ship back to the terminal after the fire was extinguished. Repairs were estimated at $380,000. No injuries were reported.

‘Pressurized object’ injures two tanker crewmen
The U.S. Coast Guard rescued two injured mariners from a crude-oil tanker 20 miles off Sabine Pass, Texas, after both were hit by a “pressurized” mechanical object.

The unidentified object struck a 24-year-old crewman in the head, knocking him unconscious, the Coast Guard said. A 42-year-old crewman suffered a broken nose in the incident. The accident occurred at about 1430 on Dec. 21 aboard the 748-foot Greek-flagged United Ambassador.

The younger crewman was airlifted to shore while the older mariner was transported back in a Coast Guard response boat. Both men were initially treated at a hospital in Port Arthur, although the unconscious mariner was later taken to a Beaumont trauma center in serious condition.

It’s not clear what struck the mariners, how it happened or where it occurred on board. The Coast Guard is not required to investigate incidents beyond three miles offshore, and in this case responding crews submitted a report that focused only on the rescue, according to a Coast Guard spokesman.

Coast Guard: Safety plans of no use if not followed
The Coast Guard has issued a safety alert targeting crew complacency during common yet potentially dangerous shipboard activities.

The Jan. 3 alert was spurred by an incident aboard the bulk carrier CF Crystal in December 2014 in which a mariner fell from a bosun’s chair while painting the ship’s hull and drowned in the Gulf of Mexico. Coast Guard investigators determined the mariner fell into the sea when the chair line parted as crew pulled him up.

According to the alert, the ship’s captain and chief mate formulated a detailed work plan before the mariner began the painting project. The bosun’s chair, Manila rope and crew rigging were to be inspected, and the crewman was to wear a personal flotation device and use a safety harness and lifeline. However, investigators determined the plan was not followed. The operation also was not properly supervised.

“Crewmembers failed to adequately check the strength of the bosun’s chair line, instead simply pulling on it,” the alert said. “Also, the deceased crewmember was not wearing a PFD, and, even though he wore a safety harness along with a lifeline, the lifeline went untended and was not tied off to the vessel.”

Coast Guard investigator Aaron Heniger, who is stationed in Port Arthur, Texas, said the safety alert should serve as a reminder about the importance of following safety plans and leading by example.

“The biggest thing in this one was just getting it across that some people aren’t going to do what they are told all the time when their leader is not present,” he said. “Know your people and lead them appropriately.”

Board holds final round of El Faro hearings
The Coast Guard’s Marine Board of Investigation convened for its third and final set of hearings into the El Faro tragedy on Feb. 6 in Jacksonville, Fla. The hearings, preceded by two sessions last year, occurred as Professional Mariner was going to press.

The latest hearings included recently released information, including El Faro’s bridge transcript documenting the ship’s final 26 hours at sea. 

The 791-foot roll-on/roll-off ship sank on Oct. 1, 2015, near Crooked Island in the Bahamas after losing main engine power during Hurricane Joaquin. Thirty-three people died in the accident. 

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