Fire in Drydock

Fire in Drydock

I was employed under a contract with a manning company. While on duty on board of the ferry “MV ###” in dry dock there was a fire.  Certain emergency systems were disabled in dry dock either for maintenance or as a consequence of other tasks being undertaken.  No crew briefing took place with respect to the disabling of these systems and the measures put in place to compensate.

When I heard, Fire on Board, I followed the emergency procedure and crawled on the floor with a wet towel over my mouth and left my cabin crawling.  The alarm was raised by voice.  The emergency lighting was inoperative.

At least one crewman was seriously affected by smoke and toxic fumes.  Why didn’t the company supply breathing apparatus?

A year has passed since the incident and the company do not want to provide an accident report, why?

Fire training on board was not accurate at all.  We should be able to breathe when crawling along the deck. My experience indicates that crew should be provided with escape breathing apparatus, a fire in a ship’s accommodation generates too much toxic gas.  Evacuation training in the event of a fire is no more accurate.  Everyone involved in evacuation procedures should be able to breathe including stair marshals.

The incident took place before the 2000 amendments to SOLAS 74, Chapter II-2, Reg 13 came into force on 1 July 2002 and required Emergency Escape Breathing Devices to be supplied.  However, the reporter is of the view that the numbers prescribed are too low and unlikely to be of real benefit.

On the facts reported there are a number of ISM Code compliance issues:

  1. Section 7 states:

     “The Company should establish procedures for the preparation of plans and instructions, including checklists as appropriate, for key shipboard operations concerning the safety of the ship and the prevention of pollution.” 

Repair periods are clearly “key shipboard operations” which include significant safety risks that have to be carefully managed.  The report and the fact that there was a major fire indicate this may not have been the case.

The importance of making all crew members aware of the status of safety equipment during repair periods should be obvious.  Whilst it may be impracticable to have the entire crew attend daily briefings, arrangements should be put in place to ensure all personnel are aware of the activities impacting their safety and the compensatory measures adopted.

  1. Section 8 states:

8.1        “The Company should establish procedures to identify, describe and respond to potential emergency shipboard situations.

8.2        The Company should establish programmes for drills and exercises to prepare for emergency actions.

8.3        The SMS should provide for measures ensuring that the Company’s organization can respond at any time to hazards, accidents and emergency situations involving its ships.”

It is not clear how the emergency response activities were conducted, but it is worth highlighting this part of the Code because the roles and responsibilities of seafarers during repair periods often change and can lead to confusion.  On the evidence of the report the quality of the training undertaken is also open to question.

  1. Section 9.1 states:

     “The SMS should include procedures ensuring that non-conformities, accidents and hazardous situations are reported to the Company, investigated and analyzed with the objective of improving safety and pollution prevention.”

And at 9.2;

     “The Company should establish procedures for the implementation of corrective action.”

The alleged absence of an investigation is a contravention of the ISM Code.  CHIRP has also learned that Flag State was notified too late for any meaningful investigation to take place.”

The absence of an investigation into the incident or evidence of procedural changes after it, combined with the other areas of concern, raise serious doubts as to the effectiveness of the safety management system in this organisation.

CHIRP has learned the vessel was subsequently expelled from her registry.

The reporter was supplied to the vessel operator by a manning agent.  This incident and other details emerging subsequently have caused the agent to ask whether there are reasonable steps an agent should/could take to help prevent sending seafarers to sub-standard operators.

Those manning agents that have been willing to talk to CHIRP indicate that beyond credit risk assessment there are few checks undertaken.  Their clients are the ship owning/managing principals, but their resources are the seafarers on their books.  The ability of manning agents to conduct operational risk assessments of prospective clients varies greatly.

CHIRP believes that this is a subject worth discussing further to see whether reasonable and practical measures may be taken to promote seafarer safety.