The ATSB has found that four crew members who were injured on board the bulk carrier Shirane on 2 April 2007 were not aware of similar previous boiler explosions (flashbacks) which could have fore warned them.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigation also found that the ship's crew were not aware of all of the hazards associated with servicing the boiler burner and that the personal protective equipment they were using did not provide them with adequate protection.

On the morning of 2 April 2007, Shirane was off Newcastle, New South Wales and the ship's third engineer had been assigned the task of replacing the Osaka OECV2 auxiliary boiler burner with a clean spare unit. When he finished the job, he attempted to fire the burner to check its operation but it failed to ignite. A few moments later, at 1013, while he was removing the burner to inspect it, there was a flashback from the boiler furnace.

The third engineer ran into engine control room and, as it was clear to the chief engineer and the first engineer that he had been burned, he was taken to the ship's hospital for first aid treatment.

The master was informed and, shortly after 1015, he telephoned the ship's agent in Newcastle and requested a medical evacuation.

After purging the boiler furnace for about an hour, the chief engineer and the second engineer removed the burner to inspect it. A few moments later, there was another flashback from the boiler furnace. The chief engineer, the second engineer and the fitter were burned by the second flashback.

The flashback had also caused a small fire on the deck, which was quickly extinguished. The three men then went to the ship's hospital for first aid treatment.

By 1324, a rescue helicopter had evacuated the second engineer, the third engineer and the fitter from the ship and, at 1729, it returned for the chief engineer.
The ATSB report found that the flashbacks were caused by unburnt fuel being deposited in the furnace when the burner misfired. The fuel was then vaporised and ignited by the hot surfaces inside the furnace.

The ATSB is pleased to report safety action already taken by the shipping company and the boiler manufacturer and has also issued three safety advisory notices with the aim of preventing similar occurrences.


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Last update 04 February 2014