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The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has found that an engine room fire that occurred on board the Antarctic resupply ship LAstrolabe, on 11 November 2006, was the result of a fuel leak on the starboard main engine.

On 5 November 2006, the Antarctic supply ship LAstrolabe sailed from the French Antarctic base at Dumont dUrville, bound for Hobart, Tasmania. On 7 November, the engineers discovered that the starboard main engines main fuel pump was leaking. They blanked off the main fuel pump and ran the engine using another fuel pump.

At about 0530 on 11 November, while the ship was still about 320 nautical miles south of Hobart, a fire started in the engine room when the blank that had been fitted to the starboard main engines fuel pipe worked loose, allowing fuel to spray out of the pipe. The leaking fuel ignited when it came into contact with the hot surfaces of the engine.

The ships crew remotely operated the fuel system quick closing valves, which shut down all of the ships engines. They then isolated all ventilation to the engine room before activating the engine rooms fixed fire extinguishing system.

By 0620, the fire had been extinguished and the crew re-entered the engine room to restart the ships engines. By about 1200, LAstrolabe had resumed its passage to Hobart on its port main engine. The starboard main engine was back in service on 12 November.

The investigation found that the blank fitted to the engines fuel pipe was ineffective for the task.

The report also concludes that the practices and procedures used for re-entering engine room after the fire may have been risky.

The ATSB has issued one recommendation and three safety advisory notices with the aim of preventing further incidents of this type.

Copies of the report can be downloaded from the ATSBs internet site www.atsb.gov.au

Media contact: 1800 020 616
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Last update 01 April 2011