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The ATSB has found that a fire on board the Singapore registered ship Java Sea on 24 May 2005 started when hot pressurised thermal oil, possibly in the form of a spray, came into contact with an un-lagged section of the thermal oil heater exhaust piping. The fire was further fuelled by the contents of oil storage tanks located near the seat of the fire.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigation found that the fixed fire extinguishing system was ineffective in extinguishing the fire because the ship's crew could not close the funnel casing ventilation dampers; the diesel generator was not shut down before the system was activated; and the oil tank quick closing valves were not operated.

At about 0540 on 24 May, a fire started in the engine room of the general cargo ship Java Sea while it was berthed in Cairns. Initial attempts by the ship's crew to fight the fire using a fire hose were unsuccessful and the decision was made to operate the engine room Halon 1301 fixed fire extinguishing system.

The release of the Halon 1301 proved ineffective. The fire was eventually extinguished by the Queensland Fire Service, using high expansion foam injected through a hole cut in the base of the funnel at poop deck level, directly above the seat of the fire.

There were no serious injuries as a result of the fire. However, the engine room and accommodation were significantly damaged by the fire and the associated fire fighting activities. The shiphad to be towed to Singapore for permanent repairs.

The report makes recommendations to ship owners, managers and masters with reference to closing arrangements for funnel casing ventilation openings and on board maintenance and emergency procedure manuals.

Copies of the report can be downloaded from the ATSB's internet site at www.atsb.gov.au

Media contact: 1800 020 616
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Last update 01 April 2011