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The ATSB has found that the engine room fire on board the general cargo ship Baltimar Boreas off Newcastle, on 9 February 2007, started after diesel oil leaking from a failed fuel hose on one of the ship's generator engines ignited.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigation found that long term wear from chafing caused the flexible fuel hose to fail. Inadequate maintenance, use of longer than specified hoses and temporary repairs contributed to the poor condition of a number of hoses on the ship's generators. The length of the fuel hoses, as designed, was also not consistent with internationally-prescribed guidelines. The condition of the hoses had not been noticed during previous surveys, audits or inspections. The investigation also found that the ship's funnel ventilator closing arrangements were not in accordance with the intent of the relevant international regulations.

At 2305 on 8 February, the Bahamas registered Baltimar Boreas sailed from Newcastle with a cargo that included 945 tonnes of the industrial explosive, ammonium nitrate.

At 0250 on 9 February, the ship's fire detection system indicated a fire the engine room. On investigation, the second engineer found a large fire on number three generator. He quickly raised the alarm and stopped the engine room ventilation fans. The crew mustered quickly, operated systems to stop the engine room oil pumps and prepared to fight the fire. All the engine room ventilators were closed, except those at the top of the funnel which were inaccessible because of thick smoke and sparks issuing from them.

At 0305, Halon gas from the engine room fixed fire extinguishing system was released and the master then sent a distress message. A rapid response to the incident ashore was coordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. Baltimar Boreas was about five miles off the coast and a passing ship stood by to assist if necessary. A tug from Newcastle, with fire-fighting capability, was also sent to assist.

At 0340, the ship's crew determined that the fire was extinguished. There were no injuries but fire damage in the engine room had disabled the ship. By 1030, the tug had taken Baltimar Boreas in tow and the ship berthed in Newcastle for repairs later that day.

The ATSB has issued a number of recommendations and safety advisory notices with the aim of preventing similar incidents in the future.

Copies of the report can be downloaded from the ATSB's internet site

Media contact: George Nadal: 1800 020 616
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Last update 01 April 2011