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Fire on board!

This shipboard fire quickly got out of control causing extensive damage and several injuries due to smoke inhalation. An open cabin door and a stairwell fire door left hooked open were contributing factors.

Emergency services responding the fire on board the livestock carrier Ocean Driver

On the morning of 9 October 2014, a fire started in Ocean Drover’s crew accommodation while the livestock carrier was berthed in Fremantle, Western Australia. The fire quickly spread across both accommodation decks. The ship’s crew and shore emergency response teams responded and fire-fighting efforts continued for the rest of the day.

By the time the fire was extinguished late that evening, the ship’s accommodation areas and its navigation bridge had been extensively damaged. Four of the ship’s crew sustained injuries that required medical treatment.

The ATSB found that the fire started in a centrally located forward cabin on Ocean Drover’s upper deck. The intensity of the fire and the severity of the damage made it impossible to identify an exact point of origin or source of the fire.

The ATSB investigation found that the cabin door was left open after the fire was discovered allowing smoke and flame to spread beyond the cabin. Further, the bridge deck stairwell fire door was hooked open, which allowed the fire to rapidly spread and engulf both the upper and bridge decks.

The investigation also identified that the ship’s crew did not complete a muster and accurate head count when responding to the fire.

While cigarette smoking was not identified as a contributing factor, it was found that the smoking policy and associated risk controls on board were not effectively managed.

Ocean Drover underwent extensive post-fire repairs before it could return to service. During the repair period, the ship’s managers took pro-active safety action to avoid a similar incident in the future. All cabins in the ship’s accommodation were fitted with smoke detectors. The bridge deck stairwell fire door was replaced with one that is not fitted with a hold back arrangement (to comply with mandatory regulations). Notices posted on both sides of the door require it to be kept closed.

The ship’s managers have revised the shipboard smoking policy and restricted smoking to designated rooms, which exclude crew cabins. Designated smoking rooms are provided with safety ashtrays and sand bins, and warning signs have been posted in accommodation areas. The managers promulgated the lessons learned from the fire and safety action taken across the fleet through procedural changes and safety meetings.

Safety message

Containing a shipboard fire in the compartment where it originates is critical to firefighting.

Effective containment relies on maintaining the integrity of fire divisions, including bulkheads, decks and doors. In this regard, particular attention must be paid to ensuring fire doors, designed to limit or prevent the spread of fire, are never latched/lashed open, or otherwise compromised.

Read the investigation report MO-2014-012

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Last update 11 March 2016