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Constant vigilance and appropriate risk controls can reduce the danger of ship fires from on board hot work

The ATSB reminds ship operators of the constant danger of ship fires from on board hot work for the removal of sea fastenings. 

The general cargo ship BBC Xingang

The ATSB’s final investigation report into a fire on board BBC Xingang, Newcastle, New South Wales, has been released.

On 11 December 2017, hot work (oxy-acetylene welding techniques) were required for the removal of sea fastenings on the ship’s tween deck. Before work started, a safety meeting, between relevant crew and the contracted hot work team, was held to discuss safety measures and procedures.

A fire watch team was arranged and fire blankets were placed in the gaps between the tween deck pontoons to protect the cargo below. However, the hot work created molten metal and other hot material that burnt through to the cargo below and ignited the cargo coverings. The fire was quickly extinguished on discovery.

ATSB Executive Director, Transport Safety, Mr Nat Nagy said ship fires from hot work to remove sea fastenings are a constant danger.

Implementation of comprehensive risk controls and procedures should include detailed task-specific appraisals, risk and hazard assessments, work permits, and toolbox meetings.

“This is the third time the ATSB has investigated ships fires that were found to be caused by hot work to remove sea fastenings,” Mr Nagy said.

“It’s important that ship crews do not underestimate the safety risk of this common activity and remain vigilant while undertaking hot work.”

“Implementation of comprehensive risk controls and procedures should include detailed task-specific appraisals, risk and hazard assessments, work permits, and toolbox meetings, Mr Nagy said.

The ATSB investigation found the flammable nature of the cargo coverings had not been adequately identified in the lead-up to the hot work and the fire watch was not instructed to monitor the area immediately below the hot work.

“Ship operators need to be mindful that the responsibility for the implementation of these controls rests with the ship’s master, especially when shore labour is involved and multiple organisations’ safety and work procedures could apply,” Mr Nagy said.

Read the final report: MO-2017-011 - Fire on board BBC Xingang, Newcastle, NSW, on 11 December 2017

 
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Last update 25 May 2018