Jump to Content
Download Final Report
[ Download PDF: 228KB]

At 2200 on 23 August 1997, the self-discharging bulk cement carrier Goliath was alongside in the port of Devonport, Tasmania, loading a cargo of bulk cement for discharge in Melbourne and Sydney. At about 2202, the ship's fire alarms sounded throughout the accommodation.

Cargo operations were suspended and the Chief and 1st Engineer made their way to the central control station. The ship's fire detection system indicated the alarm had been activated from the transformer room, adjacent to the main switchboard room. Joined by the 3rd Mate they went to the engine room where they could smell burning electrical insulation. The Chief and 1st Engineers entered the switchboard room then the transformer room to investigate, while the 3rd Mate waited in the engine room.

Although the transformer room was filled with quite dense smoke, the two engineers entered, but then noticed that the smoke was coming from the main switchboard room behind them. The smoke was accumulating rapidly and the men were forced to leave the transformer room almost immediately, before they could locate the source of the smoke.

In the engine room the 3rd Mate relayed the Chief Engineer's assessment to the Master, confirming a large fire and requesting the assistance of the Tasmanian Fire Service.

The 1st Engineer, wearing breathing apparatus, went back into the switchboard room and found the seat of the fire in the main switchboard, in the cubicle containing No.2 generator air circuit breaker.

A team from the Tasmanian Fire Service arrived at 2216 and by 2235 the firemen had extinguished the fire using CO2 and dry powder extinguishers.

Wearing BA, the Chief and 1st Engineers removed the circuit breaker from its cubicle and cooled it with a water hose. The circuit breaker was damaged beyond repair and heat had caused considerable damage to the adjacent cubicles either side of No.2 circuit breaker.

Repairs, which were carried out by contractors over the next 18 days, included the replacement of all the ship's Hyundai manufactured air circuit breakers with new ones manufactured by Terasaki in Japan.


These conclusions identify the different factors contributing to the incident and should not be read as apportioning blame or liability to any particular individual or organisation.

  1. The fire in the main switchboard was caused by an internal fault in the air circuit breaker for No.2 generator.
  2. Damage to the circuit breaker was such that, on subsequent examination, it was not possible to determine exactly what had caused the fault, although overheating of the centre pole in the main current carrying path was probably the triggering factor.
  3. No inspections, in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations, had been carried out on the ship's circuit breakers since the vessel was delivered, and their first survey was not due until five months after the incident.
  4. A heat detector, located above, and very close to, the cubicle containing the No.2 generator circuit breaker proved ineffective at giving an early alarm as heat was contained largely within the cubicle and the main problem was the generation of large quantities of smoke from cable insulation.
  5. In general, the response to the fire by the ship's officers and crew was appropriate and, with the assistance of the Tasmanian Fire Service, the fire was successfully confined to No. 2 switchboard cubicle. However, shortcomings in briefings, the use and monitoring of BA sets and dress worn by ship's staff during firefighting are areas that require examination.
Download Final Report
[ Download PDF: 228KB]
General details
Date: 23 August 1997 Investigation status: Completed 
Location:Devonport Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Tasmania  
Release date: 18 May 1999  
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Incident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Vessel details
Vessel: Goliath 
Flag: Aus 
IMO: 9036430 
Type of Operation: Bulk cement carrier (self-discharging) 
Damage to Vessel: Substantial 
Departure point:Devonport, Tasmania
Destination:Melbourne - Sydney
Share this page Provide feedback on this investigation
Last update 19 May 2016