Marine safety investigations & reports

Ffire and muster of the passengers aboard the Spirit of Tasmania

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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At 1800 on 23 February 2001, the Australian flag roll on-roll off passenger ferry Spirit of Tasmania departed Station Pier in Melbourne bound for Devonport in Tasmania. On board the ship were 967 passengers, 112 crew and 10 staff from licensed businesses. The weather was good with wind from the south-south-west at 17-21 knots and a low swell. The ship was averaging a speed of approximately 17 knots.

At 0114 the second mate on the bridge received a fire 'pre-warning' from a detector he identified as being in 'The Ship's Photographer' shop on 'E' deck. Approximately one minute later the detector initiated a fire alarm followed shortly after by the second detector located in the shop. He immediately contacted the two night security stewards and asked them to investigate the alarms. The stewards called back a short time later confirming that there was a fire, which appeared to be in the store at the rear of the photography shop. The two men could see into the shop through the locked glass front door but could not enter as they did not have the key. The second mate then called the master and started the muster signal in the crew accommodation.

The master arrived quickly on the bridge and, after assessing the situation including further confirmation that the fire was serious, initiated the muster signal throughout the passenger accommodation. The time was 0120.

By this time members of the attack and back-up emergency parties had started to arrive outside the photography shop with fire fighting equipment. The mate who was leading the attack party, nominated two integrated ratings to don breathing apparatus to enter the shop and extinguish the fire.

As smoke was spreading from the shop throughout the ship's accommodation, the mate called the bridge and requested that the fire doors throughout the ship be closed remotely. The time was 0125.

The shop door key was obtained from the shop manager and the two nominated IRs entered the photography shop, initially with hand held extinguishers. Although the smoke was very thick, they located the fire in the store area at the rear. They attempted to extinguish the fire with the hand held extinguishers but found that the fire kept re-igniting. The lead IR realised that the only option was to cool the area with a fire hose. Both men retreated from the shop. A fire hose was quickly charged, both men reentered the shop and, after five minutes, the fire was extinguished using salt water. After the shop area was thoroughly checked, the fire was declared out at 0144.

While the fire was being extinguished, the passenger muster was proceeding relatively smoothly. By 0152 all passengers had been mustered at their designated muster areas by the ship s crew. The crew dealt with a number of problems during the muster including the need to move one group away from a smoke filled muster area, one passenger with a suspected heart attack and two others who had experienced asthma attacks. All passengers were kept at their muster areas for the next hour while the smoke in the accommodation was cleared and the area of the fire monitored for any signs of re-ignition.

At 0255 it was decided that the smoke in the accommodation had cleared sufficiently for the passengers to be escorted back to their cabins. The rest of the voyage was completed without incident with Spirit of Tasmania arriving at Devonport on schedule on the morning of 24 February.

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 471KB]
General details
Date: 23 February 2001   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: N/A    
Location: Bass Strait    
State: Victoria    
Release date: 12 September 2002   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Vessel details

Vessel details
Vessel Spirit of Tasmania  
Flag Aus  
IMO 8502391  
Type of operation Ro-Ro passenger ferry  
Damage to vessel Minor  
Departure point Melbourne, Victoria  
Destination Devonport, Tasmania  
Last update 19 May 2016