Marine safety investigations & reports

Fire in the hold of the general cargo vessel Marion Green

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On 28 July 2002, the Netherlands flag generalpurpose cargo vessel Marion Green, of 11 894 gross tonnes, carrying 6 000 tonnes of cocoa beans, was off the coast of Western Australia on passage from Fremantle to Adelaide.

At 1130 that morning a fire alarm was activated by the smoke detection system in No. 2 cargo hold. After a brief inspection through the open hold access by the mate and second mate, during which they saw some flames on top of the cargo, all openings were closed and the discharge of CO2 from the fixed firefighting installation was started. By 1715 that afternoon, 86 bottles of CO2 had been released into the hold.

At 0700 on the following day, a slight increase in hatch cover temperature was recorded. The master was advised by the vessel's managers to discharge the remaining 11 bottles of hold CO2 and to divert to Albany as a port of refuge.

Marion Green berthed in Albany at 1615 on 29 July. Additional bulk CO2 was delivered to the ship from Perth and this, too, was discharged into the hold over the next few days. On the morning of 31 July, the after panels of No. 2 hatch were opened for an inspection. Flames were seen on the top layers of cargo and these were doused by the fire brigade after which the hatches were again closed and more CO2 discharged into the hold. At 1400 the following day, 1 August, the hatch covers were once more opened and, after further flare-ups had been doused by the fire brigade, stevedores began discharging the cargo into sand bungs on the wharf. By 10 August all the cocoa bean cargo had been discharged and Marion Green sailed for Adelaide.

The report concludes that the investigation was unable to determine, exactly, the cause of the fire, but four distinct possibilities were examined. These were:

  • Self-heating of the cargo due to fungal growth
  • Ignition caused by the flammable characteristics of the phosphine used for fumigating the cargo
  • Cigarette ends discarded in the hold during loading of the cargo in Makassar
  • A cargo light that had been left in the hold on sailing from Makassar

It also concludes that:

  • the vessel's 'no smoking' policy was not properly enforced during cargo loading
  • insufficient CO2 was released into the hold in the early stages of the fire
  • inadequate information on the hazards of shipping cocoa beans was provided to the ship's staff and
  • the response to the fire, once the vessel was alongside, lacked co-ordination and a clear understanding of who had the responsibility and authority for dealing with it.

The report recommends that:

  • the shipowners enforce a strict 'no smoking' policy in the vicinity of cargo operations
  • the shipowners ensure that ship's masters are provided with all relevant information on the hazards of carrying organic cargoes and their fumigation
  • shippers, stevedores and ship's officers ensure that adequate ventilation channels are provided when stowing such cargoes and
  • deck watchkeeping officers log the isolation and stowage of all electrical equipment from the holds on completion of cargo operations.
Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 338KB]
General details
Date: 28 July 2002   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: N/A    
Location: Off WA Coast    
State: Western Australia    
Release date: 09 December 2003   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Vessel details

Vessel details
Vessel Marion Green  
Flag Neth  
IMO 9164029  
Type of operation Multi-purpose general cargo  
Damage to vessel Minor  
Departure point Fremantle, WA  
Destination Adelaide, SA  
Last update 19 May 2016