Marine safety investigations & reports

Engine room fire on board Java Sea

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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At about 0540 on 24 May 2005, a fire started on board the Singapore registered general cargo ship Java Sea while it was berthed in Cairns. The fire started in the engine room adjacent to the oil-fired thermal fluid heater, at deck level, under the poop in way of the aft peak bulkhead.

Initial attempts by the ship's crew to fight the fire using a fire hose were unsuccessful and the decision was taken to use the engine room Halon 1301 fixed fire extinguishing system. The release of the Halon 1301 proved ineffective, primarily because of the inability of the crew to close the dampers on the ventilation openings at the top of the funnel casing.

The fire was finally extinguished by the Queensland Fire Service, using high expansion foam injected through a hole cut in the base of the funnel at poop deck level directly above the seat of the fire.

The engine room and accommodation were significantly damaged by the fire and the associated fire fighting activities, to such an extent that Java Sea had to be towed to Singapore for permanent repairs.

The report found that it is probable a leakage of hot pressurised thermal fluid (mineral oil), possibly in the form of a spray, ignited when it came into contact with an un-lagged section of the oil-fired thermal fluid heater exhaust piping; and once started, the fire was fuelled by the contents of the thermal fluid expansion tank, the main engine cylinder oil service tank and the stern tube lubricating oil tank.

The report identifies a number of contributing factors and makes recommendations to address them.

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 2.02MB]
General details
Date: 24 May 2005   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0440 local    
Location: Cairns    
State: Queensland    
Release date: 20 February 2007   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Vessel details

Vessel details
Vessel Java sea  
Flag Singa  
IMO 8607684  
Type of operation N/A  
Damage to vessel Substantial  
Departure point Amamapare Indonesia  
Departure time n/a  
Destination Cairns, Qld  
Last update 19 May 2016