Marine safety investigations & reports

Independent investigation into the steering gear compartment fire on board the Marshall Islands registered anchor handling tug Petra Frontier at sea off Darwin, NT on 28 September 2009.

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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Shortly before 0540 on 28 September 2009, a fire started in the steering gear compartment of the Marshall Islands registered anchor handling tug supply vessel Petra Frontier while it was en route from the Timor Sea to Darwin, Northern Territory.

The ship's crew were unable to extinguish the fire using portable fire extinguishers. By about 0640, all of the compartment's access doors and vents were closed, the electrical power supply to the machinery in the space was isolated and the deck above was boundary cooled. As a result of these actions, the fire eventually burnt itself out.

The investigation found that the fire probably started when rags, which had been soaked in oil that was leaking from a hydraulic unit, were ignited by heat generated by, or a spark emanating from, an electrical solenoid. The investigation also found that the ship's crew had not identified the numerous deficiencies that existed in the ship's emergency equipment, they were not familiar with the use of the emergency equipment and the on board response to the fire was not well managed.

The investigation identified two safety issues: while Petra Frontier had undergone a series of flag State inspections and class surveys, neither authority was aware that the ship was unseaworthy in relation to critical safety equipment; and the ship's safety management system contained some contradictory information relating to the scheduling of fire and abandon ship drills.

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Safety Issues

Go to MO-2009-009-SI-01 - Go to MO-2009-009-SI-02 -

Drill schedule

Petra Frontier’s safety management system contained procedures outlining how fire and abandon ship drills should be carried out in accordance with SOLAS and Marshall Islands requirements. However, it also contained a drill schedule that provided some contradictory information.

Safety issue details
Issue number: MO-2009-009-SI-01
Who it affects: All ship, owners, operators, managers and masters
Status: Adequately addressed

Statutory buy in

While Petra Frontier had undergone an initial flag State inspection on 4 May 2009 and routine class surveys, the most recent being a class survey completed on 12 August 2009, neither authority was aware that the ship was unseaworthy in relation to critical safety equipment when it departed Singapore.

Safety issue details
Issue number: MO-2009-009-SI-02
Who it affects: All regulators, surveyors and inspectors
Status: Partially addressed
General details
Date: 28 September 2009   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0540 (UTC+9.5)   Investigation level: Systemic - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): At sea off Darwin    
State: Northern Territory    
Release date: 14 December 2010   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Vessel details

Vessel details
Vessel Petra Frontier  
Flag Marshall Islands  
IMO 9509190  
Type of operation Anchor Handling Tug Supply  
Damage to vessel Minor  
Departure point 10.9S, 126.8E  
Departure time 27 Sept 2009, 1715 local  
Destination Darwin, NT  
Last update 03 April 2020