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What happened

At about 1447 on 13 July, a fire started in the engine room of the bulk carrier Marigold, while it was loading a cargo of iron ore in Port Hedland, Western Australia (WA).

Firefighting by the ship’s crew included activating the Halon gas fixed fire suppression system for the engine room. However, a full release of Halon gas did not occur, nor was the engine room effectively sealed. Consequently, the fire continued for about 12 hours until it burnt itself out.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB determined that the fire began on Marigold’s number one generator after a fuel oil pipe fitting on it failed. The resulting spray of fuel oil likely contacted a hot surface on the generator and ignited.

The deployment of the ship’s Halon gas fixed fire suppression system was ineffective, as a full release of Halon gas did not occur and the engine room was not effectively sealed. Failures within the Halon system and multiple failures of the ventilation closing mechanisms were indicative of a lack of effective planned maintenance on board.

The port’s emergency response plan was initiated, but there were misunderstandings between the agencies involved as to the roles of the others during the initial stages of the incident and response. Their emergency plans did not refer to trigger points for transfer of control or include detailed instructions of how to hand over control during an incident.

What's been done as a result

The ATSB has been advised that as a result of this fire and another recent shipboard fire in Fremantle, WA, the State Emergency Management Plan for a Marine Transport Emergency (WESTPLAN MTE) has been revised. The WESTPLAN MTE now covers formal incident controller delegations.

Further, the WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES), the State’s hazard management agency, has initiated new ‘level 1’ and ‘level 2’ marine firefighting training programs.

The operator of the ship’s berth, BHP Billiton, will now provide international shore connections at its berths to improve water supply to a ship’s fire line in emergencies. Additionally, BHP Billiton has aligned its standardised response checklists with those of DFES. The emergency response plan for shipboard fires will be consistent with these checklists.

Marigold’s managers have taken action to address safety issues with regard to the maintenance and operation of the fixed fire suppression systems and ventilation closing mechanisms.

The ATSB has issued one recommendation to the ship’s managers to further address the safety issue with regard to the operational status of fixed fire suppression systems. It has also issued five recommendations to DFES to address issues related to the shore response to shipboard fires.

Safety message

Response to a large fire on board a ship in port will involve the ship’s crew and shore fire crews. The initial response and fire containment by the ship’s crew requires a thorough knowledge and understanding of firefighting procedures and systems, knowledge which needs to be effectively maintained. Where multiple shore response agencies are involved, their emergency procedures need to be consistent with each other, such that individual and team roles and responsibilities are well understood and ensure that agencies can coordinate an effective response.

 

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The occurrence

Context

Safety analysis

Findings

Safety issues and actions

Sources and submissions

 
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 Preliminary report released 23 October 2014

On 13 July, a fire started in the engine room of bulk carrier, Marigold while it was berthed at Port Hedland, Western Australia. The evidence indicates that a fuel oil pipe coupling on number one diesel generator had failed. Pressurised fuel oil and mist from the coupling ignited and resulted in a fire around the generator turbocharger.

Attempted firefighting measures included deploying the ship’s Halon gas fixed fire suppression system for the engine room. However, a full release of Halon gas did not occur and the engine room was not properly closed. Consequently, the fire continued for about 12 hours until it burnt itself out.  

The investigation is ongoing and will focus on determining:

  • confirming the cause of the fire
  • reason/s for the partial failure of the Halon system
  • maintenance of the ship’s firefighting equipment and appliances
  • ship’s emergency response, including preparedness
  • shore emergency response, including coordination and capability. 

 

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Safety issues

MO-2014-008-SI-01 - MO-2014-008-SI-02 - MO-2014-008-SI-03 - MO-2014-008-SI-04 - MO-2014-008-SI-05 - MO-2014-008-SI-06 - MO-2014-008-SI-07 - MO-2014-008-SI-08 - MO-2014-008-SI-09 -  

Fire doors

A number of Marigold’s engine room fire doors were held open by wire and/or rope. The open doors allowed the smoke to spread across the engine room and into the accommodation spaces.

Safety issue details
Issue number:MO-2014-008-SI-01
Who it affects:All persons responsible for the maintenance of equipment
Status:Adequately addressed


 

Ventilation closedown

The maintenance of the opening/closing arrangements for Marigold’s engine room fire dampers, ventilators and other openings was inadequate. A number of these could not be closed, resulting in the inability to seal the engine room to contain and suppress the fire.

Safety issue details
Issue number:MO-2014-008-SI-02
Who it affects:All persons responsible for the maintenance of equipment
Status:Adequately addressed


 

Fixed fire suppression system

Marigold’s Halon gas fixed fire suppression system for the engine room was not fully operational. The multiple failures of the system at the time of the fire were not consistent with proper maintenance and testing.  

Safety issue details
Issue number:MO-2014-008-SI-03
Who it affects:All persons responsible for the maintenance of equipment
Status:Partially addressed


 

Halon system

Marigold’s shipboard procedures for crew induction, familiarisation, fire drills and safety training were not effectively implemented. As a result, the ship’s senior officers were not sufficiently familiar with the Halon system’s operation. They did not identify its partial failure and did not activate the override function

Safety issue details
Issue number:MO-2014-008-SI-04
Who it affects:All persons responsible for the maintenance of equipment
Status:Adequately addressed


 

International shore connectio

Port Hedland’s emergency response teams did not use the ship’s international shore fire connection. As a result, Marigold’s fire main was not pressurised with water from ashore.

Safety issue details
Issue number:MO-2014-008-SI-05
Who it affects:All persons charged with shipboard firefighting
Status:Partially addressed


 

Incident control

The emergency response plans for a ship fire in Port Hedland did not clearly define transfer of control procedures for successive incident controllers from different organisations or contain standard checklists for their use. 

Safety issue details
Issue number:MO-2014-008-SI-06
Who it affects:All agencies charged with shipboard firefighting
Status:Partially addressed


 

Access control

Suitable atmospheric testing equipment was not available in Port Hedland to ensure safe entry to fire-affected spaces on board Marigold. Access to these areas was not controlled until 53 hours after the fire.

 

Safety issue details
Issue number:MO-2014-008-SI-07
Who it affects:All agencies charged with shipboard firefighting in regional ports
Status:Not addressed


 

Professional firefighters in Port Hedland

The limited professional firefighting capability in Port Hedland restricted the ability to launch an effective response to the fire on board Marigold. 

 

Safety issue details
Issue number:MO-2014-008-SI-08
Who it affects:All agencies charged with shipboard firefighting
Status:Not addressed


 

Ship firefighting cache

The large size and weight of the ship firefighting cache made it difficult for the duty Port Hedland volunteer firefighter to transport it to the wharf. 

Safety issue details
Issue number:MO-2014-008-SI-09
Who it affects:All agencies charged with shipboard firefighting
Status:Not addressed

 
General details
Date: 13 Jul 2014 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 1450 WST Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
Location   (show map):Port Hedland  
State: Western Australia  
Release date: 20 Apr 2016 Occurrence category: Serious Incident 
Report status: Final Highest injury level: Minor 
 
Vessel details
Operator: Korea Line Corp 
Vessel: Marigold 
Flag: Panama 
IMO: 8815255 
Sector: Bulk carrier 
Type of Operation: Bulk 
Damage to Vessel: 406 
Departure point:Port Hedland, WA
Destination:At berth
 
 
 
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Last update 20 April 2016