Marine safety investigations & reports

Fire on board 'BBC Rhonetal' while berthed in Port Hedland on 25 March 2021

Investigation number:
Status: Active
Investigation in progress


The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is investigating a fire on board the general cargo ship 'BBC Rhonetal'  at Port Hedland, Western Australia, on 25 March 2021.

At 0330 WST, during cargo discharge operations from the ’tween deck of number 2 cargo hold, smoke was seen coming from the lower hold. Just prior to this, hot work had been undertaken to remove cargo securing points from around the cargo to be discharged. Efforts to extinguish the fire using ship's fire fighting resources laid out for the hot work were unsuccessful. The intensity of the smoke overcame personnel in the hold who evacuated to deck.

An emergency was called and crew mustered while stevedores evacuated to shore. Shore authorities, including the fire brigade, were notified. As the situation escalated, the hatch cover was closed and the ship's carbon dioxide fixed fire fighting system was released into the cargo hold. Three harbour tugs stood by the ship and applied water over the deck to boundary cool the area.

The temperature of the ship's deck was monitored over the following hours. By 1600, the temperature had stabilised, boundary cooling was stopped and ventilation of the site commenced. The cargo hold was opened up and at 1200 on 28 March control of the site was handed back to the Pilbara Ports Authority.

As part of the investigation, investigators will interview directly involved parties and gather any other relevant evidence. 

A final report will be released at the conclusion of the investigation.

Should a critical safety issue be identified during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties so appropriate safety action can be taken. 

General details
Date: 25 March 2021   Investigation status: Active  
Time: 0330 WST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Berth PHP A3, Port Hedland   Investigation phase: Evidence collection  
State: Western Australia    
  Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Pending   Highest injury level: None  
Anticipated completion: 2nd Quarter 2022    

Vessel details

Vessel details
Operator BBC Chartering and Logistics  
Vessel BBC Rhonetal  
Flag Antigua and Barbuda  
IMO 9614701  
Type of operation Commercial, project cargo  
Damage to vessel Minor  
Departure point Tianjin, People's Republic of China  
Destination Port Hedland, Australia  
Last update 29 March 2021