Small fire caused by portable fan heater

A member has reported an incident in which a small fan heater caused a fire in a cabin. A crew member, on retiring to his bunk, switched on a portable electric fan heater to warm up the inside of his cabin. It appears that he then went to sleep with the heater still switched on. The crew member awoke to find smoke in the cabin and the smell of burning, and small flames were observed coming from the heater. The heater was immediately unplugged and placed in the cabin sink and the water turned on to extinguish the flames. At this point the vessel fire alarm sounded.

Damaged fan heater following fire
Damaged fan heater following fire

The company notes the following:

The Code of Safe Working Practices for Merchant Seamen Chapter 9.3.10 states that “Personal portable space heating appliances of any sort should not be used at sea and notices to this effect should be displayed.”

This was a high potential incident which could have resulted in a major fire within the accommodation of the vessel. The company has made the following suggestions:

  • Vessel masters should ensure that no ‘personal portable space heating appliances’ are currently in use onboard their vessel;
  • Any such appliances that are discovered should be removed;
  • Only approved and fully integrated means of supplying heat to cabin areas should be used.