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Fuel spray fire

What happened?

The Marine Safety Forum (MSF) have released Safety Alert 18-16, in which a vessel experienced machinery failure which could have resulted in a far more serious outcome. The vessel had been forced to stop operations due to foggy weather. A high-level alarm was sounded on the forward bilge. Investigation of the alarm showed that the forward bilge was full of fuel oil; the fuel was spraying from the port main engine onto the engine room plates.

What were the causes?

Upon further inspection, it was found that the fuel oil secondary filter differential pressure sensor isolating valve on the port main engine had cracked, and this was causing the fuel spray. Approximately 1m3 of fuel was lost.

  • The failure of the valve was caused by a combination of engine vibrations and the weight of assembly acting on the male threaded section of the brass valve;
  • The pipe arrangement had been altered from the original set up because of pressure fluctuations – this interfered with the proper functioning of the sensor; the MSF notes that the long-term effect of this alteration was perhaps not properly assessed by the manufacturer prior to this alteration.

What actions were taken?

  • Replacement of the brass valve fitting with s stainless-steel equivalent;
  • Addition of a deflector plate above the valve to prevent future failure and prevent fuel spray from reaching the hot engine.

What lessons were learned?

  • Always apply the management of change (MoC) process when implementing changes on board;
  • Discussions of the long and short-term consequences of any changes should be had, assessing any potential risks.
Connection after initial temporary repair
Deflector plate fitted to prevent fuel being sprayed onto the hot areas of the engine

The full safety alert can be found on the MSF website.

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