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MAIB: Engine failure and subsequent fire

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch has published it’s report 2/2021 into an engine failure and subsequent fire on ro-ro cargo vessel Finlandia Seaways in April 2018.

What happened

On 16 April 2018, the Lithuanian registered ro-ro cargo vessel Finlandia Seaways suffered a catastrophic main engine failure that caused serious structural damage to the engine and a fire in the engine room. The vessel’s third engineer, who was on duty in the engine room at the time, suffered serious smoke-related lung, kidney and eye injuries during his escape.

What went wrong

A main engine connecting rod broke. Parts of the engine were thrown through the side of the crank case into the engine room, and a short but intense fire occurred.  Within 20 minutes the crew had conducted a muster, sealed the engine room, activated its carbon dioxide fixed fire-fighting system and extinguished the fire. The third engineer was medevaed to hospital and made a successful recovery.

What were the causes?

The MAIB investigation identified that the catastrophic engine failure had been initiated by the failure of a single component (IMCA emphasis) and found that the standard and management of maintenance carried out by the vessel operator’s maintenance support contractor was a significant causal factor.

Other factors contributing to the engine failure included:

  • Standards of maintenance management;
  • Lack of appreciation of the importance of following the engine manufacturer’s instructions for the removal and refitting of the piston pin bearing bushes;
  • External oversight of the engine maintenance process.

The MAIB report further notes that:

  • Although the CO2 fire-fighting system was activated successfully, the third engineer was fortunate to have survived given that there were no emergency escape breathing devices on his escape route;
  • In common with other accidents in which carbon dioxide has been released following a fire, the inability to confirm which gas bottles had discharged hampered re-entry to the engine room;
  • The voyage data recorder did not record the incident due to the uninterruptible power supply failing.

The full report can be downloaded here.  

Members may wish to review the following incidents, all three with causal factors being single point failures.

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