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Health and safety

Training issues highlighted in fatal engine room fire on LPG carrier

22 August 2023

Fire and crew safety training issues have been flagged by a UK Marine Accident Investigation (MAIB) report into the fire and subsequent death of a third engineer on the Isle of Man-flagged LPG carrier Moritz Schulte in 2020.

The report notes that on '4 August 2020, a fire broke out in the engine room of the liquefied petroleum gas/ethylene carrier Moritz Schulte when the recently promoted third engineer opened an auxiliary engine’s pressurised fuel filter allowing marine gas oil to spray onto an adjacent auxiliary engine's hot exhaust.

'The third engineer attempted to stop the fuel leak and tried unsuccessfully to escape from the toxic smoke-filled engine room. He was found an hour later by a shore fire and rescue team [using a thermal imaging camera (TIC)] but did not recover consciousness and died 9 days later in hospital.'

Prompt actions by the crew closed down the space to limit the spread of the fire on the vessel which, at the time, was in the port of Antwerp, Belgium. But the investigation found that, 'despite the vessel having a full range of safe systems of work in place, the third engineer, who had worked for the company for over 5 years, died while attempting an unnecessary job conducted in an unsafe way at an inappropriate time, without a risk assessment and in the absence of any direct supervision of the task.'

The MAIB conducted the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident on the vessel owned by Bernhard Schulte GmbH & Co. KGon on behalf of the Isle of Man Ship Registry, in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding between the MAIB and the Red Ensign Group Category 1 registries of Isle of Man, Cayman Islands, Bermuda and Gibraltar.

Safety issues found included crew training scheme weaknesses that enabled the crew member to bypass requirements and gain promotion twice when he was not ready, plus inadequate crew fire training, affecting the potential for a successful escape and recovery of a crew member from a smoke-filled environment. However, the MAIB made no further safety recommendations due to corrective actions already taken by the Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement group since the fatality.

The company's investigation identified 32 actions relating to: communication, crew and competence management, safety management and technical management. The company has since also equipped its four vessels that were built before July 2003 with additional emergency escape breathing devices.  It has also provided the Moritz Schulte with a thermal imaging camera (TIC) to undertake hot spot measurements, and plans to conduct a feasibility study with owners to supply them to all vessels, even though there was no requirement for the vessel to be equipped with a TIC nor are commercial vessels commonly equipped with them.

  •    read the full report


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