Real Life Incident: Earth Fault Means Trouble

In the early evening hours, the ­fire alarm sounded showing an alarm on B deck. Smoke was also reported on the port side of B deck. The source was localized in a cabin and ­first attempts to extinguish it with portable extinguishers were inconclusive. Meantime, emergency teams were mustered. Crew donned ­suits and breathing apparatus (BA) sets to attack the ­fire, while boundary cooling was started from outside the cabin bulkhead. The ­fire was extinguished, but thick smoke was still prevalent.

Boundary cooling was continued for the next 30-45 minutes while bulkhead temperatures were continuously monitored. It was observed that the ceiling tube light in the cabin along with all ­fittings appeared to be the most severely burnt area, so was possibly the origin of the ­fire. Upon closer inspection, it was found that molten plastic from the ceiling light had probably ignited the chair and other objects below the light.

Fire Incident on ship
Image Credits:

Further investigation found the alarm logs in the engine room had recorded a low insulation alarm 10 minutes before the fire had started. This earth fault was probably the first indicator of the light fixture deficiency that started the fire.

Lessons learned

  • Earth fault alarms should be investigated as they occur and the ship searched for any unusual activity.


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