The crew of a car carrier were preparing for departure, having spent two days loading cars. There were 2,420 used vehicles on board. While the crew were securing vehicle ramps, the chief mate noticed smoke coming from a ventilation housing for one of the exhaust trunks. Upon further investigation, crewmembers discovered a fire on deck 8, which was one of those that had been loaded with used vehicles.
The crew attempted to fight the fire but were repelled by heavy smoke. Shoreside fire department teams soon arrived and relieved the crew. The Master consulted with the fire department, and the fire was likely caused by an electrical arc or component fault in one of the vehicles. The company’s established vehicle loading and battery securement procedures call for a properly disconnected and secured battery for all vehicles loaded on the vessel. These procedures were not followed by the longshoremen preparing and loading vehicles onto the car carrier. Neither vessel crew nor shore supervisory personnel corrected this deviation.
The company’s ‘Vehicle Lashing Inspection Procedure’ identified the need to ensure that all vehicles loaded on board the vessel had disconnected batteries, but did not provide a process to do so.