Real Life Incident: Fuel Spray On Hot Surface Leads To Fire In Ship’s Engine Room

Real Life Incident: Fuel Spray On Hot Surface Leads To Fire In Ship’s Engine Room

While underway a main engine low fuel pressure alarm sounded on the bridge. The crew member on watch entered the unmanned engine room and identified a high-pressure fuel leak spraying on the port engine’s turbocharger. There was also a large quantity of diesel fuel in the bilge.

The Master arrived on scene just as the fuel ignited and began a fire. He attempted to extinguish the fire using a portable fire extinguisher, but without success. He activated the general alarm, secured the hatches, had crew members secure the ventilation dampers and closed the remote fuel shut-off valves to the engine room. The fire then quickly self-extinguished.

The investigation identified the source of the fuel leak as a rupture on a flexible fuel hose connected to the fuel filter assembly. The fuel filter assembly and its components were installed relatively close to the turbocharger on the inboard side of the engine. The heat radiating from the turbocharger components was very high and probably led to the degradation of the rubberised hoses nearby. However, the installation was in accordance with the manufacturer’s marine engine manual.

Lessons learned

  • Closely inspect fuel and lubricating systems, from source tanks to system endpoints. Think about system vulnerabilities such as loose or missing pipe clamps and securing devices, wear or chafing from vibration that is affecting hoses, and pipes or tubes that may be poorly secured. Make sure that plastic piping is not close to hot spots.
  • Ensure all insulation, blankets and lagging are maintained and kept tight. Look for areas where released fluids may make contact. Where spray shielding is used, check that it is kept in place; if it is not used, consider adding shielding.
  • Minimise the use of non-metallic flexible hoses in systems carrying flammable liquids, particularly around engine areas where leakage or spray may reach hot spots capable of igniting the fluids. Consult with engine representatives if modifications are needed