The New Zealand Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) has released its report on an incident wherein a fire broke out on a local fishing boat at the Port of Timaru in 2018.
On April 9 of that year, the New Zealand-registered trawler Dong Won 701 was discharging its catch of fish in the Port of Timaru when fire broke out in the accommodation space. Initial attempts by crew to extinguish the fire were unsuccessful, and by the time Fire and Emergency New Zealand attended the vessel, the fire had engulfed much of the accommodation.
The firefighting response continued for some eight days until the fire was fully extinguished.
The 81-metre vessel was later declared a total constructive loss. Three crewmembers and one Fire and Emergency New Zealand firefighter had to be treated at hospital for smoke inhalation.
The TAIC found that the fire started in a cabin on the officers’ deck, but due to its intensity and duration and the consequent damage to the accommodation structure, it has not been possible to establish how it started.
The commission found that delays in sounding the alarm, the inefficient mustering of available crew, and a failure to follow good industry practice for fighting the fire allowed it to spread rapidly through the accommodation.
The TAIC also found that although Dong Won 701 complied with the relevant Maritime Rules, the vessel’s structural fire integrity did not meet contemporary standards, and this was a factor in the speed and intensity with which the fire spread.
Safety issues identified included that inconsistencies in the application of Maritime Rules Part 40D: Design, Construction and Equipment – Fishing Ships may have resulted in up to 12 fishing vessels operating under the New Zealand flag not complying fully with the relevant safety standards. A further 50 fishing vessels have been afforded grandparent rights that will allow them to operate indefinitely without meeting contemporary safety standards under the current Maritime Rules.
The TAIC has recommended that DW New Zealand, the operator of Dong Won 701, assess the overall fire safety of each vessel in its fleet and ensure that the risks and consequences of fire are reduced to as low as possible, including ensuring that crews are appropriately trained and practised in responding to fires.
The commission has also recommended that the Director of Maritime New Zealand: 1) take any measures available to make post-2004 fishing vessels comply with as many of the design, construction, and equipment standards prescribed in the current Rule 40D as are reasonable and practicable; and 2) work with the Ministry of Transport to amend Rule 40D to put appropriate measures in place to ensure that aging fishing vessels are not permitted to remain in the system indefinitely without being required to meet contemporary safety standards.
Key lessons arising from this inquiry included the following:
- Safety-critical systems such as fire-detection and alarm systems must be routinely tested to ensure they remain functional at all times in order to give early warning of a fire.
- On discovering a fire, it is important for the safety of all on board that the ship’s general alarm is used to alert crew to the danger as soon as possible.
- It is important to slow or prevent a fire spreading by, as soon as possible, closing all openings that can allow air to feed or be drawn into the location of the fire.
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