Inadequate maintenance caused catastrophic 2018 fire on Ro-Ro ship off Lowestoft, MAIB report reveals

The engine room of the Ro-Ro ferry Finlandia Seaways showing significant damage following an onboard blaze off Lowestoft on April 16, 2018 (Photo: MAIB)

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has released its investigation report into a fire incident that severely damaged a Ro-Ro vessel and left one of its crew seriously injured on April 16, 2018.


On the said date, Finlandia Seaways, a Lithuanian-registered Ro-Ro cargo vessel operated by DFDS Seaways, suffered a catastrophic main engine failure that caused serious structural damage to the engine and a fire in the engine room.

The vessel’s third engineer, who was on duty in the engine room at the time, suffered serious smoke-related lung, kidney, and eye injuries during his escape.

Finlandia Seaways was 11 nautical miles east of Lowestoft on a regular voyage from Zeebrugge to Rosyth when the engine failure occurred.

The investigation identified that the catastrophic engine failure had been initiated by the failure of a single component and found that the standard and management of maintenance carried out by the vessel operator’s maintenance support contractor was a significant causal factor.

Safety issues

  • The engine’s connecting rods had not been maintained in accordance to the engine manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Defects introduced during component overhauls had not been identified by the ship’s crew or the company’s technical superintendents.
  • The significance of the damage caused to the connecting rod small ends during overhaul was not fully appreciated and, although a Class survey item, Class was not kept informed.
  • There were no emergency escape breathing devices on the secondary escape route used by the third engineer.


A recommendation was made to MAN Energy Solutions and Lloyd’s Register to provide technical advice to DFDS on the actions the company should take to minimise the risk of a similar catastrophic engine failure, and any other vessel operators whose MAN engines might have been subjected to similar maintenance practices.

Further recommendations aimed at addressing the safety issues raised in this report have been made to the vessel operators, DFDS Seaways, and its engine maintenance support contractor, Diesel Service Group.

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