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Mandatory Fire Detection on Hire Vessels Should be "Considered" After Potentially Serious Incident, MCIB Report Says

18th January 2022
Four people who had charted an inland cruising vessel had a narrow escape when a fire broke out in the engine compartment last September
Four people who had charted an inland cruising vessel had a narrow escape when a fire broke out in the engine compartment last September Credit: MCIB

Mandatory fire detection on charter vessels should be “considered” by the Minister for Transport, according to a Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) report into a potentially serious incident on the River Shannon.

Four people who had charted an inland cruising vessel had a narrow escape when a fire broke out in the engine compartment last September.

All four were taken on board a passing charter boat, and the vessel sank in eight metres of water.

The MCIB report into the incident notes that charter vessels are not considered passenger vessels and are not subject to the requirements of the Merchant Shipping Act 1992.

“ Instead, charter vessels come under the legislative requirements and recommendations detailed in the Code of Practise (CoP) for recreational craft,” it notes.

This code does not provide for the mandatory fitting of fire detection systems on recreational craft, it says.

“ If this fire had started while any of the party were asleep then the consequences could have been more serious,” the MCIB report says.

The incident occurred on September 6th, 2020, when four people were on board a Linssen Grand Sturdy 35.0 motor cruiser rented the previous day.

The group had left Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim, and was heading south when approximately 45 minutes into their journey, near Jamestown, a fire broke out in the engine compartment.

The group stopped the boat and turned off the engine, the report notes.

“ As the vessel drifted to the side of the river, they re-started the engine and manoeuvred to the centre of the river again,” it says.

“ One of the party went to get the anchor which was stored in a locker under the saloon floor. At this point they found the compartment was full of smoke, so much so that it prevented them from getting the anchor out,” the report says.

“The vessel “X4” did not have a fire detection system onboard to give an early warning of a fire and there is no requirement in the CoP to have one installed,” it says.

“ After approximately ten minutes, and while standing on the swim platform on the stern of the vessel, the clients heard an audible alarm before leaving the vessel,” it says.

This was the alarm for the automatic fire extinguisher which is thermally activated once the temperature has risen to 80°C.

“The customers, already wearing their personal flotation devices ( PFDs) phoned the out of hours number for the charterers, Carrickcraft, but there was no answer,” the report says.

“ They then called the phone number for the Banagher Carrickcraft office and spoke to a member of staff. The staff member told them to drive the boat to the shore and get off the boat “as soon as possible”, and even suggested they jump into the water,” it says.

“ The service boat was launched in Carrick-on-Shannon, and staff proceeded downriver to meet the clients, as they understood from the clients that they were not near a mooring,”it says.

“When the Carrickcraft service boat arrived, the clients had already left the boat and had been brought to the nearest mooring at the end of Jamestown Canal. The mooring is 150 m from where the boat then was, but it is not immediately visible from the Shannon river,” it says.

“A Garda Síochána were already on the scene, as was the fire brigade, having been notified by a member of the public. Once the fire brigade established that all of the clients were accounted for, they set about getting access, via a farmer’s field, to the boat which was close to shore at this point,” it says.

The group was brought to a local, and soon after the fire was extinguished by the fire brigade the boat started to sink.

The fire onboard was extinguished by the fire brigadeThe fire onboard the cruiser was extinguished by the fire brigade Photo: via MCIB report

On October 12th, 2020, the owners appointed a salvage contractor, who successfully lifted the vessel from the river bottom, and it was lifted out at the Carrickcraft base in Carrick-on-Shannon.

“ A forensic investigator attended the vessel from Zetetech Forensic Investigators to assess the damage for the insurance company, inspecting it on October 29th and November 17th 2020.

The investigator considered the most likely cause of fire to be a defect in the electrical installation of the vessel.

“However, due to the severity of fire damage sustained and the subsequent sinking of the vessel physical evidence of a specific defect has not been found,” the assessor’s report stated.

“Overheating at connections on timer components associated with the thrusters was observed on a sister vessel,” the assessor noted, recommending that the electrical installations of all similar vessels are fully inspected and certified to ensure no defects are present and any incipient defects are rectified.

The MCIB has recommended that Carrickcraft should employ the services of an independent qualified marine electrician to inspect the remaining Linssen 35 vessels in their fleet.

It says the Minister for Transport “should consider making regulations to govern the safe use of recreational craft being used for commercial purposes, which should include mandatory fire detection on vessels used for charter purposes”.

It also says the minister should “consider issuing a marine notice about the potential risks of electrical issues with similar craft”, and should send a copy of the MCIB’s report to the manufacturer, Linssen Yachts BV.

In a brief comment on the report, Carrickraft described it as “excellent” and had only one comment to make in relation to the battery isolation switch. It said this was not “extra” but a replacement and change of location of the original switch.

Linssen Yachts said it had been producing over 500 of this series of craft since 2005, for private and charter use, and up to now the company had not experienced a similar fire on these vessels.

It said for safety reasons, it had checked several used yachts at its shipyard with the same type of shower pump timer relay and there was no visible damage or previous overheating of same.

In relation to the battery isolation switch, Linssen Yachts said the bow and stern thruster were used more intensively in charter than in private deployment of these vessels. Both being 12 volt, the thrusters require “a lot of current” which may lead to wear out of the main switch with intensive use.

The company said, “the main switch has probably been exchanged on the boat in question”.

Published in MCIB, Inland Waterways
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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