Fast shore response to engine room fire helps save ATB on the Hudson River

An engine room fire disabled Crowley Maritime Services’ ATB Pacific Reliance approximately 110 miles south of Albany, N.Y., on May 21.
The ATB was southbound on the Hudson River enroute from Albany to Baltimore with a cargo of 51,000 barrels of ethanol. A fire-rescue boat from New Hamburg, N.Y., was first on the scene.

After boarding the tug, the firefighting crew from New Hamburg initially tried to attack the fire on the starboard engine with a 2-inch hose line but was driven back by the intense heat, according to Chief Jeff Renihan. He said he then told the tug’s captain to discharge the engine room’s fixed CO2 extinguishing system “and it suppressed the fire completely.”

The fire department’s boat had been moored at a marina half a mile from the burning tug’s course. Because of the rapid response, the fire was extinguished within 20 minutes.

When the fire caused Pacific Reliance to lose power, it began drifting downriver and out of the channel toward the east bank. “As it drifted down, it luckily missed Diamond Reef in the middle of the river and the tug crew dropped anchor about 100 yards past the reef,” said Renihan. “Again luckily, where they dropped the anchor was just shy of underwater electric transmission cables from the power plant.”

One tug crewman was evacuated to a local hospital and treated for smoke inhalation.
The fire is believed to have been caused by failure of a high-pressure fuel line that sprayed fuel onto the hot engine manifold, according to Renihan and the U.S. Coast Guard.

When the report of fire was received, the Coast Guard dispatched a marine investigator, who determined that the tug would have to be towed to New York City for repairs.

PA3 Angelia Rorison, a spokeswoman with the Coast Guard First District in New York City, said the ATB was later cleared to leave the Port of New York and proceeded to the Gulf of Mexico for further repairs.

By Professional Mariner Staff