Lack of continuous monitoring an issue in shipyard fire, NTSB says

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(WASHINGTON) — A shipyard fire aboard the dive support vessel Iron Maiden was able to start and spread without notice because no one was continually monitoring the vessel while fire detectors were shut off during repairs, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in a report issued Tuesday.

Marine Accident Brief 21/11 details the NTSB’s investigation into the April 16, 2020, fire aboard Iron Maiden, which was docked at the Allied Shipyard in Larose, La. The fire caused $900,000 in damage to the vessel owned by Blue Marlin LLC. There were no injuries.

While the fire caused extensive damage throughout the generator room, the NTSB found fire pattern and damage indicating the fire started near the forward bulkhead. Because the battery charger, alarm panel and generator push button start-stop panel were in the area of fire ignition identified by fire investigators, an electrical short from one of these components may have been the source of the fire. However, the exact location of the source of the fire could not be identified by fire investigators.

There was no crewmember or shipyard worker staying on board Iron Maiden during the night of the fire. The vessel’s fire detection system was shut off while work was being conducted within the vessel to prevent false alarms from smoke and dust. In addition, there was no shipyard policy or vessel owner policy in place to have shipyard personnel or vessel crewmembers conduct safety rounds after hours when there was no work being done on the vessel.

“Fire and flooding are risks for both crewed and unattended vessels,” the report said. “To protect personnel, property and the environment, it is good marine practice for owners, operators and shipyard managers to coordinate and implement some form of continuous monitoring for vessels undergoing maintenance in a shipyard, in layup, or in some other inactive period without regular crews aboard. Continuous monitoring can consist of scheduled security rounds and/or active monitoring with sensing and alarm systems.”

– National Transportation Safety Board

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Iron Maiden before the fire on April 16, 2020, with previous name and different owner. U.S. Coast Guard photo
By Professional Mariner Staff