Forensics

On-Board Marine Investigations

Cutting steel

The deck of a chemical tanker which exploded when about to discharge flammable liquid at a port in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Based in Kuala Lumpur on the Straits of Malacca, we have gained considerable experience in the investigation of on-board marine losses. All the photographs shown in this brochure are of incidents investigated by FSM.

While a significant proportion of the world’s sea-going vessels pass within 100km of our office, most accidents we are involved with occur while the vessel is moored or in dry dock, either discharging or undergoing alteration, repair or refurbishment.

The features which distinguish incidents on or in vessels from those on land are the confined space, dangerous cargoes, separation of spaces by a thermal conductor (steel bulkheads), and the extensive use of contractors and their unfamiliarity with the surroundings. These can increase the probability of initiation and the eventual severity of any conflagration.

Discharging Flammable Cargoes

Drums
The explosion hurled projectiles hundreds of metres, starting additional fires on land, with one example shown above. The length of pipe had pierced drums of flammable liquid.
Ferry
A ferry which caught fire in Penang while being converted into a floating restaurant.
Cargo Carrier
A combined passenger/cargo carrier that caught on fire while in dry dock in the Philippines.

The discharging of flammable liquids poses risks for the vessel and the port. Connections have to be made for the transfer itself, with the possibility of metal to metal contact (with generation of sparks) in the vicinity of flammable vapours. Crew may be unfamiliar with the port, vice versa or both.

Vessel Dock Left : A vessel that caught on fire at a dry dock in Singapore, with loss of life. At the time of the fire hot work was being carried out at the same time as cleaning was being carried out on a boiler, using flammable solvent.
Refitted
Right : This LPT vessel was being refitted at a shipyard in Singapore, when an explosion occurred in the flammable goods store. Hot work had been carried out in the vessel that day.

Hot Work

Burning Tanker Left : A chemical tanker burning after exploding at a port in Thailand while attempting to unload methanol.
Right : The exploded deck of the above tanker.

Below : The same tanker anchored offshore, during the investigation by FSM.
Exploded Tanker
Anchored Tanker

As on land, hot work is the initiator of many marine fires and explosions. However most investigations reveal that it is not just the hot work itself, but hot work in combination with one or more other factors such as :

  • Incomplete inspection of the site before a hot work permit is issued, particularly on the other side of bulkheads.
  • Inadequate consideration of the combustion properties of materials being worked on or nearby.
  • Unauthorised introduction of flammable liquids into a confined area.
  • Poor maintenance of equipment.

Business Set Up to Burn | Self Heating of Farm Produce | Hot Work Accidents | Chinese Altars | Textile Fires | GC Analysis | On-Board Marine Investigations | Pre-Fire Photographs | Furniture Fires in Malaysia | Medium Density Board Factory Fires