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A quick response to a major fire in the engine room averted disaster on board roll-on/roll-off passenger ferry Pride of Canterbury Words: UK Maritime Accident and Investigation Board


t 0630h on 29 September 2014 the Pride of Canterbury embarked on its regular 90-minute

journey from Dover, UK, to Calais, France, with 337 passengers on board. To save fuel, the ship’s port inboard main diesel engine was shut down for the passage. Once the ferry was full away,

the master instructed the officer of the watch (OOW) to call him 20 minutes before the ship’s arrival off the Calais pier heads – this corresponded to about 10 minutes before arrival at the start of the buoyed channel.

Cause for alarm

At 0729h, just as the second engineer in the engine control room (ECR) received a call from the bridge giving him 15 minutes’ notice of end of passage, the starboard controllable pitch propeller (CPP) hydraulic oil system high temperature alarm sounded. The senior third engineer immediately went to the main engine room to investigate. The second engineer called the

bridge to check if the port inboard main engine would be required to enter Calais, and was informed by the master that it would not be needed. Having returned to the ECR, the senior third engineer confirmed that the hydraulic oil in the starboard CPP system was hot and there was no temperature difference across the oil cooler. Upon investigating the main

engine room, the second engineer found the analogue pressure gauge (PG3) on the CPP system apparently indicating zero.

However, on closer inspection he noted that the needle had been forced all the way round the dial past 20 bar and onto the stop. He then returned to the ECR and informed the bridge that the port inboard main engine was going to be started as he was concerned about the starboard CPP system.

Starboard CPP

At 0740h the starboard CPP system hydraulic pressure sensor alarm sounded. Around the same time, as the second engineer started the port inboard main engine, the starboard main engines suddenly indicated 100% load and the turbochargers temporarily increased to 16,000 revolutions per minute. The bridge team was informed that the port inboard main engine was running and the chief engineer was asked to come down to the ECR from his cabin. The master arrived on the

bridge at 0743h and was briefed by the OOW about the problem with the starboard CPP system and told that the fourth main engine had been started. He switched to the emergency mode and attempted to reduce the starboard propeller pitch, but without success. Control of the starboard CPP was then passed to the chief engineer in the ECR, who was also unable to reduce the pitch. At 0755h the chief engineer declutched the starboard main engines and subsequently shut them down. By this time, the Electrical Technical Officer was in the engine room, investigating the hydraulic pressure sensor failure.

Start of the fire

In the ECR the chief engineer noticed that the starboard hydraulic CPP system electric stand-by pump had not started automatically. Accordingly, he switched the pump to manual start mode and started it to ensure that the CPP system oil would keep circulating. The motorman on watch in the

main engine room then saw hydraulic oil spray from a flanged pipework joint situated between the two starboard main engine turbochargers. The hydraulic oil ignited immediately. The motorman and remaining

personnel evacuated the main engine room and raised the alarm in the ECR. At 0804h the fire alarm was automatically activated by the sensor heads situated above the starboard main engines.

Emergency response

The chief engineer alerted the bridge team to the fire and requested remote assistance as thick smoke was preventing closure of the watertight door between the auxiliary engine room and the main engine room at its local control. From the closed circuit

television (CCTV) picture in the ECR, the chief engineer was aware that Pride of Canterbury was close to the berth. Thus he activated the hi-fog fixed fire-fighting system for the starboard main engines and ordered the associated fuel shut-off valves to be closed. He and the second engineer then reconfigured the ventilation fans, switching off the supply fans,

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