Swedish Accident Investigation Authority wants better routines

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Improve the search group’s procedures, update instructions for extinguishing fires with C02 and draw up a risk assessment for vehicles being transported. These are the measures that the authority wants Wallenius Marine to carry out after the fire on the Mignon.

On 4 April last year, just before half past six in the evening, the fire alarm went off on Wallenius’ car-transporter Mignon when she was in the South China Sea. A second-hand car on the load deck had caught fire and it rapidly spread to other vehicles, parked very close to each other with open windows. A search group and the ship’s technical engineer soon stated that the situation was serious and that CO2 should be used to extinguish the fire, which was successful.

“On the brink”

The report on the accident by the Swedish Accident Investigation Authority was published at the end of March, and concluded that although there was extensive damage to the cargo and the ship, the consequences could have been even worse. Unclear instructions for triggering the CO2 system led to the extinction process being delayed by over five minutes, which could have resulted in the situation getting completely out of control.

“We think it was on the brink – had it taken another ten minutes it may not have been possible to extinguish the fire,” says Jörgen Zachau, investigator at the Swedish Accident Investigation Authority. “It would then have had devastating consequences.”

Another negative factor was that the cars on the cargo deck had their front windows wound down. The open windows were to prevent the doors from being unintentionally locked during transport, but it also meant that the fire spread quickly.

Toxic gas

The Swedish Accident Investigation Authority wants the shipping company to look at new routines to ensure that the cars are completely closed during transportation. The authority also wants procedures for risk assessment of different types of vehicles to be developed, as well as a better job description for the ship’s search group. Search groups going so far into a fire-filled vehicle deck entails large risks.

“In the event of a fire, toxic gases may be formed which are fatal to inhale and it is vital that the shipping company informs the crew of the risks that may arise,” says Jörgen Zachau.

Wallenius Marine has taken a number of measures following the fire. It is in the process of developing new procedures for triggering CO2, a new central control for the fire alarm has been installed and the negative terminal on all second-hand cars will be disconnected during transportation.

The report can be read in its entirety at www.havkom.se

Linda Sundgren

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