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MCIB Report Finds Unattended Electronic Device on Charge May Have Caused Extensive Fire on Fishing Vessel

19th April 2022
A photograph of FV Horizon sinking
A photograph of FV Horizon sinking Credit: Courtesy of Vessel "Maersk Maker" and IRCG

An unattended electronic device, possibly a mobile phone on charge, may have ignited a fire on a west Cork fishing vessel which sank last year.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) report into the sinking of the fishing vessel Horizon 20 nautical miles off the Old Head of Kinsale, Co Cork, on May 14th, 2021.

The skipper broadcast a “Mayday” on VHF and the four crew on board were recovered from their liferaft by the offshore supply ship, Pathfinder (italics).

Despite efforts to fight the fire by a responding offshore supply ship, Maersk Maker, the fishing vessel sank at approximately 07.00 hrs, close to the position where it initially caught fire.

The MCIB report said there was some sea surface oil pollution reported which appears to have dissipated naturally.

Weather and sea conditions at the time were good with light winds and a moderate sea. The crew, who were not injured, were subsequently transferred to the RNLI Courtmacsherry lifeboat and brought ashore.

The MCIB report found the vessel was materially fit for purpose and in a stable condition immediately prior to the incident, and its condition was not a factor in the fire and sinking.

It says while the cause of the outbreak of the fire is “not known with any certainty”, it is “ reasonably deduced” that an unattended mobile phone or other similar electronic device which was being charged and/or an electronic device battery charger into a 240V AC circuit in the crew accommodation cabin may have been the source.

It says a time delay in fighting the fire caused by the failure of the smoke detector alarm on board allowed the blaze to take hold and spread before being spotted by the skipper when he returned to the wheelhouse.

It says that exposure of the flexible plastic hose components of the vessel’s machinery cooling systems to the fire in the engine room - allowing them to melt and lose their watertight integrity – allowed seawater in and the vessel sank.

The report says that had the fire detection system onboard the fishing vessel been “more in-line with the more stringent requirements of the International FSS Code which requires the fire detection system to include both audible and visual fault signals, the fire in the accommodation cabin would likely have been detected earlier”.

However, only audible smoke detector alarms were fitted as the Horizon was deemed an “existing vessel” in 2007 when a relevant statutory instrument on fire detection was promulgated.

The report says that two of the vessel’s crew did not have the required BIM safety training courses completed.

The report recommends that the Minister for Transport should prepare and issue a marine notice reminding owners, skippers, officers and crew members of fishing vessels of the requirement to have basic safety training in accordance with statutory instrument 587 of 2001.

A marine notice should also be issued ensuring that fire detection systems and alarms are regularly tested and maintained in an operational condition, it says.

This includes “guidance on the inspection and testing of fire detection systems onboard fishing vessels of 15–24 metres in length”.

The report also recommends Minister for Transport should amend the Irish Maritime Directorate Strategy 2021 – 2025 policy document in relation to specified aspects of maritime safety.

Published in MCIB, Fishing
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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