Amaltal Columbi Ship Fire – Off the East Coast of New Zealand Update

MERT Worldwide

I read with interest comments from various news outlets.  The theme however is similar and the common points mentioned were; “Hot Spots seen from bow to stern” – This was achieved by a NZ Air Force P3 Orion using thermal imagery, “the crew fought the fire for 3-4 hours using fire teams in BA” – These teams were exhausted, “No fire or flames sighted but lots of smoke coming out of available openings” – “Thick Black Smoke on the bridge causing the master to relocate”.

I will continue from where I left off with my previous post relating to the Amalta Columbi Ship Fire. I am now even more certain that “poor containment skills/knowledge” was one of the major factors contributing to the Abandon Ship order.  Effective fire fighting needs to be supported by effective containment.  Something as simple as cooling the ships side will assist firefighting efforts.  Thick black smoke, this is a common factor in any ship fire and limiting the spread of smoke is another critical factor that will support effective firefighting efforts.  Smoke throughout the ship and at one point on the bridge is a sign that smoke control could’ve been better.

At this point I would like to mention Chemistry of Fire and discuss this later in the article but what I would say is that explosive gases are present in smoke.  Simply put “It is the smoke that is burning”.  Therefore Smoke Control is another important factor that will support effective firefighting efforts and limit the spread of fire.

In one article I read they reported that fire teams fought the fire for 3-4 hours wearing BA.  It is impossible to comment on the fire team efforts but as stated the fire teams had received Fire Team Training and took this training seriously.  The fact that no one was hurt in the firefighting teams supports the fire team training.  I however wonder if the teams were actually able to get to the source of the fire?  I believe not, if they had then they would have extinguished the fire.  Therefore containment was poor and the fire was able to spread and the efforts of the fire teams was one of try and catch up – similar to a bush fire, unless the teams can get in front to extinguish it you are always chasing the source of the fire.  Fire teams these days use a technique called gas cooling, if possible they cool the gases/smoke using atomised water particles – Pulsing.  MERT Worldwide incorporates this training in their fire team training.  By cooling the gases the team effectively limits the spread of fire and eventually get to the seat of the fire.  To do this crew members need to understand the chemistry of fire. MERT Worldwide will cover this in on board refresher training.

Another comment or statement I read was that the majority of crew were prepared and waiting for the order to abandon ship.  This left a small team to continue the firefighting efforts below.  Those crewmembers not directly involved in firefighting efforts would have been ideal people to undertake Containment tasks.  MERT Worldwide offers an excellent Emergency Response Managers training module (see website for details).  This module covers topics relating to the managers of the incident or key people within the Emergency Response Organisation.  MERT Worldwide will identify their specific task and responsibility within the ships emergency organisation.  We will then uses Role Play techniques to practice and train people in these key position.

One statement I read was “Fires are not common on ships in this day and age”, but a simple Google search will show there was another ship fire that same week as the Amaltal Columbi.  If you dig deeper you will discover that ship fires are unfortunately more common than most might think.  MERT Worldwide offers a comprehensive Fire Training module.

This incident is now being investigating by the authorities and I await the final report (However long it may take).  In closing I like to say well done to the crew as there were no serious injuries or death, all survived to fish another day.  The owners now hope to salvage the ship and repair the damage if possible.  I firmly believe that if Talley’s had given MERT Worldwide the opportunity to provide Maritime Emergency Response Training on board Amaltal Columbi our training would have significantly reduced the damage repair cost.

MERT Worldwide – Maritime Emergency Response Training

Maritime NZ

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