MERT Review – Amaltal Columbi Ship Fire


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Amaltal Columbi Ship Fire Off The East Coast of New Zealand – Another Ship Fire, what is happening in the Maritime Industry?

Reading the article in the NZ Herald they mentioned the crew tried to contain the fire so it would burn itself out.  Unfortunately they did not succeed therefore the order to abandon ship was given.I will comment on effective containment and how it is achieved.
The metal structure of a ship needs cooling to prevent heat being conducted if a fire is present.  If no cooling is applied to the metal structure then heat will be conducted and transfer or spread to the next compartment effectively spreading the fire through the ship. This is the current situation onboard Amaltal Columbi.

To help explain containment I will use a box as an example.  You are holding a small box in your hands and a fire is burning inside the box. What needs to happen to effectively contain the fire is cooling water must be applied to all 6 sides of the box.  This will limit the spread of heat and fire, therefore the same principle applies on ships. On ships however it is not always possible to get to all 6 sides but every effort is made to get to those accessible sides only.

Another very important part of containment is shutting down ventilation, complete power isolations, fuel trips and air dump.  This limits the spread of smoke, and starves the fire of fuel and air if present in some compartments.

The last important requirement for effective containment is correct closing down of the effected compartment.  This simply means closing all doors and hatches leading into that compartment.  This will limit the spread of smoke and fire as flammable gases are present in smoke.  It will also aid smothering the fire or starving it of O2 (Oxygen) and with time the fire will snuff itself out.

Once Boundary Cooling, Ventilation and Power Isolation are made and the compartment is completely Closed Down then the fire is Contained or “Boxed”.

Containment is an important part or process which needs to be done correctly and in the quickest time possible to give the crew any chance of containing a fire to stop it spreading.

I am certain that good containment today onboard Amaltal Columbi would have seen the crew succeed in limiting the spread of smoke, heat and fire. Unfortunately the owners are now looking at a larger repair bill because the fire did spread.

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