This reports the MAIB’s investigation of a fire on a vehicle deck of a United Kingdom registered ro-ro cargo ferry while on passage from Frederica to Copenhagen, Denmark. The fire was caused by an electrical defect on a used vehicle’s engine starting system. Following initial fire-fighting by the crew, the vessel diverted to the Swedish port of Helsingborg, where assistance was provided by the local fire and rescue service in finally extinguishing the fire.
The key safety issues identified were:
The carriage of used vehicles that do not have appropriate roadworthiness certification and whose history and condition are unknown, brings an increased fire risk.
An existing operator’s instruction for the batteries of used vehicles to be disconnected applied only to used vehicles carried on designated car transporters.
Neither the vessel’s safety management manual nor the risk assessments carried on board provided guidance on the specific risk associated with the carriage of used vehicles.
The main deck ventilation louvres were not fully closed, which allowed air to feed the fire and potentially affected the CO2 concentration levels needed to extinguish the fire.
The cargo deck ventilation fans were not operated as required by the current regulations which increased the fire risk due to the potential build-up of flammable vapours from vehicles.