Fire in engine room of passenger vessel RMS St Helena

Location: South of the Isles of Scilly.

Accident Investigation Report 19/2001

Read our marine accident investigation report, which includes what happened, actions taken, and recommendations:

st-helena.pdf (134.59 kb)


At about 1325 on the afternoon of 25 August 2000, to locate a coolant leak, the watchkeeping engineer on board RMS St Helena lifted a rocker box cover on the starboard main engine. This is common practice on the vessel. As he did so, oil sprayed from beneath the cover and impinged on the cladding of the engine’s exhaust, where it ignited. Later inspection revealed that a flexible oil pipe inside the rocker box had failed. When the rocker box cover was lifted, oil from the faulty pipe sprayed on to the exhaust.

Safety Issues

  • written agreement by the MCA to operate single man watches is in conflict with the Safe Manning Certificate
  • the advice on people being alone in engine rooms, contained in the Code of Safe Working Practices for Merchant Seamen, appears to be inconsistent with MCA’s agreement for St Helena to operate with single-handed engine room watches


It is recommended that the MCA reviews its acceptance of the single-man engineering watch system presently being operated on RMS St Helena. RMS St Helena’s owners are recommended to consider making it a requirement that when the vessel is at sea, at least a second person is present in the engine room when any enclosure from which flammable gas, vapour or liquid can escape is opened.

This report was published in May 2001.

Published 23 January 2015