Fire in engine room on stern trawler Ocean Challenge resulting in vessel sinking

Location: North Sea.

Completed PE Summary: Ocean Challenge

Registered Owner & Manager:   Westward Fishing Company
Port of registry:   Peterhead
Flag:   UK
Type:   Trawler
Built:   1980
Construction:   Wood
Length overall:   19.9
Gross tonnage:   113.00
Date & Time   17/03/06 02:59
Location of incident:   Foriegn water 5904.8 N 00130.2E
Incident Type:   Fire/Explosion
Persons onboard:   4 crew
Damage/ Pollution:   Ship lost/Pollution caused


A 20m wooden fishing vessel suffered an engine room fire, thought to be caused by a fault in the electrical system. The fire was severe the crew closed down the vessel, activated CO2 and evacuated to the liferaft from where they were safely rescued.

A supply vessel responding to the “Mayday” fought the fire with a powerful foam monitor. With the fire apparently extinguished and in good weather conditions, the crew reboarded the fishing vessel to investigate the damage. After opening the door to the engine room, the fire re-ignited and the crew were forced to evacuate once more.

The supply vessel continued to fight the fire, while towing the fishing boat clear of sub-sea pipelines, until satisfied that the fire was finally extinguished. The tow was then passed to another fishing vessel, which continued towards port. However, in the early hours of the following morning, the fishing boat broke her tow and sank.

Action taken

The Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has published an “Accident Flyer”, circulated to the fishing industry to raise awareness of the lessons learnt from this accident. A letter has also been written to the owner of the vessel highlighting safety issues to consider:

  • The fire safety of electrical systems

  • Engine emergency shut down systems

  • Engine room closure in a fire situation

  • Returning to the scene of the fire too soon

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