Fire in engine room on tug SD Dexterous

Location: 0.5nm north of Rhu Narrows, Gareloch, Argyll & Bute, Scotland.

Completed PE Summary: SD Dexterous

A short summary of the accident and action taken:

Category:   Merchant vessel
Vessel name:   SD Dexterous
Manager:   Serco Marine Services
Registered Owner:   Serco Ltd
Port of Registry:   London
Flag:   UK
Classification Society:   Lloyd’s Register
Type:   Twin Unit Tractor Tug
Built:   1986, Richard Dunston, Hessle, Yorkshire
Construction:   Steel
Length overall:   38.8m
Gross tonnage:   384
Date & Time:   12 May 2010, 1145 (UTC +1)
Location of incident:   0.5nm north of Rhu Narrows, Gareloch, Argyll & Bute
Incident Type:   Engine room fire
Persons on board:   5
Injuries/fatalities:   None
Damage/pollution:   Fire damage to engine room deckhead (approximately 20m2)


SD Dexterous was in company with another Serco tug involved in warship escort duties in the Gareloch. As the vessel approached Rhu Narrows, the fire alarm sounded and the chief engineer discovered a fire in the vicinity of the port main engine. The engine room was closed down as the tugmaster advised the pilot on the warship and shore authorities of the situation. Soon afterwards, the vessel went to anchor, the engines were shut down and CO2 was released into the engine room. The crew were safely evacuated and boundary cooling was established by other Serco vessels. Some hours later, the fire was confirmed to be extinguished and SD Dexterous was towed to a nearby berth.

Progressive chafing of one of the port main engine’s fuel injector leak-off pipes had caused the pipe to fail. Diesel fuel then discharged onto the hot engine, where it ignited.

Action taken

Serco Marine Services has increased its senior engineering staff at Board level as well as in the Clyde area, and has reviewed all aspects of its engineering practices. The company has also updated its crisis management organisation and is developing an emergency drill schedule for all vessel manning combinations.

The Deputy Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has written to Serco Marine Services advising of the need for quality engineering oversight. He has also highlighted the risks associated with frequent movement of crew between vessels, notably the impact this can have on individuals’ specific vessel knowledge.

Published: June 2010

Published 23 January 2015