Fire in machinery space on ro-ro passenger ferry Oscar Wilde

Location: Falmouth Bay, England.

Accident Investigation Report 3/2011

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

OscarWildeReport.pdf (2,698.49 kb)

Annexes (2,593.74 kb)


At approximately 1913 on 2 February 2010, a fire broke out in the auxiliary engine room on board the Bahamas registered roll-on roll-off passenger ferry Oscar Wilde. The ferry had just sailed from Falmouth, UK, after completing her annual docking. The seat of the fire was in way of the auxiliary engines’ fuel supply module and quickly spread across the compartment. The fire was eventually extinguished by the ship’s crew at 2100. There were no passengers on board and none of the ship’s crew were injured. However, the fire caused the vessel to lose electrical power, which ultimately required her to be towed back into Falmouth for repairs.

Safety issues

  • the regulating valve’s actuator diaphragm failed because it had been manufactured from rubber that was not resistant to oil
  • the fire was not extinguished by the high expansion foam total flooding system because rust and scale within the dry pipe network had clogged the foam distribution nozzles and prevented the production of foam
  • the performance of the local application water-mist and bilge foam systems was adversely affected by inadequate maintenance
  • the fire spread to an adjacent compartment due to the absence of thermal insulation


Following the fire, MAIB issued a Safety Bulletin which included a recommendation to the owners of ships fitted with high expansion foam systems utilising the atmosphere from within a protected space, aimed at ensuring similar corrosion issues were identified and rectified. Further recommendations have been made to the BMA aimed at: increasing international awareness and recognition of the hazards posed to personnel by high-expansion foam; verifying Oscar Wilde’s compliance with the SOLAS structural fire protection requirements, and; providing assurance that the vessel’s fixed fire-extinguishing systems can be relied upon in an emergency. A recommendation has been made to Lloyd’s Register to make its clients aware of the circumstances of the fuel system failure. Irish Ferries has been recommended to fully implement changes to its fixed fire-fighting systems as recommended by the system manufacturers.

A safety bulletin was published for this report.

This report was published on 10 March 2011.

Published 23 January 2015