NTSB: Lack of Monitoring Aggravated $900K Louisiana Shipyard Fire

May 7, 2021

A 2020 fire at a Louisiana shipyard in April 2020 that caused $900,000 in damage was able to start and spread without notice because no one was continually monitoring the vessel while fire detectors were shut off during repairs, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a report issued May 4.

Marine Accident Brief 21/11 details the NTSB’s investigation into the April 16, 2020, fire aboard the dive support vessel, the Iron Maiden, docked at the Allied Shipyard in Larose, Louisiana.

The probable cause of the fire aboard Iron Maiden was an electrical short from an unidentified source located on the forward bulkhead within the generator room, the NTSB said. No injuries were reported as a result of the fire.

The Iron Maiden was owned by Blue Marlin LLC, which intended to upgrade the vessel and return it to dive support operations.

In its summary of the report, the NTSB described the incident:

While the fire caused extensive damage throughout the generator room, the NTSB found fire pattern and damage indicating the fire started near the forward bulkhead. Because the battery charger, alarm panel, and generator push button start-stop panel were in the area of fire ignition identified by fire investigators, an electrical short from one of these components may have been the source of the fire. However, the exact location of the source of the fire could not be identified by fire investigators.

There was no crewmember or shipyard worker staying on board the Iron Maiden during the night of the fire. The vessel’s fire detection system was shut off while work was being conducted within the vessel to prevent false alarms from smoke and dust. In addition, there was no shipyard policy or vessel owner policy in place to have shipyard personnel or vessel crewmembers conduct safety rounds after hours when there was no work being done on the vessel.

The Iron Maiden before the April 16, 2020 fire, with previous name and different owner. Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

“Fire and flooding are risks for both crewed and unattended vessels,” the report said. “To protect personnel, property, and the environment, it is good marine practice for owners, operators, and shipyard managers to coordinate and implement some form of continuous monitoring for vessels undergoing maintenance in a shipyard, in lay-up, or in some other inactive period without regular crews aboard. Continuous monitoring can consist of scheduled security rounds and/or active monitoring with sensing and alarm systems.”

Marine Accident Brief 21/11 is available online at https://go.usa.gov/xHpPE.

Topics Louisiana Transportation

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