Fuel shutoff valves outside the engine room might have stopped a fire that destroyed a shrimp boat after an explosion off Louisiana last year, federal investigators say.
Other shrimpers saw the smoke and rescued all four people from the Master Dylan. But the $300,000 boat was a total loss, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a report.
The report said one of the boat’s two generators exploded while the crew was shrimping off Port Fourchon about 7:45 a.m. on Dec. 1. The boat was registered in Louisiana but had left Port Arthur, Texas, on Nov. 29.
The captain emptied a fire extinguisher into the engine room without diminishing the blaze. Intense fire and heavy smoke kept him from getting inside to the shut-off valves for two diesel generators and the main diesel engine.
“The vessel had no remote emergency cut-off valves outside the engine room, and thus fuel to the fire could not be stopped and the vessel was eventually consumed by the flames,” the report said.
Realizing the fire was out of control, the captain told the three crew members to put on their life jackets, then to raise the nets so they wouldn’t be in the way if they had to use the life raft.
The captain of a nearby fishing vessel, the Johnny LE, saw the smoke and headed to the Master Dylan to rescue the four who were preparing to evacuate. The captain and crew of the offshore supply vessel FMS Courage also saw the smoke and changed course to help. Its crew used fire monitors and fire hoses to put out the blaze.
The Master Dustin II, with the same owner as the Master Dylan, began towing the damaged boat to shore.
“About an hour after beginning the tow, the Master Dylan grounded on a sandbar that the towing vessel had passed over. Shortly after the grounding, the fire re-flashed,” the report said.
The Master Dustin II, with the Master Dylan’s crew on board, released the tow but stayed nearby, expecting to resume the tow once the fire was out and the tide lifted the 85-foot (26-meter) boat. But the following day, the damaged boat rolled over and sank. The boat wasn’t salvaged, so cause of the “catastrophic” generator failure could not be determined, the NTSB said.
Once fire starts in an engine room, “it is imperative to remove the source of available fuel … in the fuel oil and lube oil systems,” the report said.
“Vessel designers, builders, owners, and operators are encouraged to install, regularly test, and have emergency drills that incorporate remote cut-off valves for fuel and lube oil lines,” it said.
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