(http://www.MaritimeCyprus.com) The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) released the report of its investigation of the 11 December 2017 fire on the general cargo ships BBC Xingang in port in Newcastle. The fire started during the oxy-acetylene cutting and gouging removal of sea fastenings. Molten metal and other hot material produced by this work burned through protective fire blankets in place around the site, and fell onto unprotected cargo below.
The cargo stowed below the work site was covered with flammable polyester material which had not been adequately identified and protected prior to the work commencing. A fire watch was present in the lower hold but had not been directed to closely monitor immediately below the work site so was not in position to quickly react when the molten metal fell from above.
Ship fires due to hot work to remove sea fastenings are a constant danger. The continuing incidence of hot work related fires during the removal of sea fastenings highlights the importance of maintaining vigilance throughout the entire process. This is especially important if this is a regular task and is at risk of becoming routine. Procedures and practices along with the equipment available for completion of the task need to be reviewed and assessed and used as appropriate.
Hot work requires the implementation of comprehensive risk controls and procedures. These should include, but not be limited to, detailed, task-specific appraisals, risk and hazard assessments, work permits and pre-work toolbox meetings. Ultimately, the responsibility for the implementation of these controls rests with the ship, in consultation with third parties if involved. This is especially important when shore labour is employed to complete the work and multiple organisations’ work requirements and procedures are involved.
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