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Risk lessons from trawler fire: TAIC

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 4/04/2017

The cause of a fire that extensively damaged a fishing trawler off the Canterbury coast five years ago hasn't been established with certainty, a report says.

The report also says the Amaltal Columbia's design and systems for preventing, detecting, containing and fighting a fire met applicable rules.

But the Transport Accident Investigation Commission has concluded that some aspects could have been improved.

It says the consequences of the fire could have been lessened with a more risk-based approach to operations.

The September 2012 fire broke out in the fishmeal bagging room on the fish processing deck.

The master made a mayday call and two nearby fishing vessels were asked to stand by to assist.

Despite their fire-fighting efforts, the crew had to abandon ship and were transferred to the assisting vessels.

The Amaltal Columbia was towed to Lyttelton, where firefighters declared that the fire was out.

Nobody was seriously injured in the fire, which the TAIC found was seated amongst bales of polypropylene bags stored in the fishmeal bagging room.

It was unable to establish with any certainty what started the fire, but said key lessons from the accident included:

- early detection of fires is critical to preventing their taking hold and spreading;

- operators should consider the risk of not replacing older-style fluorescent light fittings, which are more prone to failure than more modern fittings;

- arrangements for closing off a space and containing a fire need to be quick, easy and intuitive to use;

- using fire-retardant materials in the construction and fit-out of spaces will help to prevent fires starting and spreading.

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