Health & Safety

Coast Guard Sites Fuel Oil Leak as Causing Cruise Ship Fire

A leak in a fuel oil return line caused the engine-room fire that disabled a Carnival cruise ship at sea, reports the Associated Press.

It is estimated that the investigation of the disabled ship, the Carnival Triumph, would take six months.

The Bahamas — where the ship is registered, or flagged — is leading the investigation, with the Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board representing U.S. interests in the probe. The vessel was in international waters at the time of the incident.

Coast Guard spokesman Carlos Diaz described the oil return line that leaked as stretching from the ship’s No. 6 engine to the fuel tank.
Andrew Coggins, a former Navy commander who was a chief engineer and is now a professor at Pace University in New York and an expert on the cruise industry, said the fire could potentially have been serious.

“The problem is the oil’s under pressure,” he said. “What happens in the case of a fuel oil leak where you have a fire like that is it leaks in such a way that it sprays out in a mist. In the engine room you have many hot surfaces, so once the mist hits a hot surface it will flash into flame.”

If the crew hadn’t reacted quickly and the fire suppression system hadn’t worked properly, he said, “the fire from the engine room would have eventually burned through to other parts of the ship.” Engine room fires that can’t be suppressed generally result in the loss of the entire ship, he said.

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