30 Mar 2017

Report into fishing boat blaze released

1:58 pm on 30 March 2017

Fishing company Talleys has been told to improve the way it deals with fires on board its ships, after 41 crew were forced to abandon a burning boat

The Amaltal Columbia during the fire.

The Amaltal Columbia during the fire. Photo: Supplied / Maritime NZ

The comments come from the Transport Accident Investigation Commission, in the wake of a maritime accident five years ago.

In that case, the 1900 tonne trawler Amaltal Columbia was fishing off the Canterbury coast in September 2012 when fire broke out.

The 41 crew abandoned the vessel, which was then towed into Lyttelton port by two other ships.

By the time it arrived, the fire was out, but the vessel was extensively damaged.

Two crew members suffered minor smoke inhalation.

In its report, the Commission said the ship met the required standards for the prevention, detection, containment and fighting of a fire, but that the company could still improve its practises.

The report said while inspectors could not determine the cause of the blaze, two possibilities could not be ruled out: friction from a slipping rubber belt on an electric motor or heat from flourescent lighting.

It said this lighting was installed in 1991 and was legal, but modern lighting was safer.

The Commission also found the the crew had difficulty isolating the blaze because fire flaps designed to stop flames from spreading along ventilation ducts were difficult to operate.

Another problem was that accident inspectors were unable to determine whether material used to line the fish processing deck had fire-retardant properties.

But the report said this material appeared to have burned and it probably accelerated the spread of the fire.

The Commission said the consequences of the fire could have been lessened by a more risk-based approach to fishing operations.

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