Lax procedures blamed for giant fire aboard vehicle freighter
An improperly disconnected vehicle battery sparked a fire aboard a vessel carrying vehicles to Blount Island that burned for more than a week and resulted in $ 40 million in damage, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday .
As a result of the investigation, the NTSB issued eight safety recommendations to federal regulators and companies involved in the crash.
A marine accident report details the NTSB’s investigation into the June 4, 2020 fire aboard the HÃ¶egh Xiamen in Jacksonville.
Nine firefighters from Jacksonville Fire and Rescue were injured in the response. None of the vessel’s 21 crew were injured.
The HÃ¶egh Xiamen and its cargo of 2,420 used vehicles were declared a total loss of $ 40 million. In August 2020, once the rescue operations were completed, the vessel was towed to Turkey for recycling.
The fire broke out around 4 p.m. on June 4 with hundreds of used and salvage cars loaded, according to Hoegh Autoliners, the ship’s owner based in Norway.
The crew noticed smoke coming from the ventilation box as they prepared to leave port for Baltimore. The fire eventually spread to other bridges and continued to burn for eight days.
The NTSB concluded that many vehicles loaded on the ship had batteries that were not disconnected and secured according to procedures, increasing the risk of electric arcs and component failures. During loading operations, loading personnel and crew missed opportunities to deal with these hazards.
The investigation showed that the detection of the fire was delayed because the ships’ fire detection systems had not yet been reactivated after loading was completed. Additionally, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Service’s response to the crash was delayed because the captain of the HÃ¶egh Xiamen did not immediately have contact details for search and rescue authorities and did not know how to report a fire to local authorities.
Security issues identified in the report include:
- Ineffective training and monitoring of vehicle battery securing.
- Regulatory exceptions for used and damaged flammable liquid vehicles.
- Deactivation of the fire detection system during cargo loading.
- Ineffective emergency distress calls.
âThe transport of used vehicles, such as those loaded onto ships like the HÃ¶egh Xiamen, is currently excluded from the Hazardous Materials Regulations when a ship has a specially designed and approved storage area for the vessel. vehicle transport, âthe NTSB said in the report. âWe have found that used vehicles are often damaged and present a high risk of fire. We believe that more stringent inspection, monitoring and enforcement are needed to reduce this risk. “
Five similar accidents have occurred since 2015, including a fire in 2019 aboard Grimaldi’s Grande Europa, according to the NTSB.
“The circumstances of this accident clearly show that it is essential to ensure that used vehicle batteries are disconnected and properly secured during cargo loading operations,” the report said. “The NTSB believes that it is imperative that operators of similar ro-ro ships engaged in the transport of used vehicles take action to ensure that all personnel involved in loading operations – including ship crews, longshoremen and longshoremen – be aware of the importance of disconnecting batteries on used vehicles.
The public record of the investigation contains over 750 pages of factual information, including interview transcripts, photographs and other investigative material.