Fracture sparks engine room fire

Lookout! Issue 36, December 2016

A fracture in a stud, re-used during the reconditioning of a fuel pump, was the cause of an engine room fire onboard a passenger ferry carrying 73 passengers and four crew earlier this year.

The crew activated emergency procedures and all aboard were transferred to a sister vessel and other boats from rescue services that arrived promptly on scene.

The incident unfolded when a crew member noticed on a CCTV monitor at the helm that there was a small fire near the port engine.

He organised for all crew to assemble in the wheelhouse to activate the evacuation plan, and made a Mayday call over VHF radio.

Fuel pump stud
The fuel pump stud that fractured. Inside the passenger vessel, which was swiftly evacuated.
Maritime New Zealand ©2020

The crew shut down the engine room, including the emergency fuel and air ‘shut offs’, and used the fire smothering system – which extinguished the flames.

Passengers were informed there had been a fire on board and it was under control. Within minutes a sister vessel arrived and crew swiftly organised the transfer of all clients onboard.

Fire Service personnel entered the engine room and advised crew that it was safe for them to open vents and assess damage. When a tug arrived, the vessel was towed back to the mainland.

The operator went on to conduct a thorough internal investigation, and discovered that a fracture in a stud, onto which a nut is screwed, meant the reused part failed to apply enough clamping pressure to the fuel injector delivery valve.

The pump had been reconditioned 7,847 hours before the incident and was not due to be reconditioned again until 12,000 hours. The reuse of the damaged stud resulted in a second fracture, and eventually the part sheared off.

The operator has since directed to the service agent that only new studs are used when rebuilding fuel pumps.


  • This incident provides a reminder to operators about how important it is to ensure service providers are diligent when carrying out repairs.
  • The failure of one already damaged stud was enough to cause a fire in the engine room, which fortunately was spotted early by a crew member while it was still easy to extinguish.
  • The operator has since specified that new studs must be used for such repairs and servicing.
  • The need for an evacuation meant the vessel’s Maritime Operator Safety System (MOSS) plan was tested in a real-life situation. The incident proved to be a good example of the benefits of having detailed safety procedures, and ensuring crews practice rescue drills.
  • Passengers onboard felt confident due to the crew’s rapid and professional response.

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