Uninsulated pipe caused boat to erupt in flames

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch issues a safety warning after a boat burst into flames and sank off Lowestoft.

An uninsulated hot exhaust pipe is believed to be the cause for a 14m wind farm support catamaran erupting in flames and sinking, says a report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB).

As a result of the fire, the MAIB is urging all owners and operators to check all exhaust pipes on their vessels are fully insulated and don’t come into close contact with combustible materials.

ECC Topaz and its three crew had been 11nm east of Lowestoft when the boat caught fire earlier this year on 14 January.

The crew attempted to extinguish the fire but they were forced to abandon the boat and escape in a liferaft as the flames tore through the vessel’s structure.

The raging fire continued for almost two hours before the boat sank in 33m of water.

A coastguard helicopter rescued the three crew after receiving a Mayday call from the boat’s skipper.

The MAIB’s report found compelling evidence to suggest the source of the fire was due to an uninsulated section of the exhaust pipe from a diesel-fired air heater.

The MAIB report said: “The most likely cause of the fire on board ECC Topaz was the poorly insulated hot exhaust pipe igniting the plywood structure of the vessel.”

“The compartment where the heater was situated was not fitted with any fire detection or extinguishing systems, and contained several flammable items including sacks of rags, rolls of paper towels and several small drums of oil that would have provided additional fuel for the fire once it was ignited.”

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