Faulty space heater led to processing vessel fire

MARCH 2, 2015 — The National Transportation Security Board has issued a report on an incident in the early morning hours of Saturday, December 28, 2013, when the 138-foot-long fish processing vessel Juno, operated by Juno Tendering LLC, caught fire while moored at its pier in Westport, WA. Shoreside firefighters extinguished the blaze, which caused extensive damage. The master received minor injuries, and no pollution was reported as a result of the fire.

Although the Juno was classified as a fish processing vessel, it operated as a fish tender, transporting fish and related products between fishing vessels, processors, and shore-based facilities. At the time of the accident, the vessel was moored in Westport for minor maintenance. The master was the only crew member on board the vessel.

The master told investigators that on Friday, December 27, he rented some movies and came back to the vessel to watch them in his cabin, located on the second deck on the starboard side. He estimated that he fell asleep watching movies around midnight and awoke about 0130 to the smell of smoke. He went down the ladder to the main deck and found the aft bulkhead in the crew lounge on fire above a built-in bench seating area.

The master retrieved a fire extinguisher from the CO2 room on the main deck starboard side and discharged it on the fire with no effect. He then activated the engine room CO2 system and discharged five bottles, which also failed to suppress the fire. The master determined the fire was out of control, so he abandoned ship to the pier. The fire spread quickly through the house from the main deck up to the second deck and bridge.

An insurance company surveyor examined the vessel after the incident and identified the source of the fire as an electrical short in a built-in AC space heater within the bench seating in the crew lounge. The seating area was also used for storage, and multiple combustible materials were kept near the heater, including a container of paint, paint thinner, and a propane cylinder.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause of the fire on the fish processing vessel Juno was a space heater that experienced an electrical fault (short circuit). Contributing to the extent of the fire’s damage was the improper stowage of flammable materials near the heater. Also contributing was the vessel’s lack of structural fire protection and use of combustible materials in interior finishes.

Read the NTSB Marine Accident Brief HERE

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