Hot reception for harbour veteran

Over Christmas, charter ferry fleets are in full swing. When business is busy, it is easy to ignore maintenance inspections. However, as this incident shows, all areas of your vessel need to be inspected regularly.


A ferry was conducting a party cruise with over 60 passengers aboard. During the mid-afternoon, the passengers and crew noticed smoke beginning to pour out of the forward bulkhead at the bow of the vessel. The crew called for assistance and all the passengers were transferred by water police to another charter ferry vessel without injury. The fire was brought under control and the vessel was towed to its berth.

The Investigation revealed that the exhaust pipe was rusted due to the ingress of rainwater and the surrounding insulating material had rotted. The fire started in the exhaust stack when hot gases from the holes in the exhaust pipe ignited the timber funnel casing which enclosed the exhaust pipe.

Lessons learned

  1. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ should never be an attitude carried aboard your boat. Exhaust and engine room insulation needs to be inspected and renewed regularly. A proper maintenance schedule for any boat, particularly a commercial vessel, should include a periodic visual inspection of all areas, including those that are difficult to access.
  2. In particular, the positioning and aspect of a vessel’s exhaust outlet should be examined to determine if a cover is required to ensure water does not enter the exhaust pipe. This would accelerate corrosion and potentially provide an ignition point for fire.
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