Friday, April 29, 2022

Catastrophic Engine Failures Lead to Major Investigation After Injuries to Ship's Officer

Domestic Ferry Group Vessels Had Litany of Problems
Shipping News Feature

UK – The latest report from the Marine Accident Investigations Board (MAIB) demonstrates very clearly that life at sea can be extremely dangerous, even on routes which may appear the mildest and safest, when mechanical issues persist and threaten the lives of those aboard.

Two consecutive incidents, less than four months apart, saw catastrophic engine failures, one resulting in a fire, on board the Wight Sky, one of of three Wight Class sister ferries of the Wightlink fleet which serves the Lymington – Yarmouth route. The first two incidents, on 26 August and 14 December 2018 occurred at the entrance to Lymington River and before berthing at Lymington Pier.

The second incident in 2018 was the failure of the very engine which had replaced the one involved on the earlier occasion, and was a new build which had been in operation for just 389 hours. This had resulted in a fire and serious injuries to an engineer officer and the inspectors found a history of engine problems dating back to 2010 which led to a widening of the investigation to encompass all known incidents.

A long and detailed technical investigation comprised forensic examination and testing of five of the failed engines and their components, a full review of the vessels’ system design and operation, and the safety management, planned maintenance and condition monitoring procedures, together with manning and technical oversight. In May 2019, the MAIB published an interim report of its initial findings.

A range of findings led to recommendations to all those involved. The key safety issues identified were:

  • Insufficient technical oversight of the engines’ operating parameters.
  • Standards of maintenance management and quality control.
  • Engine component and auxiliary system design problems.
  • A lack of clear ownership for engine maintenance and engine condition monitoring.

A variety of advice was given to Wightlink, engine manufacturer Volvo Penta AB, Lloyds’ Register and RK Marine Ltd. Andrew Moll, Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents, said:

“This has been a long and complex investigation. Initially focussing on two catastrophic engine failures, the investigation found a history of engine failures across Wightlink’s fleet of Wight Class ferries dating back to 2010. Consequently, the scope of the investigation was broadened to include the forensic examination and testing of five failed engines and their components, a full review of the vessels’ propulsion system design and operation.

”We also examined the ferry operator’s safety management, planned maintenance and condition monitoring procedures, together with the technical oversight provided by the engine manufacturer and its approved service provider.

”MAIB has worked closely with Wightlink, Volvo Penta AB, Lloyds Register and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency over the past three years to help ensure that most of the technical issues identified in the investigation report were addressed as soon as practicable. The report contains recommendations aimed at improving the reliability of the propulsion machinery on board the Wight Class ferries and reduce the likelihood of future catastrophic engine failures."

Photo: The Wight Sky with inset the fire in 2018 in the engine room.