Warning on dangerous draining system modification

Warning on dangerous draining system modification ATSB

MARCH 7, 2014 — The Australian Transport Safety Bureau says that shipowners are being warned of a dangerous drainage system modification that contributed to the death of an engineer.

The accident occurred on March 20, 2013, on board the bulk carrier Nireas. The ship was anchored off Gladstone, Queensland, and an engineer was carrying out the routine task of draining water from the ship's main air receiver (part of the compressed air system). Unbeknownst to the engineer, as he continued with his task the pressure from the air receiver was affecting another component, the drainage pot. The drainage pot was a heavy steel cylinder mounted into the deck adjacent to the air receivers. The pressure built within the pot until, eventually, the drainage pot observation window exploded. Tragically, the engineer was killed by flying debris.

The ATSB investigation found that the original designers of the system had assumed that it would be open to the atmosphere. The modifications to the design, however, had created a closed system, allowing the pressure to affect the drainage pot. The ATSB report says that the shipyard had not ensured that the new design was adequately engineered, tested and approved prior to installation, despite having procedures in place which should have ensured such scrutiny.

Furthermore, the ATSB learned that similar designs of drainage systems had been, and continued to be, fitted in ships by various shipyards around the world.

On March 27, 2013,  the ATSB advised Laskaridis Shipping (the ship's managers), Jiangsu Jinling Shipyard (the shipbuilder), the Liberian Ship Registry (the flag state), Lloyd's Register and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority of the accident. All parties were made aware of what the ATSB investigation had initially found. They were all urged to identify ships fitted with similar drainage pots and to advise operators of those ships to take appropriate safety action to prevent similar accidents from occurring.

In response, Laskaridis Shipping confirmed that the inspection glasses had been removed from the remaining observation pots on board Nireas, and that the glasses from similar pots fitted on board another of the company's ships had also been removed. The company also stated that it had commenced its own investigation, was in contact with the shipyard and classification society and that a safety circular highlighting the accident would be distributed to its entire fleet.

Jiangsu Jinling Shipyard advised that it has carried out a preliminary analysis and investigation. The company has also notified owners of ships built with similar air receiver condensate drain systems and requested that they remove the observation window glasses from all drainage pots.

In addition, the North of England Protection and Indemnity (P&I) association has informed the ATSB that it is advising its members to check the air receiver drainage systems on board their ships.

In response to the accident, the ATSB issued a safety advisory notice to all classification societies, advising them of the accident and its safety implications. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority issued a Marine Notice to draw industry attention to this accident and its causes.

ATSB says this accident highlights the need to follow a formal process of risk assessment when considering possible equipment modifications. Such a process must ensure that all associated risks are identified, considered and appropriately treated.

Read the ATSB report HERE