MAIB report into fire and foundering of passenger transfer catamaran ECC TOPAZ off Lowestoft, January 2014

he MAIB has recently published their report on the fire and subsequent foundering of the passenger transfer catamaran ECC Topaz while conducting engine trials off the east coast of England, in January 2014. The crew of three handled the emergency well under the circumstances, before abandoning. They were promptly rescued and avoided injury or damnation with faint praise from the MAIB.

It is considered most likely that the fire was caused by an uninsulated section of exhaust pipe from a diesel fired air heater making contact with the plywood under-deck or a failed exhaust pipe causing direct impingement of exhaust gas on to inflammable material stored in the heater compartment.

Of particular interest to the yacht crewmember and those engaged in the operation and maintenance of tenders, is the routing and insulation of exhaust gas pipework. We often carry out routine inspections but take fixed or structural items largely for granted, and it is a timely reminder that it is never too late to challenge the builder, designer or refit yard. In this case, even the inspector from a well-established marine survey company missed this during a fairly detailed inspection.

For those on board Watkins' managed boats, please ensure that all crewmembers are given an opportunity to read this and confirm so in your next HESS meeting minutes. I can be contacted at any time if anyone has any questions. We would welcome any feedback of course, and would be pleased to circulate any comments.