NTSB investigates cause of tug boat fire on Gulf Intracoastal Waterway

Cracks in a muffler and the use of combustible materials in accommodation spaces caused a fire on a tugboat on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway near Freeport, Texas last year, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). called Thursday.

The tugboat was christened on June 25, 2022 Mary Dupre left Port Comfort, Texas for Houston pushing a single barge loaded with biodiesel. The fire broke out the following day. No casualties were reported and nearby Good Samaritan tugboats retrieved the barge, extinguished the fire and evacuated the crew members. However, the Mary Dupre It was a total loss, the damage was estimated at 1 million US dollars.

The fire broke out behind wood-paneled bulkheads in the pilot’s cabin, which was located between the smokestacks, which housed engine exhaust silencers and piping. Cracks in the welds of the muffler in the starboard funnel caused hot exhaust gases to escape into the funnel area.

During its investigation, the NTSB determined that a portion of the muffler was uninsulated due to an unconnected exhaust blanket on one muffler, which allowed heat to be radiated into the chimney area. This, together with exhaust gases escaping from a crack in the silencer, probably caused the temperature in the chimney area to rise. According to the NTSB, the crew did not notice any cracks or loosened ceilings due to the size of the stack, which prevented personnel from entering the room.

The NTSB determined that the fire on the Mary Dupre was caused by undetected cracks in the starboard muffler which resulted in the exhaust fumes igniting wooden structures in the accommodation space. The use of flammable materials in the carpentry, fixtures and fittings contributed to the damage.

“Exhaust systems from engines and other machines generate heat – which can be radiated by exhaust components – and are potential sources of ignition,” the report said. “These systems often pass through tight spaces that are difficult to access and inspect, and are often located near materials or equipment that impede access and direct observation. It has proven useful to include these areas in regular fire safety inspections. When conducting inspections of these systems, shipowners and operators should consider using hand-held devices – such as inspection mirrors, video equipment or thermal imaging equipment – ​​to detect deficiencies.”

The investigative report of the NTSB can be found here.

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