Not your average comedy

This little story was sitting in my inbox for a while, but I couldn’t delete because I though it was interesting what happen on the car carrier Figaro and wanted to share it. You can find the full MAIB report in the Ship’s Library. Like usual, Michael Grey from Lloyds List writes a informative piece below on the events.

Everytime I see those CO2 alarms in protected space, I wonder what it would like if it went off accidently, how would you react, what would you do. Well, this report sheds some light on the possibilities and what Figaro’s crew did. Not to mention the core of the problem, confusing procedures and such.

Extinguishers caused near-miss
MAIB report cites fire-fighting equipment shortcomings for car carrier incident in Channel

A LARGE car carrier was disabled by an inadvertent release of the ship’s fire-extinguishing equipment and was nearly wrecked on the Wolf Rock in the English Channel, a Marine Accident Investigation Branch report has concluded.

The incident took place last December, when Wallenius Wilhelmsen’s car carrier Figaro was preparing to round Land’s End in heavy weather that had reduced the speed of the ship to just 6 knots.

The vessel, with 30 people onboard, was labouring heavily and landed in a trough, the shock setting off the ship’s low-pressure CO2 fire-extinguishing system, which filled the engine room and several of the cargo spaces with 46,000 kg of the gas, stopping the main engine and the auxiliaries.

The engineers managed to escape from the suffocating gas, while a group of seamen in one of the cargo spaces successfully evacuated.

A group right forward, changing a pump on the mooring equipment, were, however, initially trapped, as their only escape led through the CO2-filled cargo spaces.

The vessel was just over five nautical miles of the Wolf Rock and drifting closer, and the master of Figaro requested a tug. Fortunately the tide turned and moved the vessel away, before the Emergency Towing Vessel Anglian Princess closed the casualty.

A lifeboat was on standby and helicopters were tasked to evacuate, if necessary.

There were further problems because of the disablement for maintenance of the car carrier’s forward mooring equipment, 10 men on the bow being unable to manually heave the ETV’s heavy towing wire onboard.

A connection with a lighter line was subsequently made and the tow to shelter began. However, the towline parted as the ship closed the coast, and fortunately the crew then managed to start the main engine. The ship was then escorted by the ETV to Falmouth.

The MAIB report discovered that the CO2 system had not been properly reset after it had been tested, being left in an unstable condition. Only one valve was then needed to release the full system to all the protected compartments. It was thought that the system was activated when the ship violently moved in the prevalent heavy weather.

The report also reveals that the crew was unfamiliar with the unusual low-pressure system, for which the maintenance instructions were “contradictory and vulnerable to misinterpretation”.

A range of measures to prevent recurrence have been put in train by the managers, while procedures for connecting up ETVs tows have also been amended by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency.


Coincidently, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics has just taken delivery of the largest car carrier in the world, the MV Aniara. The 71,673gt ship built by Daewoo of South Korea, can carry up to 8,000 cars. You can read the press release here, and download the spec sheet on this 24,540 hp behemoth here.

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