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PAINT LOCKER FIRES







The photographs above are revealing in several ways, lets have a look. Clearly the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) vessel JS "Kurama" impacted the Korean container ship MS "Carina Star" just aft of the turn of the fo'cs'le on the Starboard side. Please note that's the Starboard side, thus it appears JS "Kurama" would have shown "Carina Star" the red port sidelight and "Carina Star" would have shown JS "Kurama" the green starboard sidelight. This impact point would tend to suggest that JS "Kurama" was the 'stand-on' vessel and the MS "Carina Star" is the 'giving-way' vessel. Until there is a complete plot of the tracks made good of both these vessels and the position in the Kanmon Strait of the point of collision no determination can actually be made.

As a result of this impact there was severe bow damage to JS "Kurama" and in addition a massive fire occurred. As a result of 50 years service at sea and over a two decades as a Safety Officer in cruise ships my first thought was a paint locker explosion and fire. Noting the intensity and colour of the flames tended to confirm that is what happened. Reading today the initial Japanese report of the Inquiry this was indeed confirmed by the Japanese investigating officers.

During the many fire drills held during my years at sea I would say about every third drill was a 'paint locker fire' and those drills were conducted weekly. Similarly USCG Inspection drills usually had a paint locker fire as part of that busy day in a passenger ship.

For those of you not so familiar with a ships layout the Paint Locker is usually forward in the fo'c'sle. There have been several suggestions and redesigns over the years for alternative locations. No matter were it is placed it is clearly a fire hazard and should have a special and dedicated fire suppression system.

If you look at the deck markings of JS "Kurama" there is clearly a strong safety culture in the JMSDF. Even pathways fore and aft and athwartships are marked within white lines passing clear of deck fittings, her guns et cetera. All crew are properly equipped for fire-fighting and in the after event photos are wearing hard hats.

Yet we have the paint locker fire because the Paint Locker is in the classic position of forward in the fo'c'sle and if it had a dedicated fire-suppression system it was most likely rendered inoperable by the collision impact. So fellow mariners we can all learn from this.

Look around your vessel;
  • where is your paint stored
  • is it secured properly
  • is there a dedicated fire-suppression system
  • what would happen if you had a similar collision
  • what is the paint made of
  • read your 'manufacturers product data sheets'
  • finally have a plan ready

  • now go drill, drill, drill

Good Watch.

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