Monday, January 28, 2019

Kivalliq W. fire and Yantian Express update

Shipboard fires, like fires on land, are a fact of life, but some are far more serious than others. A recent fire aboard a gas tanker in the Crimea which resulted in an explosion involving two ships and resulted in the loss of scores of lives is fortunately a very rare event.

Some fires are minor, often because they are extinguished quickly. Such appears to have been the case aboard the tanker Kivalliq W. on Sunday morning at Imperial Oil dock 4. By 0600 hrs when the ship's crew were unable to control a fire in a generator compartment they called in Halifax Regional Fire and Emergencies Services, which in turn called upon the expertise of the Department of National Defence Fire Department. The latter have special training in shipboard fires, and thanks to these combined efforts the fire was extinguished by 0800.

Most engine room and compartment fires on ships are fought using CO2, which smothers the fire, but only works when the compartment is completely sealed so that no oxygen can get in to fuel the fire. Ships carry a large supply of CO2, but that can be used up quickly if the fire area cannot be sealed off. There is also a substantial waiting period before the compartment can be re-opened and cleanup operations can start.

Modern ships have a variety of generators, used to provide electricity separately from the propulsion engines. These are sometimes in the engine room itself, but others are mounted high on the ship outside the engine room to ensure that power is available in an emergency. Tankers also have additional generator capacity to power cargo pumps. It is not clear which generators were effected in the Kivalliq W.
The ship will be moving later today to pier 9C for repairs.

Kivalliq W. arriving from Quebec in December.

Kivalliq W. has been working a shuttle service from the Valero refinery in Lévis, QC to Imperial Oil. As an ice class vessel it is well suited to this kind of winter work. Its first arrival here December 1, 2018
is covered in a previous post.

Imperial has other sources of refined product, so will unlikely run short of supplies, but the ship may be out of service for some time.

It has been mentioned in some accounts that Imperial Oil no longer has its own fire service, as it once did when it operated a refinery. I am not sure if that team was equipped to handle shipboard fires. It seemed to me to equipped to fight fires on land within the refinery complex.

As to what other resources might be available in Halifax to fight a shipboard fire, that is a topic that had been the subject of debate ever since the Halifax in 1917. Over the years a variety of fireboats have been operated by the former City of Halifax, and the Royal Canadian Navy.  Nowadays harbour tugs are fitted with firefighting capability, and there is no dedicated fireboat in the harbour.

Obviously a fire of any sort on a tanker, if not extinguished quickly, could result in ignition of the cargo. When the ship has been carrying gasoline and other refined products, and is tied up to a fuel storage facility, the consequences could be serious. Perhaps we dodged a bullet this time.
Meanwhile that other shipboard fire - this one of a very different nature - on the Yantian Express - is apparently under sufficient control that the ship is able to head for a convenient port, under its own power. The fire was confined to the cargo area in the forward portion of the ship, and the engines and accommodations were not effected. The ship's officers returned to the ship, but they must have been supplemented by a new crew to help run the engines, provide catering, etc., 

At this point the ship is headed for Freeport, Bahamas, with the tugs Maersk Mobilizer and Sovereign working as escorts, but also standing by in case of a new outbreak of fire.

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