A common cause of engine room fires is fuel that sprays onto a hot surface, such as a turbocharger. This can occur when fuel line connections become loose or chafe through.
Many inspected vessels are required to have shields installed on fuel line connections to mitigate this threat. Flexible fuel lines should be inspected regularly for chafing, and should be replaced if they show signs of wear.
Companies that operate with a safety management system (SMS) should conduct a risk assessment to determine which high threat scenarios require mitigation. The threat of a spraying fuel fire is high for all vessels. Therefore, mitigation strategies should be included in the SMS. There should be a procedure to regularly inspect fuel lines and a job aid, in the form of an inspection checklist, can be used to ensure no items are missed. Crewmembers must be trained on how and why to inspect fuel lines. If a crewmember is just handed a checklist that says “fuel lines,” they may just check it off thinking, “Yep, we have fuel lines.” That sounds like a joke, but it has happened more than once.
As more complex technology makes its way into the industry, companies may look for inspection checklists to be done on a computer. However, careful consideration should be given to this practice. The point of a job aid is to use it while conducting the job, to make sure nothing is overlooked, and not to check boxes before or after the fact on a computer screen.
During a recent survey, a vessel’s flexible fuel lines were inspected and one was chafed almost all the way through. The vessel was dangerously close to experiencing a spraying fuel fire. The real shame was that there were stacks of completed daily checklists on board with “fuel lines” checked off.