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Three engine fires onboard Wightlink's Wight Sky vessel caused by 'catastrophic failures' Marine Accident Investigation Branch rules



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A WIGHTLINK crew member suffered serious injuries in one of three engine fires caused by "catastrophic failures", a report revealed.

The incidents, between September 2017 and December 2018, involved Wight Sky – one of three Wight Class sister ferries – and the third incident prompted Wightlink to withdraw its Wight Class ferries from service, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) said.

A subsequent investigation by the MAIB also uncovered a "history of engine failures across the Wight Class fleet dating back to 2010", prompting a deeper probe.

Wight Sky (Photo by MAIB) (56356885)
Wight Sky (Photo by MAIB) (56356885)

It tested five of the failed engines and involved a full review of the vessels’ system design and operation, safety management, planned maintenance and condition monitoring procedures, as well as manning and technical oversight.

Wightlink and the engine manufacturer, Volvo Penta, have since taken various steps, including weather and engine load constraints, enhanced engine monitoring and shutdown procedures.

Restrictions on personnel entering the machinery spaces have also been imposed and modifications made to the engine alarm system, while Volvo Penta has strengthened its standard operation process to prevent an assembly error from happening again.

The MAIB said the first incident on 12th September 2017 resulted in "serious injuries" to an engineering officer during an engine room fire.

The engine had recently been overhauled ashore by an independent local Volvo Penta dealer, rebuilt in the engine room onboard and had been running for less than six hours when it failed.

The Wight Sky engine after the September 2017 fire (Photo by MAIB) (56356887)
The Wight Sky engine after the September 2017 fire (Photo by MAIB) (56356887)

Volvo Penta’s investigation concluded the lubrication supply to a big end bearing had probably been blocked by debris allowed to enter the engine’s oil channels during the rebuild.

One of the fires onboard Wight Sky (Photo by MAIB) (56356889)
One of the fires onboard Wight Sky (Photo by MAIB) (56356889)

The replacement ME2 failed on 26th August 2018 as the vessel was preparing to enter Lymington River, when one of the engine’s connecting rods and various other internal engine components were ejected through the engine block.

The engine lubricating oil ignited, causing a fireball to engulf the engine. Luckily the engine room was unmanned at the time and the bridge team were alerted and swiftly activated the fixed fire-fighting water-mist system – which quickly contained and extinguished the fire.

Following discussions with the coastguard, the vessel’s master returned Wight Sky to Yarmouth and disembarked the passengers.

The third incident on 14th December 2018 involved Wight Sky’s ME4, which suffered a catastrophic failure as the vessel was closing on the berth at Lymington.

That engine was also new, having run for just 380 hours. A connecting rod bottom-end failed, and various internal engine components were ejected through the engine block.

There was no fire, but the fixed fire-fighting system was operated immediately as a precaution. There were no injuries and the vessel berthed safely.



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