A report from the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has revealed that an inadequate preventative maintenance programme and lack of guidance for addressing high-temperature engine conditions have resulted in a fire on-board the passenger vessel Island Lady.
The incident took place on 14 January when the vessel was travelling in Pithlachascotee River, near Port Ritchey, Florida, US.
At the time of the incident, the 72ft-long vessel was carrying 36 passengers, four crew, two ‘pre-hires’, and 11 other employees.
The fire injured 15 of the 53 passengers on-board Island Lady, which is operated by Tropical Breeze Casino Cruz to ferry passengers and company employees to and from the casino boat Tropical Breeze I.
According to NTSB’s investigation report into the incident, Tropical Breeze Casino Cruz’s offered no guidance on high-temperature engine alarms and it led to the captain of Island Lady causing the fire by leaving the port engine idling.
The absence of a fire detection and suppression system in an isolated area containing engine exhaust tubing prevented early detection of the fire in the ship’s lazarette.
Among other findings, the NTSB investigation found that the Island Lady’s crew had inadequate firefighting training.
NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said: “Safety isn’t something you have, it’s something you do.
“Are vessel operators being required to do it? All over the country this morning, crew training is either being conducted, or it is being neglected.
“Manufacturer’s recommended maintenance programmes are being followed or they are being disregarded, leaving the safety of vessels and their passengers at risk.”
Following the investigation, NTSB provided four safety recommendations to Tropical Breeze Casino Cruz, and to the US Coast Guard.