Results from the investigation of a fire that broke out on-board the auto and passenger vessel Caribbean Fantasy in August 2016 have shown that the vessel was leaking fuel that contacted a hot surface in the engine room and caused the fire.

The results were released by the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which was involved in the investigation.

According to NTSB, the fire started in the main engine room of Caribbean Fantasy, when fuel spraying from a leaking flange contacted the hot surface of the port main engine.

Unable to contain the fire, the master ordered the passengers to abandon the 614ft long, Panamanian-flagged ship, which offered a ferry service between Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, as well as San Juan and Mayaguez in Puerto Rico.

The vessel, which was loaded with 511 passengers and crew at the time of the incident, remained on fire for three days and was eventually drifted and grounded near the port of San Juan.

Various factors such as the intentional block opening of the quick-closing valves used for the fuel and lube oil led to the rapid spread of fire, said NTSB.

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“Various factors such as the intentional block opening of the quick-closing valves used for the fuel and lube oil led to the rapid spread of fire.”

Bad safety culture and ineffective implementation of the safety management system on-board the Caribbean Fantasy has also contributed to the quick spread of the fire and the succeeding prolonged abandonment effort.

The NTSB investigation has also revealed a failure of the fixed firefighting systems and a structural fire boundary while containing the fire.

Panama Maritime Authority and other organisation’s failure in extinguishing the fire have also worsened the situation.

After completing the investigation, the NTSB issued a number of safety recommendations to the US Coast Guard, International Association of Classification Societies, Panama Maritime Authority, and other companies involved.