Tour Boat Firefighting System Ineffective -TAIC Report

Tour Boat Firefighting System Ineffective -TAIC Report

New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission Report MO-2016-201 in to the sinking of the PeeJay V


New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission has released its report  dated 25 January 2018, regarding the fire on the PeeJay V 18th January 2016 that was operating as a tourist vessel on an all-day excursion from Whakatãne to White Island.

The PeeJay V was carrying 53 Passengers and seven crew, when a fire broke out in the engine room as the vessel was on approach to  Whakatãne Harbour, that ultimately led to sinking of the vessel.

Even after action was taken by the crew to used the CO2 fire extinguisher into the engine room, it was only suppressed for a limited time and soon the fire escalated quickly.

At this point the skipper was forced to give the order to abandon the vessel.

The report states that “Several vessels in the vicinity responded to the skipper’s distress call. All persons were eventually transferred to the assisting vessels. However, due to the speed with which the fire gained intensity several passengers were forced to enter the water without a life-jacket.” [ last accessed 29/01/2018]

The report goes on to say “The crew were not able to access all of the life-jackets on board because of the fire. For the same reason they were not able to launch the flotation raft that was stored on top of the vessel’s flybridge.”  [ last accessed 29/01/2018]

No serious injuries were sustained, apart from one crew member who suffered smoke inhalation.

The Commission was faced with a lack of physical evidence and were not able to conclusively establish the cause of the fire.

The Commission reported the following:

“The Commission found that the absence of a fire detection and automatic alarm system on the PeeJay V meant the crew had limited warning time and opportunity to respond to the fire and prepare the life-saving apparatus.

The Commission also found that the CO2 fire suppression system, which was supposed to work by displacing the air in the engine room with CO2, was not effective in suppressing the fire. This was because air was able to enter the engine room through several openings, including a cable duct that had no means of being closed.

The Commission also found that the placement of the life-saving apparel and equipment on board was appropriate. The fact that it could not all be accessed highlights the difficulty operators of smaller vessels have in choosing where to locate such equipment.

Three main safety issues identified during the inquiry were:

  1. Maritime Rules did not require the PeeJay V to have fire detection or automatic fire alarms installed even though it could carry up to 90 passengers and operate up to 12 nautical miles from the coast
  2. the CO2 fixed fire-fighting system installed in the engine room could not be fully effective in extinguishing the fire because the space it was protecting could not be fully closed down.
  3. the builder and operators of the vessel did not fully appreciate the principles of how the CO2 fixed fire-fighting system operated.”

The key lessons arising from this inquiry are:

  1. early detection of a fire on board a vessel is critical to a successful fire-fighting response and for the early preparation of life-saving apparel and equipment
  2. crew must be fully familiar with and trained in the use of fire-fighting systems on board, otherwise the systems might not be of any use in fighting a fire
  3. even if a fixed CO2 fire-fighting apparatus is fully functional, it will only be effective in fighting a fire if the design of the space it is protecting can be fully closed off.

Related Safety Recommendation(s):

035/17 Recommendation Date: 16 December 2017

Full Report MO-2016-201

For the full report MO-2016-201, please see the New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission website

Image and Photo source Transport Accident Investigation Commission [ ]




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