Fires and explosions at sea are more common than you might expect

| Jun 12, 2020 | Maritime Law |

When you think of life at sea and the dangers it might present, your mind might not go straight to fires and explosions. You might think about drowning or falls from rain-slicked heights. But fires and explosions are just as deadly and more common than you might expect.

We were recently reminded of this fact by the news of a container ship crew member who was seriously injured in an engine room explosion. His injuries were not life-threatening, but others are not always so fortunate. Fires and explosions are among the leading causes of fatalities on both ships and oil rigs.

Six common causes of shipboard fires and explosions

For now, we’ll set aside the idea of oil rigs and their fires and explosions. We’ll focus on the risks facing those who work on ships. It’s easy to think of the ocean as a great body of water that could easily put out a fire, but the truth is that large, commercial vessels have powerful, complex engines and machinery. When these falter, bad things can happen.

Here are six common causes for these fires and explosions as summarized by Marine Insight:

  • Ignition of lubricating oil within the crankcase
  • Generator breakdown due to uncontrolled RPM
  • Boiler blowback, misfiring, overheating and operator errors
  • Running the air compressor while the discharge valve is closed
  • Poor maintenance of high-pressure fuel lines
  • Carbon deposits in turbochargers

Anyone working in a ship’s engine room needs to be mindful of these things. The variety of hazards also reminds us that fires and explosions aren’t simply one-dimensional. There are many ways that ships, their engines and related materials can break down, fail and explode. Even if you’re doing everything correctly, someone else’s failure could cause a terrible accident.

After the fire or explosion

As mentioned earlier, the sailor who was injured in the container ship explosion managed to survive. That makes him one of the lucky ones, although it’s unclear how long or hard his recovery may be. But it’s likely that recovery will require time and money, as well as compensation for his lost wages.

The problem is that those who work at sea don’t get workers’ compensation to help them through. Instead, their injuries fall under the premises of maritime law. And that means their recoveries often demand they find attorneys who can help them navigate all the different rules and standards.