The Marine Accident Investigation Branch issues a safety warning after a boat burst into flames and sank off Lowestoft

An uninsulated hot exhaust pipe is believed to be the cause for a 14m

wind farm support catamaran erupting in flames and sinking, says a

report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB).
As a

result of the fire, the MAIB is urging all owners and operators to check

all exhaust pipes on their vessels are fully insulated and don’t come

into close contact with combustible materials.
ECC Topaz and its three crew had been 11nm east of Lowestoft when the boat caught fire earlier this year on 14 January.

crew attempted to extinguish the fire but they were forced to abandon

the boat and escape in a liferaft as the flames tore through the

vessel’s structure.
The raging fire continued for almost two hours before the boat sank in 33m of water.
A coastguard helicopter rescued the three crew after receiving a Mayday call from the boat’s skipper.

MAIB’s report found compelling evidence to suggest the source of the

fire was due to an uninsulated section of the exhaust pipe from a

diesel-fired air heater.
The MAIB report said: “The most likely

cause of the fire on board ECC Topaz was the poorly insulated hot

exhaust pipe igniting the plywood structure of the vessel.”

compartment where the heater was situated was not fitted with any fire

detection or extinguishing systems, and contained several flammable

items including sacks of rags, rolls of paper towels and several small

drums of oil that would have provided additional fuel for the fire once

it was ignited.”

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