Fire on Naval Logistics Vessel USNS Sergeant William R. Button

by | Apr 1, 2024 | Maritime Law

There was a fire on board the United States Naval Logistics Vessel USNS Sergeant William R. Button on March 28, 2024.  At the time of the fire, the ship was in the Gulf of Mexico, having recently departed from Mobile, Alabama.  The fire broke out in the ship’s engine room, but the crew was able to extinguish it.  It is unclear if anyone was injured as a result of the fire.  The vessel was towed back to Mobile.

Fires in the engine room of a support vessel represent a significant hazard, given the concentration of fuel, machinery, and electrical systems in confined spaces. One of the primary causes of such fires is fuel leaks. Fuel, whether diesel or another type, can leak from engines, fuel lines, or storage tanks, often due to wear, improper maintenance, or failure of the components. Once leaked, the fuel can come into contact with hot surfaces or electrical components, igniting and leading to a fire. The engine room, with its complex array of equipment and high temperatures, is particularly prone to this type of hazard, emphasizing the need for rigorous inspection and maintenance routines to identify and repair leaks promptly.

Electrical faults constitute another major cause of engine room fires on support vessels. The dense web of electrical wiring and control systems required to operate the machinery can be vulnerable to short circuits, overheating, and insulation breakdowns. Over time, vibration from the engines, exposure to moisture, and general wear and tear can compromise the integrity of electrical systems, increasing the risk of sparks or overheating that can ignite flammable materials. The prevention of such incidents heavily relies on regular electrical system checks, adherence to safety standards in installation and repair, and the implementation of protective devices like circuit breakers and insulation.

Lastly, improper maintenance and human error can also lead to engine room fires. Neglecting routine checks and maintenance of machinery can allow the accumulation of oil and grease, overheating of engine parts, and the deterioration of critical systems designed to prevent fires. Additionally, careless actions by crew members, such as smoking in prohibited areas or mishandling flammable liquids, can introduce ignition sources to an already hazardous environment. Comprehensive training for all crew members on fire prevention practices, along with strict enforcement of safety protocols, is crucial in mitigating the risks associated with engine room fires. Through diligent maintenance, adherence to safety guidelines, and fostering a culture of safety onboard, the likelihood of such devastating incidents can be significantly reduced.

There have been a number of recent incidents involving vessels.  There was an amputation injury on a fishing boat off the coast of Sonoma, California on March 17, 2024.  Two crew members were killed in an incident on board the Holland America Cruise Ship Nieuw Amsterdam on March 22, 2024.  There was a fire on board the Carnival Cruise ship CARNIVAL FREEDOM on March 23, 2024.  The container ship DALI struck the Francis Scott Key bridge in Baltimore, Maryland on March 25, 2024.

It can be dangerous to work in any industry when safety considerations are not taken seriously.  Safe offshore vessel owners and operators must ensure that their ships do not put the lives of hard working men and women at risk.  Safe companies must be proactive and take preventative measures, including regular maintenance and repairs, to also ensure that the environment is not impacted.

Even when a company has practices and procedures in place to prevent incidents like this, mishaps such as the one described above are cannot be completely eliminated.  All too often, human error and negligence are the reasons for these vessel collisions.  Whether it is due to poor judgment, a normalization of deviance from the proper procedures or a lack of proper rest and recovery, humans err and sometimes these errors result in the property damage, injury or death.  Operating modern sea vessels is not an inherently unsafe act as long as those responsible do so in such a manner that is not negligent. When the operation of sea vessels is conducted in a negligent manner, it does not take long for the situation to become dangerous.

Our experienced lawyers handle maritime personal injury and wrongful death litigation of all kinds and the skills needed to represent the families of loved ones who have lost their lives or those who have been seriously injured as a result of a maritime accident. The lawyers of Spagnoletti Law Firm have handled maritime lawsuits throughout the country.

The experienced and aggressive vessel accident attorneys at Spagnoletti Law Firm can help you understand your rights if you or a loved one was a victim of an accident on a ship. There are strict and short time limits on making claims related to maritime injuries, so please contact us online or call 713-804-9306 or 877-678-5864 to learn more about your rights.