Unattended candles cause loss of $6.3m yacht

Candles lit and left unattended in a yacht’s VIP suite caused a fire that resulted in the total loss of a vessel worth $6.3m and $480,000 in damage to a Miami marina and adjacent vessels in 2019, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in its Marine Accident Brief 21/17.

According to gCaptain, no injuries were reported in connection with the incident which took place on 18 December 2019 onboard the 120-foot-long, 299-gross-ton, private yacht Andiamo.

Firefighting resulted in flooding that led to the yacht capsizing onto its starboard side before coming to rest on the marina’s sea floor in about 27-feet of water. Adjacent vessels sustained smoke and heat damage and the marina’s nearby power pedestal and dock floats required repair, but the fire did not spread beyond the Andiamo.

While moored at the Island Deep Harbour Marina on Pier B, preparing for a guest’s arrival, two crewmembers reported the lights throughout the lower level and the main saloon were not working, the NTSB investigation revealed. The lighting issue, not resolved by the time the guest arrived, prompted a crew member to light three candles, placing them on top of a wood veneer dresser directly below a porthole decorated with curtains. The crew member extinguished one candle that was flickering, while the other two remained lit, and then departed the suite with the guest.

A fire subsequently broke out, and despite the yacht being equipped with an integrated fire-detection and alarm system the crew told investigators that they neither heard nor saw any fire alarms at that time. According to the report, the intensity of the fire and its rapid spread meant the crew could not safely initiate firefighting efforts and evacuated the vessel.

The NTSB  investigation also revealed the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) reported on 2nd October that year that the fire-detection and alarm system for the vessel was inoperable, according to gCaptain. Visits from ABS indicated that despite the crew’s repair attempts, the system and alarms were still not functioning over two months later, at the time of the fire. If fully functional, the fire-detection and alarm system would have alerted the crew of the fire’s location at its onset, which would have allowed for a direct response and fire-suppression efforts. Investigators determined the crew’s failure to complete timely repairs to the fire-detection system contributed to the severity of the fire.

In its conclusions, the NTSB report warns: “Candle usage on a vessel, whether attended or not, poses a fire risk. The abundance of flammable materials on board can allow a fire to quickly spread out of control.”

Read the full Marine Accident Brief 21/17 here.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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