Combination of events caused catastrophic engine failure of Atlantic Destiny

A combination of maintenance gaps, a broken emergency stop mechanism and the actions of an inexperienced crew member caused a catastrophic engine failure on factory freezer trawler Atlantic Destiny (IMO 9246669) about 370 km south of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada on March 14th 2017, according to an investigation by the Canadian Transportation Safety Board (TSB).

The vessel, which was based in Riverport, had 21 crew on board at the time of the failure, which necessitated a towage by scallop trawler Atlantic Preserver to Shelburne.

In its report, released at the beginning of this week, the TSB said there were a number of unexpected engine shutdowns aboard the ship in the years leading up to final failure. Previously the crew had attempted to restart the engine by bypassing the constant speed-control system – the “governor”.

However, on March 14th 2017, while the ship’s engineer was in the control room resetting the system, an inexperienced deckhand in the engine room who was assisting the engineer, set the fuel injection to 80%, rather than the required level of zero. The engine was successful restarted, but the crew was now unable to reduce the speed, because the engine controls were disabled.

In addition the ship’s speed sensors were either installed incorrectly or functioning only intermittently, due to shorts in the electrical system the TSB said. Finally, the engine emergency stop mechanism was broken, which caused the gearbox fluid couplings to fail in an instantaneous overstress rupture due to excessive rotational speed.

Operator Ocean Choice International subsequently installed shielding around the engine’s fluid couplings and replaced the aluminium floor plates above the fluid couplings with stronger ones.