A fire broke out in the engine room of P&O lines passenger/cargo RoRo European Causeway (IMO 9208394) during the afternoon of March 31st while she was in Larne, Northern Ireland. No injuries were reported.
The fire was extinguished by the ship’s crew and the internal fire suppression system. The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service attended with three fire engines and three crews from Larne, Belfast and Ballyclare. P&O said that it was investigating the circumstances of the fire and European Causeway was taken out of service. Four sailings, two from Larne to Cairnryan and two from Cairnryan to Larne, were cancelled.
The fire came less than four months after nine lorries fell on to their sides and cars were crushed when European Causeway was sailing from Larne to Cairnryan on December 18th last year. An inquiry into that event concluded only last week, finding that at least six drivers had remained in their cabs despite being instructed to leave the ro-ro deck after parking. No-one was hurt during the incident, but one of the drivers was trapped in his vehicle and needed to be rescued by the emergency services.
International regulations state that passengers are not allowed to remain on ro-ro decks as they are in danger of asphyxiation by fire or as a result of systems used to tackle fires.
The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), which carried out the inquiry, issued an urgent safety warning that ro-ro decks could be hazardous and potentially life-threatening environment and should only be occupied by professional seafarers. Drivers who remained on the deck might delay an emergency response to a fire, which could result in catastrophic consequences to the whole vessel, its passengers and the environment, said MAIB.
2000-built, Bahamas-flagged, 20,646 gt European Causeway is owned by P&O European Ferries Irish Sea and managed by P&O Ferries, both of Dover, UK. It is entered with Standard Club (International Division) on behalf of P&O European Ferries (Irish Sea) Ltd.