Lit candles and an inoperable fire-detection system led to total loss of $6.3m yacht

Candles that had been lit and then left unattended in a yacht’s VIP suite caused a fire in 2019 that resulted in the total loss of the vessel and $480,000 in damage to a Miami marina and adjacent vessels in December 2019, according to a report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released on September 9th.

Marine Accident Brief 21/17 noted that no injuries were reported in connection with the December 18th fire aboard the 120ft, 299 gt private yacht Andiamo (IMO 9446233).

Firefighting resulted in flooding, which in turn resulted in the yacht capsizing onto its starboard side, before eventually coming to rest on the marina’s sea floor in about 27ft of water.

An oil-absorbent boom was deployed to minimize the environmental impact from an oil sheen. Adjacent vessels sustained smoke and heat damage and the marina’s nearby power pedestal and dock floats required repair. The fire itself was restricted to the yacht.

Six crewmembers were preparing for the arrival of a guest of the owner while the Andiamo was moored at the Island Gardens Deep Harbour Marina on pier B. During the preparations two crewmembers reported that the lights throughout the lower level and in the main salon were not working. The lighting issue was not resolved by the time the guest arrived, so a member of the crew lit three candles, placing them on top of a wood veneer dresser directly below a porthole decorated with two curtains. The crewmember extinguished one candle that was flickering, while the other two remained lit, and then departed the suite with the guest.

A few minutes later the crewmember opened the door to the main salon and saw a plume of black smoke about 4 feet high from the deck. Two crewmembers began yelling “Fire!” which the captain heard, and he proceeded to investigate, but he did not activate the general alarm, the NTSB said. Instead he instructed a crewmember to have everyone evacuate the yacht and to call for help. Despite the yacht being equipped with an integrated fire-detection and alarm system – consisting of smoke and thermal detectors and manual (pull-type) and audible alarms – the crew told investigators that they neither heard nor saw any fire alarms at that time. The intensity of the fire grew so quickly the crew could not initiate firefighting efforts and had to evacuate the vessel.

The American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) reported on October 2nd 2019 that the fire-detection and alarm system for the vessel was inoperable. Visits from ABS indicated that, despite the crew’s repair attempts, the system and alarms were still not functioning by the time of the fire. The NTSB said that a fully functional fire-detection and alarm system would have alerted the crew of the fire’s location at its onset. This would have enabled a direct response and fire-suppression efforts.

Investigators determined that the crew’s failure to complete timely repairs to the fire-detection system contributed to the severity of the fire.

2007-built, Marshall Islands-flagged, 299 gt Andiamo is owned and managed by Mab120 LLC of Monaco-ville, Monaco.