On the evening of November 17, 2000, the U.S. small passenger vessel Port Imperial Manhattan, with three crewmembers and eight passengers on board, was en route to Weehawken, New Jersey, from the borough of Manhattan in New York City, New York, when a fire broke out in the engine room. Crewmembers attempted to extinguish the fire with portable extinguishers, with no success. The fire burned out of control, causing the vessel to lose power and forcing the crew and passengers to abandon the interior spaces. The crew and passengers were rescued by another NY Waterway passenger vessel, and the burning vessel was towed to Manhattan, where the New York City Fire Department extinguished the fire. One passenger was treated for smoke inhalation. No deaths resulted from this accident. The estimated cost to repair the vessel was $1.2 million.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the fire aboard the Port Imperial Manhattan was NY Waterway's inadequate inspection and maintenance of the vessel's electrical system. Contributing to the extent of the damage were the lack of a fixed fire detection and suppression system and the crewmembers' lack of knowledge of proper marine firefighting techniques.
Based on its investigation, the Safety Board identified safety issues in the following areas:
- Vessel maintenance;
- Fire detection and suppression systems;
- Crew response to the emergency;
- Lifejacket stowage;
- Safety information provided to passengers; and
- Vessel communications.
As a result of its investigation of this accident, the Safety Board makes recommendations to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal Communications Commission, NY Waterway, and the Passenger Vessel Association.
As a result of its investigation of this accident, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following recommendations:
To the Coast Guard:
Require that companies operating domestic passenger vessels develop and implement a preventive maintenance program for all systems affecting the safe operation of their vessels, including the hull and mechanical and electrical systems. (M-02-5)
Require that all small passenger vessels in commuter and ferry service, regardless of their date of build, be fitted with a fire detection system in the enginerooms. (M-02-6)
Require that all small passenger vessels in commuter and ferry service, regardless of their date of build, be fitted with remotely operated fire pumps. (M-02-7)
Require that all small passenger vessels in commuter and ferry service, regardless of their date of build, be fitted with a fixed fire suppression system in their enginerooms. (M-02-8)
Establish firefighting training requirements for crewmembers on board small passenger vessels in commuter and ferry service. (M-02-9)
Revise Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular No. 1-91 so that it provides more in-depth guidance in training and drills for firefighting on board small passenger vessels. (M-02-10)
Require that owners and operators of small passengers vessels in commuter and ferry service provide crowd control training to their vessel operating crews. (M-02-11)
Revise Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular No. 1-91 to provide detailed guidance for the small passenger vessel industry concerning proper crowd control management procedures for masters and deckhands to follow during a shipboard fire or other emergency. (M-02-12)
Issue a directive to small passenger vessel operators to review the distribution of lifejackets on board their vessels and to ensure that the lifejackets are accessible and segregated. (M-02-13)
Eliminate the waiver for verbal safety briefings and require that such briefings be given to passengers on all small passenger vessels. (M-02-14)
To NY Waterway:
For the vessels in your fleet, develop and implement a preventive maintenance program for systems affecting safe operation, including the hull and the mechanical and electrical systems. (M-02-15)
To the Passenger Vessel Association:
Provide your members with guidelines for developing a preventive maintenance program for all systems affecting the safe operation of their vessels, including the hull and the mechanical and electrical systems. (M-02-16)
To the Federal Communications Commission:
Require that small passenger vessels have VHF radiotelephone communications systems on board that can operate even when the vessel loses power. (M-02-17)