The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the fire on board the small passenger vessel Massachusetts was the ignition of diesel fuel by contact with a hot engine surface, which occurred because a fuel line attached to a fuel injector was not properly connected during engine maintenance by a contract mechanic.
Contributing to the extent of the damage was the absence of a fixed fire detection and suppression system, which precluded the crew from receiving timely notification of the fire and which allowed the blaze to spread throughout the engineroom.
On June 12, 2006 the Massachusetts, a commuter ferry carrying 65 passengers and four crewmembers, was en-route from Rowe's Wharf in Boston Harbor to Hingham, Massachusetts when a fire broke out in the engineroom. All passengers were safely transferred to the Laura, another commuter vessel in the vicinity before a fireboat from the Boston Fire Department's marine unit arrived. There were no serious injuries or fatalities. Damage was estimated at $800,000.
"The absence of a requirement for a fire detection and suppression system aboard the Massachusetts put the vessel, it passengers, and its crew at greater danger," said NTSB Chairman Mark V. Rosenker. "This accident illustrates why the Safety Board has previously made recommendations, following its investigations of other engineroom fires, to the Coast Guard for certain vessels to be fitted with fire detection and suppression systems."
As a result of its investigation of this accident, the Safety Board made the following recommendation:
To the U.S. Coast Guard Require that all passenger vessels certified to carry more than 49 passengers, regardless of date of build or hull material, be fitted with an approved fire detection system and a fixed fire suppression system in enginerooms.
This new recommendation supersedes the previous recommendations (M-026 and M-02-8) and closes those recommendations "Unacceptable Action-- Superseded." A summary of the Board's report, including the probable cause and safety recommendations, is available on the Board's website, www.ntsb.gov, under "Board Meetings." The Board's full report will be available on the website in several weeks.