Fire on Ocean Choice ship in January started in sauna, says TSB

·2 min read
Transportation Safety Board
Transportation Safety Board

The Transportation Safety Board says a sauna was the cause of a fire on an Ocean Choice International vessel in January.

The TSB's report, released Thursday, details the crew's efforts to contain the blaze and concludes the vessel had inadequate firefighting gear, procedures and fire drills in the lead-up to the fire.

"It is important that crews perform fire drills on a regular basis to confirm that firefighting equipment is in working order, and to reinforce their knowledge of how to use the equipment and of assigned emergency duties," says the report.

"It is also important that these drills include varied and realistic scenarios so that crews are prepared to respond effectively to emergencies."

The Newfoundland Lynx had been at sea six days trawling for shrimp when the bosun awoke in his cabin to the smell of smoke on the afternoon of Jan. 29. His cabin was next to the ship's tanning room and the sauna, which was engulfed in flames.

According to the report, no fire alarm sounded, so a crew member had to run to the bridge to alert the chief mate, who activated the alarm manually and announced the fire over the ship's PA system.

The crew laboured to fight the blaze, but the board's report says not all of them were familiar with emergency procedures, causing confusion and an unco-ordinated response.

ShipCon ApS, with TSB annotations
ShipCon ApS, with TSB annotations

The TSB says the crew had not been performing adequate fire drills, and many of the emergency firefighting duties on the muster list had not been assigned. Even those who did know how to fight the fire were hampered by faulty or expired equipment.

The report details one manager attempting to use a fire suit equipped with an oxygen tank, only to find the boots not fitting, the suspenders broken, and the helmet visor cracked. Shortly after joining the fight against the fire, he discovered his air tank was almost empty as well.

Despite the struggles, there were no injuries and the fire was contained by the time the vessel was escorted to St. Anthony.

More drills, better inspection says scathing report

On the whole, it took almost three hours to contain the fire.

The board's report says the fire was likely caused by a wooden footrest that was left on the sauna's electric heater, which was left unattended. The sauna's heat alarm did not sound, despite having been inspected and cleared only four months prior.


Despite the ship's records indicating that all firefighting equipment was inspected regularly, "some equipment was found to have deteriorated and did not function as intended" during the fire, says the report.

The report notes OCI has since removed the sauna — converting the tanning room into storage — replaced the smoke and heat detectors in the area, and ordered additional firefighting equipment for the Newfoundland Lynx, according to the report.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador