Towards an explanation of why onboard fires happen : the case of an engine room fire on the cruise ship "Le Boreal"

Puisa, Romanas and Williams, Stuart and Vassalos, Dracos (2019) Towards an explanation of why onboard fires happen : the case of an engine room fire on the cruise ship "Le Boreal". Applied Ocean Research, 88. pp. 223-232. ISSN 0141-1187 (

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As the cruise ship industry enjoys continuous growth and penetration into new markets, good safety records must be maintained to achieve business objectives. Unfortunately, serious incidents and accidents reoccur on modern cruise ships and hence a better understanding of why this continues to happen is needed. This paper contributes towards a better understanding of underlying causal factors behind onboard fires, focusing on consequential engine room fires in particular. By analysing a recent fire incident on an almost new cruise ship built to the latest standards, we reveal potential deficiencies in maritime safety control and suggest how they can be rectified. The incident analysis was guided by systemic method CAST, which enables to explore a complex socio-technical system responsible for safety control. The analysis provides a different, more comprehensive explanation of, and response to, the incident from that in the official accident investigation report. Given the systemic nature of suggested causal scenarios, they are capable to explain and preclude other incidents. From a practical point of view, the findings would allow developing and maintaining robust safety management systems, which are currently required onboard.


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