Ferry Fire Forces Evacuation and Rule Changes

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

On Friday morning, December 14, Wight Sky — a large passenger and motor vehicle transport ferry operated by Wightlink — was berthed in the port of Lymington, UK when a fire broke out in the engine room.

According to initial media reports (and official statements made by Wightlink), the fire was confined to the engine room, and all passengers and crew members were safely evacuated from the ferry. Hampshire County Fire and Rescue service personnel soon arrived at the ship and helped prevent the fire from spreading. No injuries have been reported yet.

In the wake of this rather frightening incident, the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) approved revised operating procedures that include speed reductions and prohibitions on ferry crossings during high-wind conditions in an effort to improve safety and minimize the risk of the engines being “overloaded.” This marks the third engine room fire affecting Wightlink ferries in just over a year (with fire-related incidents occurring in August 2018 and September 2017), and the controls implemented by the MCA may be a temporary measure to ensure safe operation until the issue is more fully investigated.

Given the circumstances, passengers or crew members who suffered injuries as a result of the engine room fire would likely have a maritime injury claim for damages against Wightlink.

Engine Room Equipment Must Be Properly Operated and Maintained to Minimize Hazards

Engine rooms are particularly vulnerable to mechanical defects, fires, and other failures that could expose those aboard to the vessel to an unreasonable risk of harm. Though all ferry equipment must be properly maintained to minimize hazards, operators must be particularly careful with regard to engine room equipment. An out-of-control engine room fire can lead to the catastrophic loss of the entire ship, and could cause severe injuries (and death).

In the present case, it appears that the Volvo Penta engine on Wight Sky was new and in operation for less than 400 hours, and Wightlink noted that it has been in contact with the company to determine what may have caused the engine fire. Still, the fact that Wightlink ferries have suffered three engine room fires in a roughly yearlong span is potentially indicative of notice and consistent negligence in either the training, ferry operation, or maintenance context (though it is not yet clear what caused the fire on Wight Sky).

We Can Help

If you have been seriously injured in a ship, boating, ferry, or cruise accident as either a passenger or crewmember — whether the accident is fire-related or not — then you may have a right of action against the ship operator for damages. Successfully bringing a lawsuit against a ship operator requires that you present sufficient evidence of the operator’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct and how it contributed to the harm caused.

Here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. our attorneys have substantial experience representing the interests of passengers who have been injured in various of maritime accidents, including ferry fire accidents that resulted from inadequate or improper maintenance of on-board (such as engine equipment).

It is our belief that convincing legal representation in the maritime injury context requires comprehensive, well-informed advocacy. We are not only well-positioned to litigate the issues typical of a maritime accident lawsuit, but engage closely with clients throughout the litigation process to ensure that we have the information we need to develop and execute an effective legal strategy. This approach to litigation has help us secure over $200 million for our clients since our founding.

Contact Lipcon today to request an appointment with an experienced maritime lawyer.