The Safety Investigation Report into the fire that resulted in the total loss 111-foot M/Y Siempre last year has warned that the crew were not “fully aware” of the hazards of the Lithium-ion batteries carried on board.
The Malta Marine Safety Investigation Unit (MSIU) carried out the report into the incident that occurred while Siempre was moored at the Port of Olbia in Italy. The report confirms that the fire broke out on the aft deck on the early hours of September 6 and spread rapidly through the yacht.
According to the report, the crew of four were awoken by the fire alarm. However, as the blaze grew out of control within minutes, they were forced to jump from the bow of Siempre where they were rescued by crew from another yacht.
The report could not determine the cause of the fire but “believes that it had either originated from a Lithium-ion battery stored in the vicinity, or due to a fault in the power socket of the water scooter, which was on the open aft deck."
Despite not being able to pinpoint the fire’s cause, the report did cite that the Lithium-ion batteries — which were being used in water toys, including hydrofoil surfboard and electric surfboards — as a factor in why the fire spread so quickly. The crew of Blue Vision, which watched the fire break out from the dock, said that they saw flames reach heights of more than eight feet within seconds.
“The presence of several Li-ion batteries (the removable ones as well as those integrated within the leisure equipment) in proximity to the fire, by virtue of their inherent hazards, would have allowed the fire to intensify and spread even more rapidly,” the report stated. “Once the fire had intensified and spread to the leisure equipment, fitted with combustible components, it did not take long for the various flammable fittings, fabrics, wood panels, etc., to contribute to the fire spread through most of the yacht and before the fire could be brought under control.”
The MSIU stated in the report that Siempre’s crewmembers did have some understanding of Li-ion batteries, pointing to evidence that they had followed manufacturer’s advice while trying to stow a dead battery.
The crew also confirmed that all equipment had been used by the yacht’s previous charter guests on September 2, 2021, and that the deckhand and chief stewardess recharged and unplugged them on that date. They confirmed that no equipment was being recharged on the night of the accident.
However, citing that the disposal of the dead battery had not been completed for more than two months since the replacement battery was received on board, the MSIU noted, “the safety investigation did not exclude that the crewmembers may have not been fully aware of the hazards, especially those related to a faulty battery.”
Two recommendations have been put forward by MSIU as a result of the report. The first is a formal notification to all crewmembers serving with the company, advising them of the hazards posed by Li-ion batteries, and the second is a guide to crewmembers on the proper handling and disposal of faulty or dead Li-ion batteries.