Engine room fire – 48′ power boat



June 28th 2011

Client information removed for privacy

Claim #: removed for privacy
Date of loss: June 22nd 2011
Vessel: removed for privacy
Our file #: 11 – 12129

Dear Client:

Thank you for the above captioned assignment, received on June 23rd 2011.

Initial Contact

We spoke with the insured, removed for privacy, upon receipt of the assignment. We met with the client on June 24th 2011. She identified the vessel as a 2004 47.8’ removed for privacy equipped with two 330 h.p. Cummins diesel engines. She purchased the vessel on May 27th 2011.

The client had Christian & Company Marine Surveyors survey the vessel at the time of purchase to inspect and survey the engines at the time of purchase. She used the vessel at the time of purchase during the sea trial and she has used the vessel approximately four times since purchase. She stated that she has been receiving instruction from the captain  (phone number removed for privacy).

The client stated that she has had work performed since purchasing the vessel. She stated that the prior owner installed a new water pump on one of the engines. The captain had performed a monthly service including manipulating sea cock valves and lubrication service. She stated that a solenoid for the thrusters had been replaced by [a company]. The ability to shut down the engines from the flybridge had been disconnected by the prior owner and was reconnected by [a company]. This job was performed the day prior to the incident. She stated the contact personnel at [a company]. She stated there was a leak by the stern thruster and a bolt was apparently missing. She said lots of other little things were also addressed. The client noted that on the day of the incident there was an indication that the vessel had been left in a different condition than previously. She noted that the keys were in the on position for the engines but the batteries were turned off at the switches.

Event Details

The client stated that on Wednesday June 22nd 2011 she and the captain boarded the vessel at approximately 8:15 am. The vessel was located in a slip at a marina in San Diego, California. The client stated that they went through their normal checks before getting underway. She stated that they did not enter the engine room that day. She did note that the generator took longer to start than it had previously. They were running the engine room blowers. The engine started quickly and normally. They got underway at approximately 9:30 am and the event occurred at approximately 9:45 am. She stated that the vessel was heading south near the Coronado bridge, which is a short distant from the Marina. The captain noticed white smoke on the port side and shut down the port engine. He called the Coast Guard on the VHF and put them on alert. The client then noticed black smoke on the starboard side and after communicating with the captain, she shut off the starboard engine. The client stated that she went to open the sliding door into the cabin and the interior of the vessel was thick with smoke. The captain did not want to open up any engine hatches for fear of providing oxygen to the fire.

We spoke with the captain on June 27, 2011. He confirmed he was instructing the insured about the use of the vessel and he said he was a named operator on the insurance policy. He said he had referred the client to repair the upper station engine stop switches and that repair was done the day prior to the event. He had been aboard the vessel at least four times, three prior training sessions and once operating the vessel with the insured and her family. On the day of loss he did not enter the engine room but had done an inspection one week prior and believes he is the only operator, thus all fluids and valves should have been suitable for operation. He said the event occurred perhaps 20 – 30 minutes after getting underway. He said they noticed unusual smoke/steam and then they noticed the cabin full of smoke. He contacted the Coast Guard via VHF and he said the first responder was a U.S. Marine Corps vessel that happened to be in the area. Subsequently, the harbor patrol responded and addressed the fire. They initially towed the vessel to the Glorietta Bay ramp and the boat was towed to a boatyard. Prior to the event he said he was not monitoring the engines’ gauges and was not aware of any anomalies.

Vessel Inspection

We inspected the vessel while afloat at [a place] on Shelter Island, San Diego, California on June 24th 2011. The vessel is a 2004 model year with HIN removed for privacy. The vessel is equipped with two Cummins model 6BTA5.9-M3 engines. The starboard engine’s serial number is removed for privacy, the port engine’s serial number is removed for privacy. The name of the vessel is “removed for privacy” with hailing port removed for privacy. Neither the name nor hailing port is currently displayed on the vessel. The starboard engine’s raw water pump is unpainted bronze. The port engine’s raw water pump is painted white, as visible with a flashlight and mirror. The port engine’s primary exhaust hose is severed and separated from the exhaust mixing elbow. The primary area of damage is aft of the port engine. There is no damage visible to the port transmission. Inspecting the severed exhaust hose reveals damage on the interior of the hose. The cooling system for the port engine includes a through hull with valve, sea strainer, raw water pump, after cooler, transmission oil cooler, heat exchanger and mixing elbow. The exhaust hose then enters a fiberglass water lift muffler outboard and aft of the fuel tank and the exhaust discharges aft through a flexible hose. There is extensive fire and heat damage in the engine room. The top of the port engine is black with soot and heat damage. The insulation and wood aft and above the port engine exhibit burn damage. There is extensive damage to the electrical components in the engine room. There is soot and smoke damage throughout the cabin. Per our communication we returned to the vessel on June 28, 2011 with the insured. A mechanic (removed for privacy) from removed for privacy also assisted and removed the port engine’s water pump. We checked the sea strainer and found no debris. The water pump is difficult to access and remove. The water pump housing is darkened and the paint is damaged. The impeller is grossly damaged with most of the “rubber” portion separated from the hub. The pump was shipped to a lab.

Cause of Loss

Our preliminary opinion as to the cause of loss is the failure of the port engine’s sea water pump. This led to the failure of the exhaust hose, which then led to the engine room fire. In reviewing the removed for privacy marine diesel engine survey we noted that a section for alarms was completed with “N/A”. The client stated that she has never heard an audible engine alarm while operating the vessel.

We spoke with the marine and they provided the enclosed hand written field notes. Their technician wrote “didn’t hear any kind of alarm bell it has lites for alarm didn’t see lites”. The administrative person failed to include this note on their engine survey report. A copy of the report is attached. The engines are not equipped with computers to record any failure codes.

Scope of Damage

The scope of damage is extensive. The port engine is damaged from heat and soot and may be damaged from ingestion of smoke. The engine room is severely damaged from fire and heat. The vessel has suffered extensive smoke and soot damage throughout. We will request a repair estimate from removed for privacy and will forward it for your consideration once it is received.


1. Photographs
2. Removed for privacy Marine field notes from engine survey
3. Chain of Custody form (also included with pump shipped to lab)

Thank you for the opportunity to be of service.

Kells Christian
Christian and Company
Marine Surveyors, Inc.