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NABO comment on MAIB report on Love for Lydia

NABO comments on MAIB report on Love for Lydia fatality due to CO poisoning.

NABO has considered its position on the whole question carbon monoxide (CO) alarms becoming a mandatory requirement under the Boat Safety Scheme. In May 2017 the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) issued its final report on the event, and their investigations. A key recommendation is that BSS examinations should include a check for working CO alarm(s).

NABO is in full support of the recommendation. NABO Council met in April 2017 and unanimously agreed that the Association should support the requirement.

BSS issue a warning on the perils of CO

The Boat Safety Scheme have today issued a warning on the dangers of carbon monoxide on boats. It reads as follows:

NR 001.17 Ignore petrol-engine exhaust fumes inside boats at your peril - it’s indicating your boat may be filling with carbon monoxide

If you can smell petrol-engine exhaust fumes inside your cabin or covered deck area, stop the engine, outboard or generator and get out warns the Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) – you may not have any leeway to escape the threat of carbon monoxide (CO).

The call follows the publication of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report into the circumstances that lead to two people dying from CO poisoning on their moored motor cruiser in Norfolk.

MAIB investigations found that exhaust fumes from running the engine could blow back into cabin and fill the space with deadly levels of the poison gas within seconds.

BSS manager, Graham Watts’ said:

‘CO is a colourless, odourless gas, hence the well-known silent killer tag, but you can smell the fumes from the exhaust, so that is why our advice is simple if there are petrol-engine exhaust fumes in the cabin or enclosed crew area, don’t delay, stop the source, get to safety and ventilate the boat – hesitate and people could suffer.

 ‘The MAIB research and tests were eye-opening. Petrol-engine exhaust gases contain huge levels of CO and the investigation shows just how quick deadly levels of CO can develop.

‘Whether moving or moored, under certain engine-running conditions and-or wind conditions, CO can be drawn in or deflected into the boat.

‘Cockpit awnings can act almost like a funnel to channel petrol-engine fumes into the boat.

‘And in case boaters ignore, are asleep or cannot smell any petrol-engine exhaust fumes invading their crew space, boaters need the back-up of a working CO alarm certified to the BS EN 50291-2 standard.’

In June last year a man, woman and dog were found dead on their motor cruiser on Wroxham Broad which had its petrol engine running whilst on a mooring.

Five months later in November, another boater died and two fellow yacht club members were sent to hospital to recover after they too fell victims to fumes from an engine which was running on the moored boat.

Reports gathered in the last two decades indicate that at least 19 boaters have died and another 24 have had medical attention at hospital after inhaling the toxic CO in exhaust gases.

Full details can be read here

Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Boats are built to keep water out, but this also makes them good containers for gases and fumes - especially carbon monoxide. ‘Black-spot’ colour-changing CO indicator cards are not good enough: they do not give an instant warning of dangerous CO levels and have no alarm to wake you up. CO alarms are designed to protect you from CO produced by incomplete combustion of any fuel (including LPG, coal, charcoal, wood, paraffin or diesel used in domestic appliances such as cookers, boilers, stoves, etc.), or from exhaust fumes from a boat’s engine or generator. The main causes of CO build-up in a cabin are faulty, badly maintained, or misused appliances and escaped flue gases from solid fuel stoves.

MAIB report on Broads CO deaths is published

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) have today released their long awaited report on the deaths of boaters on their craft 'Love for Lydia'.

The synopsis of the report reads:

Between 7 and 9 June 2016, the two occupants of the motor cruiser Love for Lydia died from carbon monoxide poisoning. The boat was moored alongside Wroxham Island, River Bure, Norfolk, and their bodies were found during the afternoon of 9 June in the boat’s forepeak cabin.

The MAIB investigation identified that:

• The source of the carbon monoxide was exhaust fumes from the boat’s eight-cylinder petrol engine, which contained high levels of the gas even when the engine was ‘idling’.

• The engine was probably being run to charge the boat’s 12v batteries and the occupants did not recognise the danger from the exhaust fumes.

• The carbon monoxide from the ‘wet’ exhaust at the stern of the boat spread under the canvas canopy on the aft deck and then into the forepeak cabin, where it quickly reached lethal concentrations.

• The boat’s habitable spaces were not adequately ventilated; the forepeak cabin’s deck hatch and port holes were shut.

• The boat’s occupants were not alerted to the danger because a carbon monoxide Alarm was not fitted.

The report can be read here.

NABO will comment shortly.


Stove failure

Solid fuel stove fails

The failure of a solid fuel stove was reported at a recent BSS meeting. The base-plate of the stove had cracked badly on three sides and allowed air into the stove under the ash-pan. The stove went into thermal runaway because of the extra air getting in, but fortunately the owner was present and able to monitor events until the fuel burnt out. The maker of the stove has said this is not a unique event, and that there are several reported every year. It is reported that the cause is corrosion in the joint gaps around the base plate. The ‘rust’ swells, putting tension into the castings. Subsequent heat from the fire cracks the cast iron material. The corrosion comes from dampness in the acidic ash, either from rain or condensation, when the stove has not been in use. Stoves that are not in regular use are obviously vulnerable. The advice for when when a stove is not in use is:

·       Clean out the bottom of the stove;

·       Do not leave the chimney open to rain;

·       Leave the ash-pan door open so that there is a flow of air.

Now the end of the fire season is coming, it is obviously a good time to have a good clean out and make sure that rain and condensation are not getting in. If you have had a similar experience, please let us know.

David Fletcher


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