Ferry firm admits '˜poor housekeeping' led to bin blaze on cross-Solent service

FIRE broke out on a passenger ferry after a lit cigarette was thrown in a smoking bin that did not have protective lining inside, The News can reveal.

Tuesday, 28th November 2017, 10:35 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 12:05 pm
Crew of the Wightlink ferry, St Faith, rush to extinguish the fire Picture: Christopher Ison

The incident on January 19 later led to Wightlink banning all smoking on its services.

At the time of the ban being announced the firm said the fire was caused by a cigarette - but did not mention the bin had no lining and that inflammable material was stored below.

But now the full details can be revealed about the blaze on St Faith - which staff onboard the sailing rushed to extinguish.

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A report seen by The News said: ‘The cause of the fire was later established that a cigarette end was thrown into a smoking bin which had not had its protective metal lining in place, this ignited the bin which went onto ignite some inflammable liquid in a container stowed below the bin.’

The fire on the 9am cross-Solent sailing from Portsmouth was noticed as the vessel passed the Mother Bank buoy.

The helmsman spotted flames at the port bridge wing door.

Crew started to tackle the blaze as the alarm was raised and soon put it out before it arrived in Fishbourne.

Two fire service vehicles attended along with police.

The ship was allowed to return to Portsmouth and left Fishbourne at 11.49am.

A Wightlink spokeswoman said: ‘Wightlink launched a full investigation after the fire on board St Faith in February 2017. It had been caused by a discarded cigarette which ignited flammable liquid underneath and a nearby air conditioning unit. The ship’s crew quickly took action to extinguish the fire.

‘We recognise poor housekeeping was partly to blame for the fire and have improved our systems as a result.

‘Wightlink apologised to customers who were on board at the time and introduced a smoking ban on all vessels following the incident

‘It is not a legal requirement for cigarette bins to have a metal liner, it is a design feature of the bin.’

The fire was one of 13 incidents - including 60 litres of oil spilling into the sea across three different incidents - listed in a council report.

On September 13 a tug towing a cross-Solent ferry lost the line between it and the ferry.

A towing line, which the report said was ‘not correctly made fast’ had ended up releasing the tug from the tow.

Wind and tide took hold, with the ferry striking a vessel moored at Gunwharf Quays with a ‘glancing blow’ causing minor damage.

In an incident on September 25 an outbound tanker from Fawley and a cross-channel ferry from Portsmouth ended up passing at 0.1 miles, much less than the safe distance of 0.7 miles.

On March 21 an incident involving heaving lines with ‘illegally weighed ends’ containing lead and steel nuts led to captain being handed a written warning.