At just after 0100hrs EDT July 22nd, 2002 the M/V Patriot, a 710-ft., 35,000-ton tanker was in the Florida Straits off West Palm Beach, having sailed from New York bound for Texas, when alarms on the bridge informed the crew that they had a fire in the engine room. The general alarm was sounded as the crew dressed and made their way through smoke and heat to muster forward of the vessel's accommodation structure.
With all hands accounted for, the vessel's Master, realized that the fire was too large for his crew to fight. The crew, having been drilled for just such an event, began to seal all vents and engine room access to enable the ships CO2 system to work effectively in combating the fire. The Master and crew were able to successfully seal all vents in spite of the smoke and heat which fought their efforts. The CO2 system was then released. But did it work? Having been notified of the incident, vessel operator, Marine Transport Lines (MTL) activated their vessel response plan (VRP) and informed the Marine Response Alliance (MRA) of the situation. Given the nature of the incident, it was decided that Florida based
Titan Maritime would lead the response for the MRA.
Founded in 1994, the MRA is made up of member companies Crowley Marine Services, Inc. (CMS), Marine Pollution Control Corp. (MPC) and Titan Maritime, LLC (TITAN). The company was formed to provide a "one call" approach to rescue towing, lightering, salvage and firefighting in all U.S. Captain of the Port Zones.
Upon being activated, Titan put out the call to all available tugs in the area. Titan located Seabulk's tug Challenger in nearby Port Canaveral, Fla. The tug was fueled, crewed and ready to go. Marine Transport Lines contracted with Seabulk to dispatch the Challenger to the scene. The Challenger sailed before the sun rose as the Patriot continued to drift in a Northerly fashion along the axis of the Gulf Stream.
At 10:00 a.m. that same morning, vessel operators, after consultation with the ship's Master, were still not certain that the fire had been fully extinguished and asked Titan to send a strike team over the water to board the Patriot, asses the situation, fight the fire if necessary, secure the vessel's shaft and to ensure the vessel reached a safe port without further incident.
A Titan firefighting/salvage team and equipment were mobilized and departed Fort Lauderdale that afternoon aboard the 96-ft. utility vessel Richard L. Becker, owned by Offshore Marine Towing of Pompano Beach, Fla. At 6 p.m. that evening, the Challenger arrived on scene and shuttled 16 members of the Patriot crew to the Mormac Sun, another MTL vessel that was in the area and stood by to assist. Remaining on board the Patriot were the vessel's Captain, C/E, 1st Asst. Engineer, 2nd Asst. Engineer and two Able Seaman, sheltered by the weather deck and provisioned with life boat rations.
As the six-man Titan team
approached the vessel the next morning, thunder clouds filled the sky. "It was an ominous feeling to be climbing aboard a tanker with an unknown status of an intensive engine room fire as lightening flashed all around us." said Kevin Rogers, the Titan team's Chief engineer. Nevertheless the Titan team was well trained and experienced and the sooner they got the job done the sooner all would be safe. A safety briefing was held between the Titan team and the remaining crew aboard the Patriot and at noon a plan was put into action.
The first thing that needed to be done was to put the ships emergency fire pump on line. Three members of the Titan team, fully donned in bunker gear and SCBAs, made their way down an escape trunk leading from the main deck to shaft alley where the pump was located. The watertight door leading from shaft alley to the engine room was closed and therefore the pump was intact and appeared to be operational. The Titan team had high readings of CO2 in shaft alley and elected to ventilate the space from a Titan compressor aboard the Richard L. Becker and specially designed blowers. Once the air quality had reached normal levels, the team reentered the space and started the fire pump. With the pump on-line, The Titan team charged their fire line and connected their foam inductor into the ships foam supply. The vessel's Chief Engineer was then suited up in Titan firefighting gear and joined the four-man Titan team as they made a text book entry from the main deck into the engine room space. After a complete inspection of the engine room, the team declared the fire out and ventilating commenced to enable the team to work in the space without SCBAs and secure the vessel for tow. At 9 p.m. that evening the Challenger commenced towing the Patriot for Charleston, SC, with the Titan team performing a continuous fire watch. The Patriot was safely delivered to Detyen's ship yard in Charleston on the morning of July 25th.