On May 23, 2022, about 0030 local time, the towing vessel Daisy Mae was towing the loaded, 300-foot-long scrap metal barge CMT Y Not 6 northbound in the Delaware Bay when a fire was discovered on board the barge. The fire burned for 26 hours before it was extinguished by responding fire boats. No pollution or injuries were reported. Damage to the CMT Y Not 6 was estimated at $7 million.
We determined that the probable cause of the fire aboard the deck barge CMT Y Not 6 was the ignition of a combustible material by an undetermined source, such as sparking from shifting metallic cargo, self-heating of metallic or nonmetallic cargo, improperly prepared vehicles and appliances, or damaged lithium-ion batteries.
Monitoring Scrap Cargo
Although scrap metal cargo is typically nonhazardous and poses a low fire risk, there have been recent vessel fires involving such cargo. Even with supplier acceptance agreements and quality assurance personnel visually inspecting scrap metal, metallic and nonmetallic hazardous materials often are present within shoreside scrap metal piles and could be loaded onto vessels. These often-flammable materials elevate the fire risk and can lead to intense fires. Qualified cargo-surveying personnel can assist the vessel’s captain before and during loading operations to limit the presence of hazardous, combustible material in scrap metal. Thermal imagery is an effective tool that could be used to identify hot spots in scrap metal cargo at shoreside facilities. Once scrap metal is loaded onto a barge, it is difficult for a towing vessel crew to visually inspect the cargo while underway.