HMCS Protecteur had an engine room fire while in transit back to Canadian waters last month after taking part in multinational naval exercises in the Pacific. Along with the 279 officers and crew, there were 17 family members and two civilian contractors on board at the time of the fire. The initial reports severely underestimated how much trouble the ship was in:
CBC News has learned Canadian sailors aboard fire-stricken HMCS Protecteur last month battled the blaze that disabled their ship for more than 11 hours before they were able to put it out.
The life or death fight was made even more difficult after the unexplained failure of the supply ship’s back-up generator, leaving Protecteur dead in the water, in the dark of night, her 279-strong crew struggling through smoke and blackness to fight the fire.
The generator failure also left crews scrambling to find a way to power water pumps to fight the blaze, and refill the oxygen bottles fire teams needed to sustain them as they tried desperately to save their ship.
This new information comes as Commander Julian Elbourne, captain of Protecteur, prepares to welcome naval investigators to the ship, which is tied up in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, in the coming days.
I’m boggled that the investigators weren’t in Hawaii the same day Protecteur was towed in … why the excessive delays? Or is there no real rush because the initial survey indicated that it would not be economic to repair the ship?
The ship was scheduled to be retired from service in a few years, partly due to the problems with getting replacement parts for her engines, although the new Joint Supply Ships won’t be ready to go into service for a few years after that (at best). David Pugliese has more on the damage to the ship:
The deck and other metal structures on HMCS Protecteur, which caught fire and was towed to safety by the U.S. navy, may have warped because of the intense blaze, significantly damaging the vessel.
The extent of the damage is still being assessed. It will also take several months before a board of inquiry has the full details of the fire. However, the Canadian Forces fire marshal expects to deliver a report about the blaze to senior naval officers soon. Sources say the fire started on the port side of the engine room. Large amounts of oil from systems on board the vessel helped feed the fire, they add.
There are concerns the deck and hull may have warped due to the intense heat. The navy hasn’t released details but has acknowledged in a statement “significant fire and heat damage to the ship’s engine room and considerable heat and smoke damage in surrounding compartments.”
Canadian naval operations in the Pacific will be curtailed for at least a few years if Protecteur can’t be economically repaired, as the only other ship of that capability in service is sister ship HMCS Preserver, based in Halifax.