Incident directory

1984 - MV Pointsman

15/06/1984

Country:

UK

  • Ship/ Maritime Incidents

Severity:

Near miss

Description

Date of event

15th June 1984              

Time of event

14:34 (INITIAL CALL)

Name of premises

MV Pointsman.

Location

Milford Haven Dock, Pembrokeshire, Wales.

Service area

Dyfed County Fire Brigade (DCFB) now Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service (MAWWFRS)

Nature of incident

Explosion and fire.

Property type

Ship.

Premises use

Coastal tanker carrying diesel oil.

Construction type and materials

Steel, 4,600 gross tonnes and 99 m long x 14.4 m breadth.

Occupancy

Ships crew of normally 13 and dockyard workers.

Fire source and location of fire

Accidental ignition, explosion followed by fire within the pump room.

Synopsis

Brief Synopsis

Dyfed County Fire Brigade (DCFB) were called to an explosion on board The MV Pointsman which was tied up alongside at Milford Haven, at 14:35 on the 15th June 1984. An initial 2 pump pre-determined attendance (PDA) was sent. The vessel had discharged the last of her cargo of 4,400 tonnes of diesel oil at Avonmouth on the 14th June and was going to have some repair work carried out at Milford Haven. En route to Milford Haven some of the cargo tanks had been cleaned and then rendered gas free by forced ventilation. Contaminated water had been put into other smaller tanks. The vessel arrived at Milford Haven, tying up at approximately 07:00. The pump room was also cleaned and gas free certificates had been issued for it and other compartments (DCFB, 1984).

At 13:30 two dockyard workers arrived and began work. At approximately 14:30 there was the first of 3 explosions. The ships Chief Officer had attempted to rescue trapped and injured workers using breathing apparatus (BA) and a torch however had only succeeded in an attempt to ventilate the fire by opening the fan trunking hatch (DCFB, 1984).

The first call to DCFB was at approximately 14:34 with the first attending appliance arriving on scene at approximately 14:38. When the fire service arrived the officer in charge (OIC), a leading firefighter (LFf) quickly ascertained there were casualties within the pump room and he committed 2 BA wearers to rescue them. An assistance message was sent requesting an additional pump and an Emergency Tender (ET). A Station Officer (StnO) who had also been mobilised ‘made pumps 5’ and also requested a foam tender when he arrived at approximately 14:43 at the same times as the 2nd attending appliance (DCFB, 1984).

A Deputy Divisional Commander (DDC) and an Assistant Divisional Officer (ADO) was also sent. When the second pump arrived a further 2 BA were committed to the pump room. The first casualty was located 2 levels down. Just as the first casualty was being passed out of the pump room, a third BA team were committed and a short time later at approximately 14:54 there was a second explosion. It was the second explosion that was believed to have caused the majority of injuries to the firefighters who were within and in the vicinity of the pump room door. The injured persons included the 3 BA teams, the LFf, DDC and ambulance officers. As a result of the second explosion a decision to use high expansion foam was then made, so as to flood the pump room (DCFB, 1984).

At approximately 15:02 there was a 3rd explosion which further injured some additional firefighters who were involved with setting up the high expansion foam. There had been some confusion over the number of persons reported missing (DCFB, 1984).

The 6 BA wearers who were distributed at different levels of the 3 level pump room were all seriously injured with a variety of and different severities of burns. Other fire officers and ambulance staff on deck were also injured. A total of 11 firefighters, 4 ambulance service personnel, 1 policeman and 1 crew member were injured with 2 ships crew and 2 dock workers being killed by the explosions. High expansion foam was eventually used to tackle the fire (DCFB, 1984).

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

Photo 2

Courtesy of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

Photo 3

MV Pointsman, believed to be at time of the second explosion at approximately 14:54. Courtesy of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

Photo 4

Courtesy of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

Photo 5

MV Pointsman below deck fire damage. Courtesy of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

Photo 6

MV Pointsman below deck fire damage. Courtesy of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

Photo 7

MV Pointsman below deck fire damage. Courtesy of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

Photo 8

High expansion foam being used. Courtesy of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

Photo 9

The MV Pointsman incident was understood to be a key event that led to changes in firefighter personal protective equipment (PPE) such as plastic leggings, tunics, gloves and fire hoods. Courtesy of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

 Photo 10

The MV Pointsman incident was understood to be a key event that led to changes in firefighter personal protective equipment (PPE) such as plastic leggings, tunics, gloves and fire hoods. Courtesy of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

Photo 11

Courtesy of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

Photo 12

Courtesy of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

Main findings, key lessons & areas for learning

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

Fire & Rescue Service summary of main findings, conclusions, key lessons & recommendations

Taken from Dyfed County Fire Brigade. (1984). Report of the investigation into the explosion and fire aboard the M. V. Pointsman 15th June 1984 at Milford Haven docks.  

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

--subaccordion--

4. OBSERVATIONS

Leggings

It was noticed that in all cases where the wearers were exposed to intense heat, even though the exposure was extremely short that the leggings shrank or melted to a degree that they provided no protection whatever against heat. It is appreciated that the prime function of leggings is· to resist the penetration of water but this in effect means that the area of body between the top of fire boot and the hem of the tunic has no protection against heat or flame. This is particularly true of retained fire men whose civilian clothing may not offer the degree of protection given by uniform trousers which may be worn by wholetime men, although they too cannot always be assumed to be wearing uniform trousers as lighter, overall trousers may be worn at times.

Some members were wearing leggings of a pattern that allowed access to trouser pockets~ this provided a means for flame to enter the pockets, the lining of which were nylon, this material was in turn easily penetrated by fire. Some underclothing was damaged and burns received to the thighs as a result.

There would appear to be justification for a study to be done on the possible value of a non-shrink, fire resisting material to be incorporated into Fire Service leggings either by means of an integral lining or a change in the basic composition of the material employed. In addition, leggings should not have cut away pocket holes.

Tunic

The tunics worn all showed signs of heat damage and in some cases penetration by flame. One tunic was extensively split along the seams - there may be two possible causes for this:

a] An extremely violent physical reaction on the part of the wearer in his efforts to remove the tunic.

b] The pressure of the products of combustion.

Neither of the above alone completely explain the nature of damage and it is likely to be a combination of these causes.

The burns received on the upper body had three causes:

1] The penetration of tunic by flame

2] Entry of heated gases into the tunic

3] Heat transmitted through the tunic.

In addition, some burns were received on areas exposed to flame as a result of the posture of certain men who were bending over at the moment of the blast. This exposure was increased by the lifting of the lower part of the tunic by the force of the explosion.

It was observed that in no case were the pull cords used to pull the tunic into the body and in some cases the elasticated internal cuffs in the sleeves had been cut. The reasons given are that both the pull cords and elasticated cuffs are too restrictive for comfortable wearing and working.

Accepting that it is impossible to provide a garment that will resist flame totally for any length of time at reasonable cost. I have commented only on the injuries received by the passage of products of combustion within the tunic and the transmission of heat through the tunic.

  • Transmission of heat through tunic

These burns occur more readily when the tunic is in direct contact with the skin due to the tightness of the tunic and the absence of other clothing under the tunic.

  • Ingress of products of combustion into tunics

It would appear that products of combustion were able to enter the tunic - these were responsible for some burning.

It would appear from the injuries received and comments made by personnel that there may be some room for improvement in the design and fitting of fire tunics, perhaps also the valuable role which other garments worn under or over the tunic should be more widely appreciated. The following comments may serve to highlight some of these areas on improvement.

a] -Tunics should be generally longer than they are at present.

b] As tunic cords are generally disliked and not used, some other means of drawing the tunic closer to the body may need to be considered.

c] All personnel, including the Stores Officer should be aware of the need to have tunics of a larger fit. This is of importance particularly when issuing tunics to a new recruit.

d] Brigade Orders should stipulate a certain minimum of clothing to be worn under fire tunics. Although this may need to be relaxed at the discretion of the Officer in Charge at particular incidents.

e] The elasticated cuffs on tunics should remain but redesigned to be more comfortable, particular care should be taken at kit checks to ensure that the practice of cutting the cuffs is stopped.

f] The provision to retained personnel of a one-piece "Boiler Suit" type of garment to be worn with and as part of fire fighting uniform.

Trousers

The same comments made about tunics in respect of fit and thickness of material can be made of trousers. As mentioned under 'Leggings' fire was able to enter the pockets and penetrate the lining material causing damage to under garments and burns to thighs.

It may be advisable to consider the use of pocket flaps on uniform trousers together with the use of a fire resistant material as a pocket liner.

Gloves

The gloves worn had a hide palm and fingers, cotton backs and elasticated cuffs. In nearly all cases the cotton backs were penetrated allowing the back of hands to be badly burned. Burns were also received on the arms between the cuff of the glove and the elasticated cuff on the tunic.

I recommend that gloves worn should be made totally of a fire-resisting material, preferably hide, and that the glove should be longer.

Boots

One member received burns to his feet although the boots showed no apparent heat damage, the burns being caused by heat transmission through the rubber.

NOTE: It may be of interest to ambulance authorities to be aware that the Pembrokeshire Area Health Authority have decided, following consultation with this Brigade, to issue a one-piece fire-resistant suit to wear at incidents that may be hazardous. This decision has been taken following injury to two of their members at the 'Pointsman' incident.

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

--end--

FBU summary of main findings, conclusions, key lessons & recommendations

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Other report summary of main findings, conclusions, key lessons & recommendations

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

IFE Commentary & lessons if applicable

The MV Pointsman incident played a large part in improving UK firefighter’s personal protective equipment (PPE). Improvements included flash hood, longer tunics, fireproof leggings and fire gloves.

Known available source documents

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

FRS Incident Report/s

Dyfed County Fire Brigade. (1984). Report of the investigation into the explosion and fire aboard the M. V. Pointsman 15th June 1984 at Milford Haven docks. Dyfed County Fire Brigade.

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

FBU Incident Report/s

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Marine Accident Investigation Branch Incident Report/s

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Health & Safety Executive (HSE) Incident Report/s and/or improvement notices

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Dyfed-Powys Police Incident Report/s

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Welsh Ambulance Service Incident Report

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Building Research Establishment (BRE) Reports/investigations/research

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.  

Coroner’s report/s and/or regulation 28 notices

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Other information sources

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

The London Gazette. (1985). The London Gazette of Monday 1st July 1985. [pdf] Available at https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/50181/supplement/9059/data.pdf [Accessed 5th September 2016].

Dyfed County Fire Brigade. (1984). Report of the investigation into the explosion and fire aboard the M. V. Pointsman 15th June 1984 at Milford Haven docks. Dyfed County Fire Brigade. Available here.

Service learning material

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

Unknown author. (Unknown date). MV Pointsman 15 June 1984, Western Area Training. [PowerPoint]. Pointsman Powerpoint Lecture 2004 Available here. Dyfed County Fire Brigade, courtesy of Mid & West Wales Fire & Rescue Service (MAWWFRS).

Videos available

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

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