Web Alert: MCA warns of the hazards of an accidental CO2 release onboard ships

News & Insights 20 September 2018


The UK Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) has released ‘Safety Bulletin 12 – Accidental CO2 releases onboard 2 UK Merchant Vessels’, which was issued in September 2018. The bulletin was produced in response to two serious and potentially fatal accidental CO2 releases on UK flagged ships in the last two years.

The UK Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) has released ‘Safety Bulletin 12 – Accidental CO2 releases onboard 2 UK Merchant Vessels’, which was issued in September 2018. The bulletin was produced in response to two serious and potentially fatal accidental CO2 releases on UK flagged ships in the last two years.

Common factors in each incident:

  • CO2 leaked from the manifold into the CO2 room.
  • Remote release valves were untouched.
  • CO2 alarms operated which alerted the crew and prevented harm/loss of life.

Following an investigation by the MAIB, there are several key findings:

  • Many systems are designed such that a single leaking valve can discharge the entire system.
  • Lack of clarity on life/service intervals and maintenance requirements of cylinder valves.
  • There is perceived over reliance on shore-based contractors who may have poor knowledge of the specific system fitted onboard.
  • CO2 leaked from the systems and was not contained by the pipework and manifold

The bulletin reminds readers of the dangers of CO2, specifically:

  • that it is highly asphyxiating
  • that 9% concentration causes unconsciousness within minutes
  • 17% concentration causing death within just a couple of minutes
  • it is colourless and odourless. 

For full details and a list of key areas which will reduce the risk of similar incidents please see the attached bulletin.

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