Report details Antarctica supply ship fire

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A preliminary report into a fire that badly damaged Australia's Antarctic supply ship has found fuel oil was seen dripping into the engine room after the blaze.

The MPV Everest's port side engine room burst into flames on April 5 when the chartered ship was at sea in the Southern Ocean.

It limped into Fremantle eight days later on auxiliary power with some 70 expeditioners and 37 crew on board, all uninjured.

An Australian Transport and Safety Bureau report, released on Wednesday, noted that during initial inspections after the fire, crew observed fuel oil dripping into the engine room from the exhaust vent casing above.

Data from the ship's integrated automation system showed a routine transfer to top up the fuel oil settling tank in the engine room started about 9.25am on the day of the fire.

That data indicates the tank probably overflowed sometime after 10.30am.

The fire, which destroyed two inflatable boats, was first spotted around 11am by the ship's master, who saw large flames erupting from open louvres in the engine room's exhaust casing.

The ATSB is investigating the operation of the ship's fuel oil transfer system as part of the ongoing probe into the cause of the fire.

The performance of the ship's firefighting equipment, effectiveness of emergency response and efficacy of shipboard communication systems is also being investigated.

The Everest had been hired for summer re-supply journeys after the delivery of Australia's new $529 million icebreaker RSV Nuyina was delayed due to COVID-19.

It had completed stops at Davis and Mawson research stations before the fire broke out when it was about 2500 nautical miles from its intended destination of Hobart.

A final report will be released when the investigation is finished.