The United States Coast Guard has issued a marine safety alert for large laundry operations and extra-capacity drying machines, warning cruise lines of potential fire hazards.

The bulletin from the Coast Guard states: “Recently a small fire developed in a dryer onboard a cruise ship. The fire was quickly extinguished by the vessel’s crew and caused no significant damage. Subsequently, it was discovered that a built-in fire suppression system, a component of the dryers designed to spray water into the drums in case of fire, had been disabled on all six of the vessel’s installed dryers. Initial investigation of the associated processes and procedures related to these suppression systems indicated they were not included in the vessel’s maintenance systems such as Infoship.”

The Coast Guard said the exact cause of the fire was unknown, but highly worn cleaning clothes were being dried at the time. Crew onboard reported none of their routine cleaning fluids were considered flammable.

“Investigators suspect that a minor spark occurred due to a loose or disconnected wire, igniting lint in the spaces under the dryer and then the rags in the dryer drum. Thermostats, thermistors, and other electrical components were destroyed, preventing a complete analysis of causal factors,” said the Coast Guard.

“Regular inspections and evaluations of this fire suppression equipment did not occur, despite other excellent laundry room risk reduction actions routinely undertaken by the crew,” the notice continued. “Another area of concern involved the shared responsibility for inspection and maintenance of the laundry equipment by two sub-departments: Galley Service Technicians and the Electrical Department. Their specific responsibilities for this equipment were unclear.”

Recommendations include:

-          Re-evaluate the risks associated with the equipment;

-          Identify and maintain all associated safety equipment and extinguishing systems;

-          Establish clear lines of responsibility for equipment inspections, maintenance, and repair;

-          Prohibit all personnel from overriding safety components; and

-          Consider the necessity of additional signage and instructions in proper languages.