Thursday, August 30, 2007

Expert Links Poor Maintenance To Ship Fires

Recent fires aboard Newfoundland and Labrador fishing vessels may be related to the high cost of maintenance, a marine engineer says. Dag Friis, who teaches naval architecture at Memorial University's Marine Institute in St. John's, said regular repairs and upgrades are likely being overlooked. "Maintenance is something you don't really earn money directly from," Friis told reporters. "When you're stretched basically beyond your means in order just to be able to get some cash in, maintenance may be one of those areas where corners are cut." Friis said fires often involve malfunctions with electrical systems or heat sources. "It's probably one of the scariest things you can be subjected to on the water," Friis said.The Canadian Coast Guard says it has responded to nine cases of ship fires this year, and three were in the last week alone. The responses are more than double the four cases reported during the same period in 2006. Friis said the problem is compounded because federal authorities do not have adequate resources to monitor the fishing industry appropriately. "Transport Canada has a pretty tough job with so many boats and very little personnel, really, for carrying out these jobs," he said. "It's hard to do, and in a lot of cases there's a limit to what they can manage to inspect and what they have the authority to do something about." On Monday, the vessel Viking Explorer burned to the waterline, near Englee on Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula. Last Friday, crews responded to two separate vessel fires off the Burin Peninsula.

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