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The Ardent II smoldering at Peterhead Harbour.
The Ardent II smoldering at Peterhead Harbour.

Crew of fire-hit boat only spotted blaze when one got up to use toilet

A safety warning has been issued after three trawlermen had a lucky escape from a fire that destroyed their boat.

The crew of the Ardent II scrambled to the safety of the Peterhead quay only after one spotted smoke when he got up at 5am to use the toilet.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) found they might have saved the 13ft vessel if they had fought the flames rather than leaping ashore.

Skipper left to count the cost after huge blaze destroys trawler

But it also called on owners to regularly test electrical equipment and ensure detectors are fitted.

The dramatic blaze engulfed the 100-tonne boat and its three-man crew – all understood to be Filipino – on August 16 last year.

Firefighters had to battle for two days to bring it under control.

A report by the MAIB has now concluded that a multi-socket adapter in the vessel was the most likely cause of the fire.

It also found that the Inverness-registered boat had no smoke detectors and it was “fortunate” that someone had discovered the fire before it had a chance to spread.

It is understood that the Ardent II had been owned by the McPherson family from Moray since 1986 before being declared a “total loss” in the aftermath of the fire.

Hamish McPherson, who skippered the trawler before his son took over in 2000, has previously declined to comment on the incident.

But the MAIB has suggested that the boat could have been salvaged if an effort was made by its crew to combat the flames.

Investigation gets underway into trawler blaze

Its report into the fire has said that the men aboard could have used portable fire extinguishers and closed internal doors to prevent the blaze spreading.

Instead, they evacuated immediately.

The report adds: “Such actions might then have enabled the fire service to start tackling the fire at an earlier stage in its development and so limit the resulting damage.

“However, the fact that the quay offered the crew a safe haven is likely to have influenced their decision to evacuate the vessel immediately, rather than to attempt to contain and extinguish the fire.”

The three-man crew had only worked on the vessel for about six months before the fire broke out.

As a direct response to what happened aboard the Ardent II, the MAIB has today issued new safety advice to boat owners to have all electrical equipment regularly tested to prevent fires.

New regulations coming into effect later this year will also make it mandatory for all vessels to have fire alarms fitted in crew mess rooms.

At the time of the blaze, local fisherman Jimmy Buchan, who starred in the BBC’s Trawlermen series, said a fire on a boat always has the potential to be “catastrophic”.

“A fire on a ship is one of the worst things that can happen with the speed that it can spread,” he added.

“I’ve seen it myself first-hand and you have to be quick to react.

“If there’s no one there to react, you’ve got a real problem.

“It ends up being you can only fight it from the boundary, when the fire already has a real foothold.”

Peterhead’s lifeboat crew had to be drafted in to help cool the trawler at one point in the incident.

Fire service group manager Ally Birkett said the exterior of the boat reached temperatures of 200C.

More than 30 firefighters from Peterhead, Maud, Ellon and Fraserburgh assisted.