Horror Stories

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This section of the site is devoted to mishaps which have caused damage to the main engine and related pieces of equipment. Some of the incidents are more serious than others and in some cases have caused serious injuries and even death.

Apart from the older really well known cases which due to the seriousness of the event have led to a court of inquiry, no names of vessels or people are given, but it is hoped that readers will learn from others mistakes.

Remember: Accidents don't just happen - they are caused!


Despite oil mist detectors, bearing temperature monitors and explosion doors, severe crankcase explosions (usually secondary) still occur, causing death and serious injury. Click HERE to find how a crankcase explosion occurs



In 1947 on board the ship "Reina del Pacifico", a crankcase explosion cost 28 men their lives. This accident started the development of oil mist detectors.

A recent severe secondary explosion caused fire and serious injury. Read about it and decide what YOU would have done

A hole in a piston crown led to this explosion and it was only because the engine room was unmanned at the time, no one was injured or killed.

A piston pin failure caused a primary explosion as the engine shut down.

A badly worn liner and broken rings led to a crankcase explosion.

A piston seizure caused a crankcase explosion and a smashed engine frame.

Two photographs of an explosion on a testbed engine.


Do not underestimate the stored energy in compressed air. Treated with respect and ensuring correct maintenance is carried out to ALL the equipment and safety devices will reduce the risk of an accident. Do NOT use compressed air for any other use other than with correctly designed, properly maintained and certificated equipment.

It happened more than 40 years ago, killed 7 men, injured 7 more, and questions based on preventing a repeat this most horrific of incidents still appear in MCA question papers.

Two recent incidents involving compressor aftercoolers bursting. A man was killed in one of these accidents both of which were very similar.

He thought it was a clever idea. You know differently........don't you??


Alarms are installed to warn the operator that all is not well with the machinery. If an alarm sounds, then the cause must be investigated and rectified. Do not use the excuse that "the alarm is faulty" as the first reason for it sounding in the first place. As well as alarms, the watchkeepers sense of hearing, smell and touch must be used to diagnose faults. If an unusual noise is heard, do not ignore it; investigate the cause.

Leaving a small tool on the gear train led to a very expensive repair

A loose chain drive sprocket led to catastrophic failure of the crankshaft

Loss of cooling water led to melted components and a wrecked engine

Mixing the bearing halves led to a unit smash.

Trying to start an engine with a cylinder full of oil is an expensive mistake.

What's that a tap tap tapping? Is death a-knocking at my door?

Trapped in the Scavenge Space led to  Death of Second Engineer

Loose erosion plugs in the fuel pump led to two fires. One caused extensive damage, the other was extinguished within a minute

A failed bottom end caused extensive damage to the engine and bent the crankshaft.

Fatigue caused disintegration of the piston skirt which led to the engine being smashed by the flailing con rod.


Mistimed camshaft destroyed piston, liner, cylinder head and turbocharger.


Explosions and Fires in exhaust manifolds can wreck Turbochargers


Loose bottom end bolt causes connecting rod to bend like a banana


Failure of con rod smashes 2 stroke engine


A series of almost unbelievable events leads to wrecked engine


various failures with this well known medium speed engine



Ensure that the correct grade of of oil is used at all times. Follow manufacturers instructions and recommendations. 

Using the blow down from the LO filters as a cylinder lubricant didn't save money after all.

A quick check saved two engines. Water does not make a good lubricant in a crankcase.

Do you know of an incident which would be of interest to other Marine Engineers and could help prevent further accidents? email me the details.



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