Electrical Fire Destroys $3.9 Million Yacht

May 26, 2022

Yachting Journal

​​(La Dolce Vita on fire shortly after passengers and crew abandoned the vessel (top) and the yacht afire shortly after sunset on March 16, 2021 (Bottom). (Source: Captain of La Dolce Vita)​

The engine room fire aboard a yacht was likely caused by an electric source within the sound enclosure for the starboard generators, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday.

Marine Investigation Report 22/16 details the NTSB’s investigation of the March 16, 2021, engine room fire aboard the yacht La Dolce Vita while anchored near Marquesas Keys in the Gulf of Mexico. The crew unsuccessfully attempted to extinguish the fire. The crew of four and two passengers on board abandoned the yacht into the vessel’s tender boat. They were then assisted by two U.S. Coast Guard boats. No injuries were reported. The fire resulted in the total loss of the $3.9 million yacht.

The Cayman Islands-flagged La Dolce Vita was anchored with the crew preparing for the passengers to go snorkeling when the fire began. The captain and mate described the odor of the smoke to NTSB investigators as like burning plastic and like the insulation from wires burning. According to investigators, this, combined with the captain and mate’s description of where the smoke and flames emanated, suggests the fire may have originated in the electric generator end of the starboard genset enclosure. However, due to the extent of the fire damage, investigators were unable to conclusively determine the source of the fire.

The vessel was chartered for hire four to six times a year, including at the time of the casualty. Under the Cayman Islands Shipping Registry, a vessel certified for commercial use of La Dolce Vita size would have been required to meet the UK Large Commercial Yacht Code (LY2) requirements for commercial use yachts. LY2 requirements that La Dolce Vita did not meet included having a way to remotely stop the engine room’s intake and exhaust fans and the capability to close off natural ventilation to the space.

View of the vessel’s engine room space looking aft towards the engine room door in 2009. (Source: Cayman Islands Shipping Registry)

The NTSB determined the probable cause of the engine room fire aboard the La Dolce Vita was an undetermined electrical source within the sound enclosure for the starboard generator. Contributing to the severity of the fire and total loss of the vessel was the inability to secure ventilation to the engine room, which reduced the effectiveness of the yacht's fire extinguishing system and allowed the fire to spread beyond the engine room.

“Fixed fire-extinguishing systems in machinery and other hazardous spaces require a minimum concentration of extinguishing agent to either halt the chemical reaction producing the fire, displace the oxygen feeding the fire, or effect a combination of both,” the report said. “To ensure the effectiveness of the system and prevent the reintroduction of oxygen to the space, vessel designers and owners should ensure that the ventilation, both natural and forced draft, can be completely and remotely secured to all fire-protected spaces, and that all machinery within these same fire-protected spaces can be remotely stopped from outside the space where the machinery is situated.”