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Warning after explosion

British safety officials are warning cruise lines and other companies that operate ships with large electric motors to check their machinery in the wake of a little-publicized explosion earlier this year on Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2.

The UK’s Maritime Accident Investigation Branch says the Sept. 23 explosion near one of the Queen Mary 2’s main electric switchboard rooms occurred after the failure of a capacitor. Leaking oil sprayed onto high voltage bars, causing a “major arc flash event,” the agency says.

No one was injured in the explosion, but it was large enough to blow the steel door to the area with the capacitor out of its frame and resulted in extensive damage to surrounding electrical panels, according to the report.

In addition, “the blast…also caused serious damage to an adjoining steel door into the main switchboard room, the stiffeners on the bulkhead of the compartment were buckled, and the steel cover plate on a cross-flooding duct was blown out into the main switchboard room,” the report says. “Fortunately there were no personnel in the vicinity.”

The explosion caused a blackout on the ship that lasted nearly half an hour. The vessel was on its way to Barcelona at the time.

The agency says preliminary findings of an investigation carried out by the manufacturer of the capacitor indicates the capacitor had deteriorated gradually, and a monitoring device “did not give any indication of the fault developing.” A second capacitor in the same area also showed signs of being on the verge of failure, the agency adds. A more detailed investigation of the cause of the explosion is underway.

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