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US Navy fire-safety processes questioned

The USN is not using lessons learned properly from fires like those aboard USS Bonhomme Richard , according to a government report. (US Navy)

The US Navy (USN) needs to do a better job of harnessing its lessons learned to prevent fires on vessels that are being worked on, according to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).

“Navy organisations collect and analyse lessons learned from fires through a number of processes,” the GAO said in its report, Navy Ship Fires: Ongoing Efforts to Improve Safety Should Be Enhanced , released on 20 April.

“However, the navy does not have a process for consistently collecting, analysing, and sharing these lessons learned,” the GAO added. “As a result, the navy has lost lessons learned over time – such as steps that a ship can take to improve fire safety.”

And also, lost lessons learned can translate to other bigger losses, the GAO said.

“The navy reported more than USD4 billion in estimated damages from fires that occurred onboard ships undergoing maintenance from May 2008 through December 2022,” the GAO added.

The navy also lost two ships to fires during this period – most notably the large-deck amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), which was destroyed in July 2020 as it was undergoing a maintenance availability in Naval Base San Diego.

“US Navy ships undergoing maintenance face a high risk of fire, in part because repairs can involve sparks or welding in confined areas with flammable material,” the GAO said.

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