Most marine insurance policies state that boats must have adequate fire protection says Sea-Fire’s Richard Duckworth.
But he says many boatbuilders are fitting the minimum protection they can get away with and crossing their fingers it will never be put to the test.
“For the last 20 years, major production boat builders have recognised they have a duty of care to protect their customers and to fit as standard a comprehensive engine room fire suppression system using fully tested and marine approved components,” says Richard.
“Unfortunately, this is not mirrored across all the industry.”
And he said safety and fire suppression should not be an afterthought in the build or refit process. Instead systems need to be designed specific to each boat as one size does not fit all.
“In many ways, it is understandable that fire suppression on board is overlooked. The actual percentage of boat fires in relation to boat usage is very small,” he said. “However, as boats have become larger, the equipment fitted on-board has grown exponentially.
“This increase in power hungry equipment has led to an increase in the fire risk.”
This is made worse by the fact that a fire at sea is a serious risk to life and leads to the total loss of the boat if it can’t quickly be brought under control.
And Richard pointed out that the best in class fire suppression systems are clean agent full flooding systems which comprise a cylinder, located in the engine room, automatic and manual release via a thermal bulb and a pull cable and a machinery shutdown unit.
“There is no point in committing to a clean agent system if the first thing that happens during a fire is for the agent to be immediately depleted by the exhaust and ventilation,” he said.
“The sustainable clean agent for the future is 3M Novec 1230. As other agents with high global warming potentials are currently being phased out, the fire industry has adopted Novec 1230 as the most effective solution with the best environmental profile.”
Richard added: “Measured over the lifetime of the boat, a fire suppression system is probably one of the best value purchases that boat owners can make to ensure the protection of their investment and the safety of their family and friends.”