A fire is one of the most frightening things that can happen at sea. Often, seafarers have no ready access to the
emergency services when a fire breaks out and will need to rely on their own resources, courage and training to tackle and extinguish the blaze quickly to ensure the safety of the ship and everyone on board. To help Standard P&I Club has issued a guide to fire safety on ferries.
There are numerous causes of fire but the most relevant to ferries are:
– Electrical defects, such as overloaded electrical equipment, damaged cables and poorly formed connections. – Electrical faults in vehicles, especially when engines are hot/running. Reefer containers are major sources of fire.
– Mechanical failure, such as ignition from overheated bearings or a catastrophic engine failure.
– Uncontrolled release of oil or flammable liquid coming into contact with a hot surface, or the release of a low flashpoint fuel, such as petrol vapour, coming into contact with a source of ignition.
– Dry, readily combustible materials (such as wood, paper, textiles) coming into contact with an ignition source, such as a lighted cigarette, sparks or conducted heat from burning or cutting, highintensity lights or defective electrical equipment.
– Ensure that the integrity of structural fire protection is maintained and that it is not compromised during repair and/or modification.
– Make sure penetrations in compartment boundary bulkheads and decks are fire safe.
– Identify where emergency cables run and check that they are adequately protected from fire.
Have a programme to test fire detectors and alarms so that they are all tested in rotation. Record the results in the log book(s).
– Have a programme to test fixed firefighting system(s) so that the entire system is tested every month. Record the results in the log book(s).
– Hold realistic fire drills followed by a through debrief in accordance with SOLAS.
– Familiarise all crew with the firefighting equipment and the potential means for fire to spread from compartments.
– Test the emergency fire pump and emergency generator during fire drills, ensuring that all crew become familiar with their operation.
– Send all crew on an advanced firefighting course.
– Keep garage spaces clean and free from combustible material, such as oil, paper and rags.
– Keep scuppers clean and free from debris. Water deluge systems can release large volumes of water.
– Stow dangerous goods safely in the properly designated area.
– Fully close fire doors and ramps, and have measures in place to ensure they remain fully closed.
– Have a continuous fire patrol giving special attention to potential fire hazards, such as operating reefer containers/equipment and vehicles with hot engines.
– Investigate every lighted ‘open fire door’ indication lamp.
– Investigate every fire alarm.
– Promptly report the discovery of fire.
– Promptly fight fire, in accordance with training.
– Be afraid of smoke – it’s toxic.
– Be afraid of CO2 – it’s an asphyxiant.
– Cut holes in compartment boundaries or thermal insulation.
– Modify bulkhead or deck pipe and cable penetrations without correctly reinstating fire stopping.
– Paint over release nozzles in a sprinkler, deluge, CO2 or high fog extinguishing system.
– Store oil in drums, wood, paper, oily rags or similar combustible material in garage spaces or in spaces without a fixed fire detection and extinguishing system.
– Wedge a fire door open or disable a door position indicator lamp.
– Allow passengers in vehicles when the ship is navigating, except on those very short voyages where passengers remain in vehicles.
– Smoke, or permit smoking, except in dedicated smoking areas.
– Disable fire detectors or fire alarm zones, without putting alternative precautions in place.
- Click to read the Standard P&I fire safety for ferries guide: Standard-Club-guide-to-fire-safety-on-ferries