In a vessel surrounded by water, fire may be last on crews list of suspected onboard hazards. However, ships are susceptible to fires due to the amount of heavy machinery installed.
Unlike a land based fire, a ship’s crew are not able to walk away from a fire at sea and rely upon the local Fire Department to extinguish it or evacuation of individual on risk zone. With limited resources, crews are expected to deal with fire incidents that would test even the most experienced of fire fighters.
Determining the causes of fire outbreak, one need to identify the present of the main ingredient of fire which includes ; Air, fuel and heat to ignite and sustain their flames. All ships have all three of the above fire ingredients, therefore best way to deal with fires on board ships is to prevent them rather than letting them occur.
Also see Easy way to pass annual ship survey
In tanker vessels, fire outbreak is a very big hazardous moment… especially if the Ignition point ( breaking out of fire in a place where no fire exist) was not quickly arrested, which could lead to flash over ( fire eruption in a new place as a result of flames from an existing fire in a nearby place of ignition source). If it affects an enclosed cargo tank, it could lead to explosion, uncontrollable fire, etc.
Main source of fire outbreak on board ship
Looking into the main areas a ship, where fire could break out, it also incorporate with the amount of fire ingredients present in the area( such as fuel, electrical cables/motors, temperature (°C), etc. The areas includes;
1. Ship Engine Room
2. Pumps Room
3. Chain locker or fore peak
4. Deck stores/paint room
5. Galley (ship kitchen)
6. Accommodation (crew cabin’s)
7. Incinerators (An apparatus for burning waste materials onboard ship)
8. Boiler Space
9. Fuel purification room
10. Emergency generator room
According to the UK P&I, the major fire incidents always from engine room, boiler Space, purifier room, incinerator space and cargo pump room( in terms of tanker ships.
In other to prevent fire outbreak from these main points, there’s need to maintain the following routines;
1. Any fuel leakages found should be investigated and dealt with immediately.
2. Proper routine inspection on piping works and screening arrangements for deterioration.
3. The officers in charge should ensure that the insulation covering heated surfaces is always in good condition.
4. The officers to carry out regular testing that passive safety devices such as fire dampers, flaps and quick closing valves are in good condition and fully operational (for easy control of two fire ingredients).
5. Combustible material or flammable compounds, woodwork, hose,Freon and compressors should be stored in a proper place ( not in the machinery space).
6. Spot and identify inadequate insulation and hot surfaces by using thermal imaging at regular intervals.
7. Fire detector should be in working condition and the engine alarm system is fully functional. Always investigate alarms thoroughly and take prompt action before clearing the alarm status (mainly fire alarm).
8. The ability of the senior officers to conduct regular fire drill is very important for training and familiarity of fire fighting equipments. The drill most impact in response time incase of fire.
9. CO2 room and other portable extinguishers should be ready at all times.
Fire drill onboard crew on the image reserved the right owner
All of the above mentioned, is also applicable to other listed area base on fire ingredients present in that area.
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