Fire Incidences at Sea

Gaseous extinguishing installations are difficult systems. There are few who understand them in all their complexity. Vessels extinguishing installations are its essential defence against the risk of fire at sea. The main factor that needs to be understood is that they must be able to actuate, or release their gas, in the event of a fire. Surely an extinguishing instillation should extinguish? This may seem like an obvious point, but on further investigation the difficulties with this statement arise. What if the extinguishing instillation cannot actuate fully because there isn’t enough gas within the cylinder? Gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use, shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep e.g. IMO SOLAS FSS Ch5.  2.1.1.3 :

“Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the container”

Often this is misunderstood, this code specifically states that the crew must test their extinguishing installations in between the periodic inspection, maintenance and certification. Only having the annual inspection by accredited marine servicing companies is not enough – the crew must take responsibility for its own fire protection.  However, what must be noted is that the crew are often not trained or certified to shut-down, dismantle, weigh and re-install the gaseous cylinders.

Adding to this, the details of their leakage within the regulations which is troubling. ISO 14520-1 clearly states that:

If a container shows a loss of agent quantity or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 5 %, it shall be refilled or replaced

Given that the gaseous systems are designed specifically to the individual need of the vessel then a 5% loss of agent may mean that they would not fully extinguish the fire. In a recent article by the Maritime Executive, Captain Madden urged crews to routinely and properly inspect and test fixed firefighting systems; “too often they are found with… concerns about leakage”. The only way to determine a cylinder is free from leakage is to check its contents. But if the crew cannot weigh their own cylinders, because they are not certified to do so, then how is it possible?

CO2 UK Marine Equipment Directive (MED) UK/EU legislation with US Coast Guard Mutual Recognition  7.3.2.6:

Means should be provided to verify the liquid level in all the cylinders, either by weighing the cylinders or by using a suitable liquid level detector.”

Case Study: Carnival Cruises sought Coltraco Ultrasonics’ expertise

Ships sink; fires happen”. Addressing these two main causes of vessel loss are critical, especially when all owners and managers are seeking to reduce risk, cut costs and surge on safety. Carnival Cruises chose to protect their fleet by improving fire safety. One aspect of this is that they chose Coltraco Ultrasonics to be their supplier for the Portalevel® MAX Marine which tests the CO2 fire installations onboard for leaks in content.

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