People are priceless

Given that 400 million European passengers every year entrust themselves to the safety of the ship that they travel on, any accidents on board are serious threats to the safety of those passengers. About 6 per cent of fires on ro-ro passenger ships have resulted in loss of life or serious injury and every year. In December 2014, 11 people were killed and several were injured in a fire aboard the Norman Atlantic ro-ro passenger ship. Chances must not be taken when lives are at risk, and when a vessel is at sea, this is all the time.

Protecting the merchant fleet

Research coordinated by IMO has indicated that between 30% and 50% of all fires on merchant ships originate in the engine room and 70% of those fires are caused by oil leaks from pressurised systems. There are generally two types of engine room fires: oil or electric. Engine room fires are one of the most common fires on ships due to the running machinery, and sources of fuel and ignition within them. Oil fires are the most serious. Mechanical issues such as fracture, fatigue failure and also under-tightened components or seals may result in catastrophic occurrences.  Furthermore, it was noted, that high pressure fuel delivery pipes should be covered with jackets capable of containing leaks in case of pipe failure. There is a call to respond to regulations with a rigorous attitude, to go above and beyond, to provide security of life and vessel.

Contain the risk of fire

Vice Chairman’s of the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) stated that to global shipping, major fires on container ships are among the worst hazards. Part of the problem is as container ship sizes have increased, the firefighting equipment on board has not experienced the same development. In their 2015 annual report, the USCG identified that the greatest deficiency onboard ships was its firefighting appliances.  An example of where the risk has become a danger is the CCNI Arauco. On the CCNI Aruco, 300 firefighters were needed after an unsuccessful seal and flood of the vessels hold with CO2. The hatch had to be flooded and then foam was used to bring the fire under control. The main difficulty comes from the inadequate equipment which the crew had to tackle the fire and as a result there has been calls for the technology to change.

3 key areas for regular inspection is important

The ungoverned space is the area where either the regulations or the protecting systems of the critical infrastructure are not effectively providing consistent and reliable safety. This life-threatening issue must be dealt with, with specific regard to loss of contents in fixed fire extinguishing systems and need for improvements to room integrity testing.

The neglect of the basic routine testing and maintenance of 3 key areas substantially increases the risk of an onboard engine room fire:
 the cylinder agent content in the fire extinguishing installations, commonly CO2, FM 200 fire suppression system®, Novec™1230, halons;

  • the associated pipework;
  • and the room integrity of the protected space into which the suppressant agent discharges;

Some smart Safeship® solutions

  • Ultrasonic liquid level indicator: to identify the agent liquid level in under 30 seconds with 1 competent user*
    • Compared to 15 minutes by laboriously weighing with 2 personnel, qho must be qualified in fire safety inspections, which most crew are not
    • Complies with IMO SOLAS FSS Code which requires crew to have the means onboard to test the installation agent content


  • Ultrasonic thickness gauge, ultrasonic flow meter, acoustic emissions bearing indicator: all efficiently inspect and provide condition monitoring of
    • metal work,
    • pipework and
    • rotating machinery

3. Ultrasonic watertight and airtight integrity indicator: to identify leak sites in compartments. To ensure that the protected space is able to withstand the pressure of the agent when it discharges
and that the compartment will hold that agent for the design concentration required to suppress a fire.

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