A fire onboard may happen in every vessel and has to be managed not only successfully, but also quickly, in order to prevent larger damages or even loss of vessel and crew, which could happen if the fire spreads. Fire on board is one of the many emergency situations that can occur onboard a ship. In any case, a confident and calm crew will handle them effectively, putting the situation under control.
he preparedness of emergency equipment, such as emergency power sources and fire pumps of ships, and the ability of the crew in responding to emergency situations, are critical factors in saving human lives, protecting the marine environment and minimizing damage to ships. In that regard, continuous training and practical drills onboard are vital, without however ensuring that in case of the emergency, the crew will correspond as per instructions. It is known that in spite of adequate training, many people get panic attacks and cannot function as they should in an emergency.
Nonetheless, there are many emergency systems onboard a ship that assist operators in ensuring enhanced safety of the crew and the ship during emergency situations. The emergency equipment of ships should be regularly maintained to ensure immediate use in emergency and hazardous situations, and their performance should always be guaranteed. Familiarization of seafarers with the emergency systems and procedures is also essential.
Such systems include (indicative list, additional items are included in SOLAS related regulations):
- Emergency Lighting
- Communication systems
- Navigation systems
- Fire detection and alarms
- Steering gear (period of time required by SOLAS regulation 29.14)
- Main engine control and alarms
- Fire pumps
However, according to the statistics of the Tokyo MoU and Paris MoU on Port State Control in years 2015- 2017, among the 19 areas of deficiency types, the equipment of emergency systems was identified for about 6 % of the total deficiencies. The number of deficiencies related to the emergency generators in 2017 increased approximately 30% from the number in 2015 in the Tokyo MoU region. At the same period, the number of detentions related to the emergency generators also increased more than twice in the Paris MoU region. In that regard, the MoUs decided to jointly conduct a Concentrated Inspection Campaign to address related issues.
The data of the related CIC conducted by many MOUs, should be used by operators as a lead factor for improvement of performance, bearing in mind that crew should be trained to constantly maintain vessel’s condition, be familiar with its functions and would also be adequately aware of how to use, complete and update the related documentation, which is important not only because it is required but also because this would be helpful to monitor the condition and the functionality of the emergency systems. Last but not least, under no circumstances should the safety drills be omitted, as their objectives are the alertness of crew, always under an effective and continuous supervision. Overall, operators and crews should always review any deficiencies related to emergency systems, evaluate the effectiveness of their maintenance and update accordingly along with relevant regulations.