DNV addresses the totality of potential risk elements to improve performance and safety culture
A ship owner operating 20 vessels can expect one major engine room fire every ten years. For cruise vessels, the frequency is twice as high. The direct causes of engine room fires are all well known. So why is the industry still experiencing a high number of incidents?
DNV works with customers to address the totality of potential risk elements to improve performance and safety culture. With the causes of engine room fires well known, the challenge remaining is to establish an overall focus on fire integrity; one that considers fire integrity as management of individual hazards, interconnected safety barrier and safety culture. This is mainly a managerial challenge. It requires knowledge, commitment and continuous and systematic monitoring and follow-up. It is DNV's view that the maritime industry needs to address the totality in order to improve performance, with regard to both cost and safety. Doing so will have a large impact on the overall fire safety.
IMO states that an organisation with a "safety culture" is one that gives appropriate priority to safety and realises that safety has to be managed like other areas of the business. For the shipping industry, it is in the professionalism of seafarers and the quality of management that the safety culture must take root.
The overall concept of a safety culture is at the core of DNV's role of managing risk, and we would like to emphasise the importance of ensuring that every potential risk element is taken into account when building a safety culture within the shipping industry. Ensuring that the total integrity is identified, measured, monitored and managed is an important step of the process.
Managing multiple barriers
The day-to-day focus on engine room fire integrity considers different onboard areas separately. Well-known direct causes of fires include exposed hot surfaces, insufficient shielding/screening, ruptured pipes, maintenance issues, and failing or late fire-fighting response by both systems and people.
The engine room fires with serious consequences are however usually a result of multiple barriers failing in sequence, not of a single failure. It is therefore important that ship management includes a clear policy on how to manage these barriers interdependently. The key is to know when the system of barriers is no longer working satisfactorily and how to measure its vulnerability. In order to obtain a full overview of the complete fire safety picture, the following should be properly addressed.
At the design stage, a robust system of barriers that addresses both the technical integrity, and the operational capabilities preventing a fire from developing, must be established. At this stage it can be ensured that the operational elements are implemented properly for the operational phase.
In operation, it is important to maintain a proper focus on engine room fire integrity through the performance management of the system as a whole. This ensures that the design level is kept at an acceptable standard and that there is continuous improvement and focus. The rate of degradation can be controlled by carrying out proper maintenance and keeping procedures sharp, taking into consideration the vessel's age. Degradation normally takes place slowly and hence the normalisation of deviance makes it difficult to have a feel for the actual status.
An important aspect when reviewing both design and operational barriers is the crew's day-to-day focus and emergency preparedness. Procedures for preventing and fighting fires must be in place, and it must be ensured that the crew follows these procedures.
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