Engine room fires are often very challenging to deal with, due to the construction of the room and a plentiful supply of the fire triangle elements: heat, fuel and oxygen. A major engine room fire can have destructive consequences and, in the aftermath, it’s unlikely for a ship to continue under her own power.
The following real-life incident can be used as case study to help crew members understand how to properly handle similar occasions and take the appropriate knowledge from an incident of fire on board cargo vessel.
Although fire fighting training provides basic (basic fire fighting, STCW VI I/1) and advanced (advanced fire fighting STCW VI/3) knowledge to crew members onboard, when such emergency occurs in real life, this knowledge may be proved insufficient. There are many reasons for that; mostly related to the way that the training is being conducted.
One way to address fire emergency is the proper training through efficient and regular drills which ensure that crew members are ready to handle a fire onboard. As such, the industry has incorporated in SOLAS, Chapter 19 which refers to emergency drills, a specific paragraph for fire drills.
The US Navy published photos from sailors practising their firefighting skills and techniques by battling a simulated fire. All sailors are trained in fire fighting and damage control efforts, as many are the fire incidents taking place onboard vessels.
The USCG issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend the rules for recreational vessels by moving fire extinguishing equipment standards for recreational vessels from the uninspected vessel subchapter, which includes requirements for both recreational and commercial vessels, to the subchapter applicable only to recreational vessels.
Sean Dalton, IUMI Cargo Committee Chair and Head of Marine Underwriting NA, Munich Reinsurance America, Inc., and Pascal Dubois, IUMI Loss Prevention Committee Chair and Head of Marine France, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, talk about major fires on cargo ships are turning out to be a rising concern, which often leads to loss of life, damage to the ship and cargo, while it can also have important environmental impact.
On the aftermath of the major fire that killed five crew members onboard the ‘Maersk Honam’ in March, Danish giant Maersk conducted a thorough review of current policies in the stowage of dangerous cargo, and has now implemented new guidelines to improve safety across its container ship fleet.
When a fire breaks out on board a vessel there is no fire service ready to assist in extinguishing it – it is up to the crew themselves. The Swedish P&I Club issued a new guide for quick reference to the causes and prevention of cargo fires and explosion onboard.
With the growing size of container vessels, and a recent spate of fires on board these ships, the International Union of Marine Insurance is concerned that current firefighting provisions are insufficient and has published a position paper calling for better on board firefighting systems for container vessels.
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