Fire outbreak on board a ship could be very catastrophic due to availability of excessive quantity of flammable liquids and highly combustible materials.
Preventing and fighting fire on board ship is everyone's business, as such it's essential for every seafarer to adhere to the basic fire preventive measures at all times as well as know by heart the necessary actions to take during fire emergency.
Fire prevention is very vital on ships, here are the basic tips on how to prevent fire on board a marine vessel:
How to prevent fire in the engine room:
- Ensure no oil, oily rags and wastes is placed closed to heat sources such as Boiler, Heaters and M/E exhaust system. They may ignite spontaneously.
- Empty and clean oil trays and pans as often as possible.
- Oil leakages from fuel and lube oil valves, oil burners, piping connection, etc should not be ignored.
- Clean tank tops and bilges and hose down frequently. If oil is accumulated, chemical could be applied to rid it.
- Ensure tank tops and bilges are painted white and proper lighting should be provided.
- Smoking and any action that can create naked lights (such as welding) should be avoided in the engine room and near the bunker.
- Ensure paints are stored in a well ventilated place away from machinery space or heat source. Automatic water sprinkler system should be provided based on regulations.
- All welding practice should be done in the workshop, far from combustible material storage spaces.
How to prevent electrical fire on board ships:
- Remove all defective equipment from use/service, immediately when damage is identified.
- Restrict use of multi-gang extension leads.
- Restrict use of high current devices such as heaters, kettles, etc. in accommodation space.
- Conduct inspection of electrical apparatus regularly to ensure it's in good serviceable condition.
- Plan testing of electrical appliances within accommodation areas annually.
- Ensure earthing is properly done.
Necessary action to take during fire outbreak on a Ships
The four-step action to take during fire emergency are: Find, Inform, Restrict and Extinguish.
- Find: When fire or smoke is perceived, find the origin of the fire.
- Inform: Fire alarm switches are strategically placed around the ship. Activate the fire alarm to inform other crew members of the fire. Don't panic to start extinguishing the fire by yourself without raising alarm. The fumes may be toxic and you could need help leaving the vicinity. Report the location of the fire to the engine room and/or bridge.
- Restrict: After informing other crew members, get back to the fire and restrict it from spreading out.
- Extinguish: Use the appropriate fire extinguisher to tackle the fire.
Before extinguishing, the following considerations should be made:
- Is anyone at risk?
- what is burning?
- what's the magnitude of the fire?
- What combustibles are in close proximity to the fire?
- What source of oxygen is boosting the fire? (e.g vents)
- What is the appropriate method or methods of extinguishing the fire?
- How best can the fire be prevented from spreading and extinguished?
Also Read: Basic fire fighting equipment onboard a ship
In event of escalated fire, the following actions should be taken:
- Sound fire alarm system
- evacuate all ship crew, count them and assign as per muster list.
- Remotely stop all fuel pump
- Remotely close all quick closing valves
- Remotely close all engine room ventilation damper
- Remotely close skylight door and engine all watertight door
- manually stop all ventilation fan in engine room
- stop prime mover and all machinery
- close all engine room entry and exit doors perfectly.