Fire safety at sea
With superyachts being some of the most valuable assets in the world and fire being one of the most threatening emergencies at sea, the correct fire and safety equipment is vital.
Suzanne Galloway, marketing coordinator at Warsash Superyacht Academy explained, “Effective and realistic training for fire prevention and aggressive firefighting must remain current and thorough courses should be delivered as part of career-long maritime training.”
Fire and safety risks are particularly high on superyachts due to the amount of fuel carried on board.
However, fire risks in the engine room are relatively quite low due to the lack of spilt oil. It is a well-known fact, superyacht engine rooms are cleaner than the average dining table, therefore meaning the risk of injury or fire is minimal. Following this, engine fires are also kept to a minimum due to on-board water cooling systems, although, this does not disregard the presence of the correct fire equipment.
Fuel is often carried on board in large amounts for use in tenders and jet skis, as well as jet fuel for on-board helicopters or sea planes. Therefore it is essential fuel is stored correctly to avoid spillages, as well as the correct fire extinguisher being located close to the storage hold in the event of a fire.
Last but not least, fires are of a high concern when yachts are tightly packed into a port or marina. Once a fire begins on one yacht, it is likely to spread causing catastrophic results. By law, yachts available for charter are required to have formal safety management and security. On the other hand however, there is no requirement for safety drills and practises often leading to a lack of safety awareness among crew.
Training crew on how to manage an on-board fire is useless with no equipment, therefore, it is essential that superyachts are stacked full of the correct supplies.
After speaking to the engineers, Rebecca Scarrott from Global Services Ltd said, “The top five fire and safety equipment essentials we would expect to find on a yacht include fire extinguishers, of all classes, fire blankets, Parat C or similar escape sets, SCBA sets for use in machinery spaces, and fire retardant suits for use with SCBA for firefighting.”
Other essentials include:
- Emergency breathing devices- to aid breathing when evacuating a dangerous environment.
- Flares & smoke signals- these flares must burn with an intensity of at least 500 cendela for at least 2 minutes.
- Immersion suits- also known as a survival suit will allow passengers to submerge in cold water safely and prevent hypothermia.
- Glow sticks- a waterproof form of lighting without the use of batteries.
- Life buoys – or life rings, are designed to be thrown to a person overboard and will provide buoyancy.
- Stretchers- for the event of a passenger needing to remain still following injury.
- First aid kits and medical supplies- a collection of supplies and equipment for giving first aid to an injured passenger or crew member. This will allow minor injuries to be treated quickly at the scene.
- Resuscitation equipment- such equipment would normally include a pocket mask with oxygen port, clear face masks, tracheal tubes, scissors, syringes etc…
Using the wrong type of extinguisher on a fire can cause catastrophic results, therefore it is important that crew have an understanding and are trained in the correct use of fire extinguishers.
- Class A extinguishers are used for common combustible materials such as wood, paper and most plastics.
- Class B extinguishers are used on combustible or flammable liquids such as gasoline, diesel, kerosene, grease or oil.
- Class C extinguishers are used on flammable gasses.
- Class D extinguishers are commonly found in the engineering department and are used to extinguish combustible metals like titanium, potassium, sodium and magnesium. While the need for them is extremely rare, each superyacht will have at least one Class D extinguisher on board.
- Class E fires are electrical fires and the above extinguishers are very dangerous to use for these situations. The correct extinguisher is composed of a non-conductive substance that effectively smothers the fire.
- Class F extinguishers will usually be found in the galley and in food service areas and are used to extinguish cooking oils, fats or trans-fats. In the event of the fire, the captain or first officer is responsible for ordering ‘abandon ship’ and will begin the process of checking lifeboats or life rings for viability and moving guests and crew to assigned lifeboat stations.
Safety standards and training
In the event of emergency evacuation, life rafts will be lowered into the water; a member of the crew will ensure all guests are wearing their life jackets correctly and that they are securely fastened. Following this, crew will then activate the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPRIB), transmitting an emergency coded message on channel 406 MHZ distress frequency alerting the nearest emergency rescue centre.
The International Convention on Standard of Training, Certification and Watch keeping, STCW, requires all seafarers to receive basic training or instruction in accordance with section A-V1/1 of the STCW Code.
The minimum requirements for this code are made up of four different courses: STCW Personal Safety & Social Responsibilities, STCW Fire Prevention & Fire Fighting, STCW Personal Survival Techniques and STCW Elementary First Aid.
Suzanne Galloway went on to explain, “From 2017 onwards, the Manila Amendments to the STCW Code require fire training to be conducted every five years, to ensure that crew are training and exercised on all new techniques and to refresh their knowledge and practical experiences”.