Ariel and Paul from Meridian Vessel Management, specialists in marine fire treatment, spoke to Yachting Pages about fire safety on board superyachts and the controversial increase in fires across the marine industry.
1. What are your thoughts on the alarming number of superyacht fires in 2016?
Eight serious incidents occurred on board superyachts in 2016, which is well above the yearly average recorded figure of 3.3 fires between 2010 and 2015.
Potential contributing factors could be:
- The professional crew levels, training and drills
- The type of yacht operation
- Planned maintenance and investment in equipment
- Yacht cruising region and overall annual activity increasing
- Yacht flag registration
- Complexity of electronic and electrical systems on board
- Transition period
- Implementation of safety systems
- Yachts alongside a vessel which have minimal crew
However, there is no single cause, which contributes to an incident starting or developing into a serious emergency on board, it can be a range of these contributing factors.
2. In your knowledge, what are the most common causes of fire on board superyachts?
The vast majority of marine personnel are extremely competent, well trained, focused and caring professionals. However, occasionally fires are attributable to lack of training, misunderstanding the importance of following certain procedures, or safety & operational procedures being deliberately over-ridden, with the safety of the crew and passengers in mind. Personnel may also sometimes deliberately act unprofessionally, causing danger to a vessel, however fortunately this is a rare occurrence.
3. What can you tell me about the Marine Fire Retardant product, Flametect NX2?
Flametect NX2 is a high-performance MGN 453 compliant flame retardant.
Unlike similar treatments, the NX2 is not phosphate based and doesn’t display any of the typical characteristics of phosphate-based products. NX2 is non-corrosive to metals, is dermally approved, and contains a biocide/viracide to combat most vessel based airborne infections.
We maintain a constantly growing ‘arsenal’ of tests on various fabrics, ranging from carpets and upholstery to bedding and curtains. Once applied, NX2 remains in the structure of these materials, preventing ignition.
4. Why are fire retardant treatments so important for superyachts in particular?
Flame retardant treatments are probably the most effective method of addressing fires on board superyachts. Unlike active fire prevention equipment like sprinklers or fire extinguishing systems, flame retardants sit passively in the backround, preventing the initiation and escalation of a fire. Damage limitation on board superyachts, is best achieved by passive systems such as flame retardants.
Fire prevention systems such as sprinklers or fire extinguishers require automatic or manual mechanical or electrical initiation to perform. The risk with these systems is that they have to be initiated when the damage is being done, and can sometimes fail to operate if damaged by fire, or poorly maintained.
5. Do you think that superyachts are becoming more of a fire hazard with this idea of being ‘bigger and better’ in terms of size, design and features?
Having looked at a five-year analysis of superyacht construction, we’ve identified a trend and increase in overall length of vessels. An increase in size is usually good news, as the tonnage rises, and with it so do compliance and regularity requirements.
Larger vessels also have to adhere to much higher requirements as well as testing to IMO FTP 2010 standards, and the vessels will be audited and surveyed annually. Crew will also have to demonstrate their proficiency and level of training on numerous drills.
6. Are there any significant changes or new technology within fire and safety for superyachts, and what do you think the future holds?
Yes there are changes and developments within superyacht design and technology, including their materials, which are making the vessels safer. We must not also forget the regulation authorities and IMO, which will set the standards for fire safety, and review them as part of a continuous process.
More and more owners are aware of fire safety, and ask their designers, project managers and yards to address safety in general, along with fire proofing; after all the yacht will be carrying their families, loved ones, guests and friends.
Of course, cost is a major factor in fire safety. However with that said, we believe technology and developments are helping to reduce initial costs of fire prevention systems, making them more available to yachts, which do not require them by regulation.