Fire and safety in superyacht marinas
Last updated: 26/02/2020
With an alarming number of superyacht fires taking place recently, particularly in superyacht marinas, Yachting Pages spoke to Karpaz Gate Marina harbour master, Deniz Akaltan and Epic Marina dock master, David Smyth, about the importance of fire safety in marinas.
Learning lessons from yacht fires
Fire safety is an absolute necessity in both marinas and on board superyachts, and a recent spate of fires on board superyachts has served to highlight this even more. As Deniz Alkatan of Karpaz Gate Marina explained, “Whenever terrible stories such as the recent marina fires make news headlines, it serves to highlight the dangers and risks regarding fire, which are inherent to marinas of all sizes."
As shown in the fires on board The One and Barbie at Marmaris marina, fire safety is particularly crucial in marinas, as the close proximity of the superyachts to each other serves as just another potential danger.
David Smyth believes that there will be more of an emphasis on superyacht marinas as the “first responders” to an incident. “Safety drills should be made mandatory for marina staff and not just the crewmembers on board”, said David.
Regarding the recent superyacht fires, Deniz commented, “I think one positive to come out of the unfortunate incidents in the last few months, is that people will become more aware in general and check the obvious things such as their wiring, cookers, gas leaks or build-ups. Many marinas will also review their procedures, staff training and equipment to make sure they are prepared in the event of an emergency.”
Key causes of superyacht fires
When it comes to the causes of a superyacht marina fire, common factors are flammable manmade materials within the marina and on board the superyachts. Deniz said, “Some of the causes are easily preventable and others are more difficult to predict and prevent. I have experienced more than six incidents during my previous marina jobs. The main reasons were lack of maintenance of electrical systems, unsuitable cabin heaters and a lack of crew awareness.
David from Epic Marina also mentioned “welding” as a potential danger, “but I have seen several electrical fires as well.
Fires on superyachts are notoriously difficult to control and many fire departments will only step on board if lives are in immediate danger, which is why so many fires are left to burn. Contributing factors include confined spaces and the complicated layout of superyachts, as well as the amount of fuel and type of materials on board.
Also, if steps are not taken to ensure prevention, fires spread incredibly quickly in a marina, due to the close proximity of berthed superyachts, and difficult weather conditions. David from Epic Marina highlights the dangers of weather to vessels berthed in a marina. “Wind is one of the biggest accelerants for spreading fires. Along with the close proximity of other vessels, if not contained early, it’s a wild beast.
Deniz also agreed that, “Strong wind was one of the biggest factors of the last two superyacht fires. Fibre glass is highly flammable, plus many dock systems are constructed of metal frame and plastic floats, which are very susceptible to heat.
Prevention and fire protection
While superyacht marina fires can be difficult to tackle, the key to protecting superyachts and marinas from future devastation like the recent fires, is prevention.
Boat maintenance and crew awareness are two vital measures of fire safety, according to Deniz, “Regular and meticulous boat maintenance and checks are needed, as well as ensuring crew are following correct procedures and are trained on how to respond in the event of a fire.
“We strongly advise boat owners to regularly check electrical systems on board, to always keep their engine room clean and tidy, and to use on-board AC systems to heat their boat instead of portable heaters.”
It’s also essential for superyacht marinas to be on top of fire safety, with up to date training and standards in place such as the NFPA 303 for boatyards and marinas.
“As a relatively new marina, the subject of fire safety and prevention was an important consideration during our development”, says Deniz. “Our staff are all trained to respond quickly and are aware of how to contact the nearest fire department. We also hold a regular fire drill every three months in different areas of the marina.”