FIRE SAFETY LEGISLATION ON BOARD SUPERYACHTS
Last updated: 27/06/2019
One of the most important factors when it comes to running a superyacht successfully is fire safety. Not only are superyachts an incredibly valuable asset but a fire on board is a potentially life-threatening incident too. It’s no surprise then that there are numerous fire protocols by which yachts must comply.
Fire-protection regulatory bodies
There are multiple bodies who have a say in fire safety so it’s no surprise that even Flag Surveyors can struggle with this. So, let’s start with who you should know.
International Maritime Organization (IMO)
All yacht fire protection protocols are governed by the IMO, the United Nations’ specialist agency responsible for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine and atmospheric pollution by ships. The IMO is the overarching body in the yachting industry, creating and amending a regulatory framework which the Governments of each flag can follow, including the 2010 FTP Code.
Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA)
The MCA produces legislation, guidance and certification to seafarers, such as the MGN 453 (M), a landmark legislation which came into existence because of specialist companies, such as Flame Screen Ltd, who lobbied the MCA to prevent work on vessels being carried out by non-compliant and potentially dangerous companies.
Red Ensign Group (REG)
REG is a group made up of the international shipping registries operated by the United Kingdom’s three Crown Dependencies (Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey) and nine United Kingdom Overseas Territories (Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, St Helena and the Turks & Caicos Islands) – inherently forming the British Shipping Registry.
During 2016 and 2017, the Red Ensign Group began working with the large yacht industry to develop the new Red Ensign Group (REG) Yacht Code.
Fire safety legislation
The various regulatory bodies all issue and enforce their own fire safety laws. Over the years they have been adapted and updated so it’s essential that every yacht understands and adheres to the latest protocols.
The IMO’s Fire Test Procedures Code (2010 FTP Code) became mandatory from 1st July 2012. The 2010 FTP Code outlines the international requirements and fire safety provisions that must be applied on board all vessels. This covers the flammability and toxicity of materials such as upholstered furniture and other textiles, bedding and deck coverings.
From January 2019, the REG Yacht Code replaced the Large Commercial Yacht Code (LY3) and the Passenger Yacht Code 6th Edition (PYC).
Combined into a single new code, it still adheres to two separate entities: Part A, being an update to the existing Large Yacht Code (LY3) and Part B, being an update to the Passenger Yacht Code 6th Edition (PYC). Part A is applicable to yachts which are 24 metres and over in load line length, are in commercial use for sport or pleasure, do not carry cargo and or more than 12 passengers. Part B is applicable to pleasure yachts of any size, in private use or engaged in trade, which carry more than 12 passengers but not more than 36 and which do not carry cargo.
Under the requirements of Part A of the REG Yacht Code, unless the space is fitted with sprinklers or equivalent approved fixed fire extinguishing systems, upholstery and suspended textiles are required to be inherently fire retardant by complying with the relevant parts of the 2010 FTP Code.
Part B requires that all accommodation spaces should be provided with an automatic sprinkler system and, unless a fully addressable fire detection system is fitted, upholstery, bedding components and suspended textiles are required to be inherently fire retardant by complying with the relevant parts of the 2010 FTP Code.
In January 2020, the MGN 453(M) will change to MGN 580(M). This covers fire protection, including fire retardant treatments for fabrics. It is auditable on board new build and existing vessels certified under the Fire Safety section of the Large Commercial Yacht Code. MGN 453(M) and MGN 580(M) establish robust quality assurance procedures to allow approval of fire-retardant treatments for the protection of materials used on board large commercial yachts by complying with the relevant parts of the 2010 FTP Code. This is for fire-retardant treatment of floor coverings, suspended textile materials, upholstery materials and bedding components on board vessels certificated under the Large Commercial Yacht Code.
It is important to note that a yacht should always request the MGN 453 (M) and MGN 580(M service provider's Approval Certificate.
Please refer to our flame retardant fabrics guide for more information.
Complying with yacht fire protection protocols
Ensuring your superyacht meets fire protection protocols is incredibly important – not only for the safety and livelihood of crew and guests, but also for legal reasons.
From 2019, all new yachts must comply with the REG Yacht Code. This includes existing yachts at the first annual survey after the 1st January 2019.
The onus is on fire retardant service providers to ensure that their treatment on board REG Ensign certified vessels complies with the MGN 453, soon to be MGN 580. However, during inspection yachts will be asked to produce fire certificates to evidence that they are compliant.
Non-compliance of any of the required rules, standards or protocols can result in a vessel being detained until any fault or deficiency found is rectified (this obviously depends on the seriousness of the deficiency). Vessels are now being checked when entering ports for their certification and, depending on the port and country, vessels can be prevented from sailing, depending on the severity of the non-compliance.
It’s also important to remember that an incident on board, such as a fire, can result in an insurance company not paying out on a claim, and as a consequence of an injury or even death on board the captain, owner or management company could be held accountable.
Anyone who is unclear about the Large yacht Code fire protection regulations or how to make sure they are compliant will need to speak to their relevant flag or class surveyor, or with an insurance underwriter. Alternatively they could contact an approved supplier or service provider.
Interested in superyacht fire-safety training? Find out more.