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How to detect fire and extinguish at an early stage onboard a cargo ship ?

Fire in Cargo Hold : The initial action for dealing with a fire in a cargo hold will be the same regardless of whether a ship is at sea or in port. Upon discovering such a fire, either visually or through the smoke detector, the Emergency Alarm must be sounded at once and the Emergency Party mustered. The Chief Officer or the Senior Deck Officer on board is to direct the Emergency Party. His actions are to be governed by circumstances, but initially he must investigate the situation and assess the gravity of the fire.

If personnel are, or have been, working in the affected hold a search must be made whilst commencing remedial action. The investigation is to determine if the fire can be dealt with using hoses, or if the fixed fire extinguishing system will be required. Whatever the outcome the Emergency Party must rig fire hoses around the affected hold and cool the deck. The method of extinguishing the fire will depend on the fixed fire-fighting systems fitted. Container vessels are normally fitted with either water spray system or CO2, or in some cases both.

The following are further guidelines should the fixed fire extinguishing system be required: When such a fire occurs in port the local Fire Service must be called without delay and upon arrival the Senior Fire Service Officer will normally assume control of the operation. It must be remembered that the concentration of CO2 in the hold must be maintained to compensate for leakage.

Re-ignition is likely to occur if the hatch is opened too soon and this may well be uncontrollable. Should entry be essential, every precaution must be taken to prevent re-ignition and the temperature of the hold carefully monitored.

Fires In Containers

A fire which has started whilst stuffing or shortly after closing an ISO container may not become apparent until after that container is loaded on to the ship and is at sea. It is particularly important, therefore that all possible precautions are taken to prevent such an occurrence. Containers with combustible cargoes should be stuffed in a controlled environment and their contents properly declared. Cargoes liable to spontaneously combust "in stow" should not be unnecessarily ventilated and should be checked regularly for rise in temperature.

The securing of wheeled transport, containers and other cargo on the vehicle decks of Ro-Ro vessels must be arranged in such a way that fire-fighting equipment remains unobstructed and fully accessible during loading, discharging and on passage. This includes valves, emergency pumps, hoses, etc.

The difficulties of fighting fires in containers must be well understood by all personnel. The details of all hazardous containers, together with the fire fighting instructions for each hazardous container, must be kept on the bridge. Mobile fire fighting equipment, such as hi-ex generators, water mist lances and mobile water monitors should be maintained in good condition and readiness.

Note: Container vessels designed to carry containers on or above the weather deck constructed on or after 1st January 2016 are required to carry at least one water mist lance.

Modern vessels have been fitted with fixed water spraying systems (water curtains, large monitors, deluge system). Frequent and realistic drills must take place, and contingency plans are to be drawn up for fighting fires in the most inaccessible container.

Matters that require attention in fire

Fire/explosion includes ships where fire/explosion is the first event reported, or where fire/explosion results from hull/machinery damage. Fire detection and extinguishing at a very early stage is most important as most big fires start small. At least the following matters are to be considered:

i) Record status of all crew members;

ii) Closure of Fire flaps, Doors or other Ventilation openings to the area under fire;

iii) Fight the fire with all available means;

iv) Determine the limits of the fire in all directions and keep patrolling these areas throughout the fire;

v) In case of E/R fire ,closing the Quick closing valves, Stopping Fuel pumps and Purifiers

vi) Changing course, slowing down or even stopping to reduce wind impact;

vii) Full or partial evacuation of areas or the entire vessel;

viii) Is assistance needed from external sources;

ix) Send notifications as soon as possible;


Caution by place of fire

Fire in Accommodation

(1) Extinguish fire in an early stage using Fire Extinguishers, Blankets, Fire buckets, and others. Consider Transferring Inflammable Articles.

(2) Evacuate the crew and other people right away to safe places except the Fire-fighting team(s).


Fire in Machinery Space

(1) For a small, local fire involving oil in e.g. the bilges, fire extinguishing in an early stage with Sand, Foam and Carbon dioxide Fire Extinguishers may be effective. Be sure to use Spray nozzles if fire hoses are used, and be careful not to spread the fire by the spray;

(2) For a fire of Electric equipment including switchboards, Shut down the power and use Carbon dioxide Fire Extinguishers;

(3) Shut Ventilation down and Close openings, leaving only one Fan operating with on the Exhaust mode for drawing out smoke.

(4) Stop Fuel pumps and Purifiers and activate the Quick closing valves if fire threatens to spread;

(5) Should a fire become a big one, evacuate and close the machinery space, and apply Fixed Carbon Dioxide or other total Flooding systems after confirmation that nobody remains inside the machinery space.


Fire in a Cargo Hold (Container Vessels / General Cargo Boats)

(1) Close all Openings including Ventilators, and apply Carbon dioxide or Spray water to extinguish the fire. If tarpaulin, canvas or the like is used for sealing, Keep it wet.

(2) Keep dampers and covers for these hatches and ventilators closed until it is confirmed that the fire is completely put out.

(3) Do not enter the cargo hold, unless the fire has been extinguished and confirmed absolutely in safe condition to entry, including applying full ventilating and checking for oxygen and other gases.


Caution about fire extinguishing methods

Fire extinguishing by Carbon Dioxide :

(1) Release Carbon dioxide gas from the Prescribed number of cylinders into the compartment on fire, after which a fixed amount of the gas shall be again released as per the ship?s CO2 F.E. system manual. (eg. a fixed amount every 30min.)

(2) Release the Full dedicated bank for E/R in case of Fire in Engine Room at One Go.

Fire Extinguishing by Spraying or Using Water :

On Containerships, confirm from EmS in IMDG Code regarding Suitability of Fighting Fire with Water


Caution about fire onboard tanker and gas carrier

In addition to be followed mutual agreement between ship and shore for Fire protection and Fighting procedure at pre-conference with Ship-Shore Check list , the Master shall consider to take below actions.

(1) In case of a fire during Cargo operation, Stop all Cargo operation-related work Immediately, shut Shore connection valves and prepare for Taking the vessel offshore.

(2) Request Tug boats and assistance of Shore Fire-Fighting Agencies.

(3) For a Fire in Tanks, carry out fire extinguishing operation keeping in mind the possibility of the generation of an Explosion accident following the fire, and pay maximal attention to the safety of Human Lives.

(4) For a fire in a tank, watering onto the upper deck and shell plating is effective in cooling the hull and tanks.

(5) Continuous injection of maximum Inert gas into the tank is very effective in fire fighting and prevention against explosion.

(6) Foam fire extinguishing system should be used so that the foam flows only in one way to cover the fire uniformly and does not cause any unnecessary disturbances.

(7) For a fire at sea, maneuver the vessel (course and speed) so that the location of the Fire is Leeward, and approach the nearest port to get assistance.


Caution about reporting to external sources

For reports on the occurrence of a fire to external parties, such as other ships adjacent to the vessel, coastal radio stations and the Coast Guard of each country; it shall be clearly distinguished between an Urgency Message and a Distress Message

The Urgency message is meant to advise that continuous attention is required by the vessel whereas the Distress Message requires a positive rescue.





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