Due to isolated existence and confined nature of residence of the sailors on board ships, fire is a dangerous hazard that every seaman fears. Regular fire fighting drills are held aboard vessels while on voyage or docked.
Fire fighting aids.
Developments in methods to fight fire onboard ships and boats have advanced today but repeated simulation drills are still done. Today ships are equipped with different methods to fight fire some of which include fire extinguishers, extensive pipelines that supply water to most areas of the vessels, and fire fighting foams that are used to douse fuel/ fume and electrical fires.
What causes fire on ships?
Causes of fire are similar to those we encounter in our daily life. On ships fire start due to explosions or over heating that occur as a result of friction of moving parts.
Scavenge fire and engine explosion are the main causes of fire in the engine room.
- Scavenge fire: this means when carbon emitted by the engine exhaust during normal operation, accumulates and builds up in and around the exhaust area. After substantial amounts are deposited, they can ignite and start a big fire within the engine room. If not detected early the fire could spread to other parts of the vessel. Scavenge fire can be avoided by checking some symptoms that occur before the ignition of carbon within the exhaust system are over heating of exhaust, paint peeling on scavenge doors and the flu emitting black smoke.
- Engine explosion: these are considered to be more dangerous since the engine is connected to a constant supply of fuel. Engine explosions occur due to overheating to the extent that the engine burst by this stage the fuel has reached boiling point and has begun vaporizing making it even more combustible. With this in mind modern ships have installed heat sensors at different parts of the engine to avoid this misfortune.
Generator room/ electrical fires
This is also a major contributor of fire onboard marine vessels. Mainly they are caused when there is a short circuit on one of the electrical cables. To minimize the risk of these accidents happening vessels have altered some of these approaches toward electrical appliances. Some of these are: fastening all electrical equipment firmly in one position, usage of short cables to connect the appliances with electricity, using permanent connections instead of plugs.
General fire causes.
Besides the high risk causes of fire mentioned above fire can be caused by a number of other reasons and in practically any part of the vessel that has equipment or machinery working. These start fire by means of friction. Most friction caused fires occur on bearings or joints that require lubrication.
On board firefighting equipment
Fire fighters: these are a well organized team comprising of engine room and deck officer lead by a team leader. They are responsible to respond to all forms of fire on the vessels. Undertaker unexpected fire drills at any time. This helps them with readiness for a real situation.
Breathing equipment: this consists of a mask and oxygen tank that supply the fire fighter with clean oxygen, a fire suit made of fire and heat resistant material to prevent burns, fire extinguisher with different contents and water hydrants that are situated in most places of the vessel.
Put together these different firefighting equipment and personnel help avoid and stop fires on board vessels before it is too late to save them.
Later we shall be describing in more detail concerning fire on marine vessels.