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Fire Safety & Prevention on board Ships

The UK P&I Club reported that during the period 2006 to 2008, there were a reported 1216 people killed or missing as a result of 465 fire and explosions incidents on board merchant seagoing ship.  988 of these deaths were from a single incident. 

As compared to land based fire, a fire outbreak on board a ship is significantly more dangerous as the crew on board are unable to escape from the fire at sea. The crew on board are confined to the ship and they have to deal with the fire themselves.  This is why fire safety training and fire prevention is such an important aspect for shipboard safety.

The most common causes of fires on board ships are:

  1. Electrical failure or overload
  2. Welding or other hot work
  3. Leakage in high pressure pipes
  4. Spontaneous combustion
  5. Human Error

What are some points to consider when it comes to fire prevention on board ships?

  • The increasing number of electrical appliances that we use every day on board the ship can spell danger as the number of potential ignition sources have increased since it was first built.  Restrict the use of multi-plug extensions and restricting the use of high current devices like heaters, kettles.  Remove any faulty electrical equipment immediately.
  • The bins for storing oily rags must be covered with lids.  The oily rags, especially wet ones must not be left lying around.
  • Extra precaution has to be taken in the galley as this is the place where a lot of heat and fire is present with all the cooking and baking.  Care should be taken to ensure that all electrical and cooking equipment are in good working order and should be switched off immediately when not in use.  Galley equipment is only to be operated by authorized catering staff.
  • Flammable materials like chemicals and gases should be stowed in accordance with the manufacturer and Company’s instructions and protocols.
  • Smoking cigarettes in bed is a strict no-no and should be carried out only at designated smoking area if your ship permits.  And when disposing of the cigarettes, crew must make sure to stub out the cigarettes completely before throwing into the bins.
  • One of the most effective methods of fire prevention is regular and conscientious fire patrol.  With regular physical patrolling and monitoring, a potential fire hazard could be snubbed out.

Fire prevention on board the ship is achievable when every crew plays a part by being alert and responsible for their actions and in their course of work.