Every year lives are lost and millions of dollars' worth of damage is caused by fires in ships. Human error is by far the most common cause of fires. It is often a single careless act that endangers the lives of all the crew. These brief factual accounts of fires which occured in several types of vessel illustrate some of the risks. Every member of the crew has a part to play in preventing fires. And this applies not only to fire-fighting methods. Take a long, critical look at your ship - is there any place where failure or malfunction could bring disaster? The danger spots are machinery, accommodation and cargo spaces.
1.Make your ship a safe ship - take precautions to prevet fire
- Always keep fire doors closed to restrict the spread of flames and smoke.
- Always keep working areas clean and tidy. Do not allow flammable waste to accumulate.
- Keep oil away from hot surfaces which might ignite it - check that all feed pipes and joints are sound.
- Take great care when pumping oil to ready use tanks - avoid spillage or overflow which could lead to the fire.
- Put out all cigarettes completely.
- Comply with no smoking area signs at all time.
- Switch off electrical equipment when not in use - be particularly careful in galleys where there are deep fat fryers.
- Do not allow cargo light clusters to be buried in cargo - always check that all are accounted for after loading.
- Take great care when using oxyacetylene or other equipment which might ignite flammable materials.
2.Never fix engine room casing doors in the open position:
Case:- A bulk carrier of 1,322 gross tons had just gone on stand-by conditions prior to entering the port of Bayonne at the end of a voyage from Britain.
- In the Engine Room, the Chief Engineer had started all the stand-by pumps including a lubricating oil pump (the main engine lubricating oil system under normal service conditions being supplied from main engine-driven pumps) and was in the process of putting a second generator on load, when fire broke out.
- The Master and Officer of the Watch, on the bridge, were alerted by flames and smoke coming from the engine room skylights, which were open. They were able to close the port skylights but not the starboard ones, because of the heat. The remotely controlled fuel supply valves to the main engine and generator were then closed, and the Chief Engineer, having stopped the main engine, began fighting the fire with portable extinguishers.
- Flames and smoke had meanwhile passed from the Engine Room into the accommodation through two open doorways in the casing, the doors having been fixed in the open position with wire. The spreading fire trapped the Second Engineer in his cabin. He could not be released until crew members with portable extinguishers were able to make their way along the passageway to close the Engine Room doors.
- The fire fighting efforts of the crew finally prevailed, but it took about an hour to extinguish the blaze. The cause of the fire was traced to a disused brass cock on the discharge side of the stand-by lubricating oil pump. This had broken off, allowing oil under pressure to spray onto the main engine exhaust system.
Engine Room casing doors should never be fixed in the open position. Remember smoke can be just as lethal as heat and flames