The Hazard of Fire and its prevention


The hazard of fire is a critical concern in maritime operations, particularly onboard ships. This article explores the nature of fire hazards, prevention, control, and extinction techniques, emphasizing the importance of risk assessment and adherence to safety protocols. Understanding fire hazards associated with different cargoes and implementing preventive measures is vital to ensure the safety of crew, cargo, and the vessel.

Section 1: Fire Hazard Assessment and Risk Mitigation

1.1 Thorough Risk Assessment:

Before undertaking any operation, such as loading or unloading, conducting a comprehensive risk assessment is crucial. Pay specific attention to the properties of the cargo concerning firefighting. The assessment will vary for each operation, but the basic approach remains consistent.

1.2 Basic Steps for Risk Assessment:

To effectively mitigate fire hazards, follow these steps:

– Identify the hazard.

– Determine potential harm and affected individuals.

– Evaluate risks and establish necessary precautions.

– Document findings and implement measures.

– Regularly review and update the risk assessment as required.

1.3 Understanding Fire Hazards in Different Cargoes:

Certain cargoes pose significant fire hazards. Understanding these risks is essential for effective prevention. Here are a few examples:

– Bulk cargoes, including coal, sulphur, cotton, and fishmeal, are prone to spontaneous heating and combustion.

– Methane emitted by coal can form explosive mixtures when combined with air.

– Dust generated by certain cargoes, like sulphur, can lead to explosions.

– Friction between cotton bales can cause spontaneous combustion.

– Cargoes such as calcium hypochlorite, an oxidizing substance, can trigger container fires due to extreme heat generation.

Section 2: Fire Prevention Measures

2.1 Common Preventive Actions:

Although fire prevention strategies may vary depending on the vessel and cargo type, some measures are universally applicable. Consider the following preventive actions:

– Upon arrival at any port, ensure contact details for the agent, fire brigade, police, and local ambulance are readily available.

– Strictly enforce no-smoking policies, particularly on decks and cargo areas.

– Prohibit the use of naked lights on the deck or in holds, such as during welding operations.

– Maintain accessible and operational firefighting apparatus, including rigged fire hoses if necessary.

– Fit spark arrestors on funnel exhausts to prevent sparks and flames.

– Prevent spontaneous combustion by ensuring no oily waste or rags are left in holds.

– Assign a vigilant fire patrol throughout operations and afterward.

– Avoid carrying out tasks that generate sources of ignition, such as chipping or similar jobs.

2.2 Engine Room and Galley Safety:

Fire prevention measures must extend to the engine room and galley areas. Consider the following precautions:

– Consult the IMSBC code for safe stowage and shipment of solid bulk cargoes.

– Maintain safe practices within the engine room and ensure electrical equipment is in good order.

– Exercise caution during galley operations, especially when receiving provisions, as unattended galley equipment can pose fire risks.

– Conduct regular fire patrols during voyages, as physical monitoring is an effective method of fire prevention.

– Discuss cargo characteristics and preventive methods during safety meetings and weekly drills.

Section 3: Firefighting Procedures

3.1 Immediate Actions in Case of Fire:

In the event of a fire, immediate and decisive actions are crucial. Follow these steps:

– Activate the alarm system to alert all personnel.

– Cease operations in the affected hold and evacuate individuals from the area.

– Evacuate stevedores from the vessel and halt operations in other holds as a precaution.

– Stop ventilation to prevent the spread of fire.

– Inform the local fire brigade, port authorities, and the Master about the situation and provide continuous updates during firefighting operations

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