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Fire fighting equipment for cargo ships when carrying dangerous goods

All fire fighting equipment must be in a constant state of readiness and be regularly and properly maintained. Any valves in these systems are to be operated and proved free monthly. Any defects with the equipment are to be reported to the Company immediately and rectified on an urgent basis.

It is essential that when fire-fighting equipment is landed ashore for service or maintenance, sufficient quantities remain onboard to cope with an emergency situation. If required, equipment may be hired as a temporary replacement for the ship’s own equipment.

Fig 1: Portable foam extinguisher

Portable and semi-portable extinguishers

The type, number and locations of portable and semi-portable extinguishers are supplied to be according to SOLAS, Flag and Classification requirements. The following table lists the various types of extinguishers to be found on board. The area colour coded is to be large enough to be readily apparent. Where the colour does not cover the whole of the extinguisher, the remaining area is to be coloured red. Note however that some flag states require the entire body of the extinguisher, regardless of type, to be painted red only. Operating instructions are to be clearly displayed and be in a language understood by the ship’s crew as well as taking the form of pictures/diagrams.

Spare charges: Vessels will carry spare charges for extinguishers required by the Flag State or classification society for the vessel.

Maintenance: All extinguishers and locations are to be numbered and listed in the Fire Training Manual. Each extinguisher is to have attached a ship maintenance card showing the dates of inspections and recharging. Maintenance records are to be maintained in the Ship’s Safety & Training Record Book.

Manufacturer’s instructions regarding maintenance and recharging procedures are to be available on board and understood by those carrying out such maintenance.


Fire hoses and nozzles must be treated with care, maintained well and tested regularly. A record of testing and maintenance is to be made in the vessel’s Ship Safety Record Book.

Avoid dragging charged hoses over rough surfaces especially when kinked. Hoses may chafe and kink when they first touch the deck after leaving the hydrant and therefore arrangements are to be made to help avoid this. Do not subject a hose to sudden shock or strain by opening hydrants slowly.

After use hoses are to be properly drained, wiped down and correctly stowed in the correct hose box or locker. Hoses are to be stowed in a manner which will enable them to be easily and quickly run out. Fire hoses and nozzles are to be used only for fighting fire and exercising during fire drills. They must not be used for any other purpose.

Foam systems

Foam monitors are to be worked and greased monthly. The foam pumps are to be started for 5 seconds against a closed valve monthly.

At three monthly intervals a test sample is to be taken and mixed with water to check foam production. Sufficient spare foam is to be carried to allow for topping up the tank after such testing. The quantity and type of foam is to be stencilled on the side of the storage tank. The system pipe work must be flushed with water after such a test.

All control valves in the system are to be numbered and listed in written operating instructions, which must be posted in the foam room. A description of the system is to be included within the ship-specific Fire Training Manual.

A foam sample is to be landed annually for analysis. This should be done just prior to the Safety Equipment Certificate (S.E.C.) annual surveys.

Fixed CO2 / HALON installations

The use of fixed installations must be carefully considered at an early stage especially in the case of an engine room fire. In particular Carbon Dioxide/Halons are to be used before there is a build up of temperature causing severe convection. In the case of a serious fire, to effectively use CO2/Halons, the time factor is probably in the order of 10-12 minutes from the time that the fire situation is deemed to be beyond the capability of first aid fire fighting equipment.

Proper closing down of the space is essential before the system is operated, and therefore the Chief Engineer Officer must make the necessary preparations during the first aid fire fighting stage in accordance with the vessel’s Ventilation Shut-down Plan.

Fig 3: battery-CO2-system

In fig 3 shows a CO2 battery system for fire-fighting in a machinery space.
When the control cabinet is opened, an alarm is triggered which is audible and visual in the machinery space warning personnel that the release of CO2 is imminent and that they should vacate the space immediately. Opening the cabinet will also stop the ventilation to the space.

The lever for releasing the CO2 is then operated, which in turn operates the starting bottles. The gas from these bottles will drive a piston via a safety valve, and this piston releases the main battery of CO2 bottles through a pulley system. The CO2 discharges to the machinery space.

The system incorporates a stop valve on the discharge line and also a pressure alarm to indicate any leakage from the CO2 battery.

The system must give 40% saturation of the whole compartment, in which 85% must be discharged into the compartment in the first two minutes.

Fireman's outfits

For tackling serious fires, fireman’s outfits are supplied which consist of special heat resistant suit, gloves, boots and helmet, as well as additional equipment such as safety lamps, fire axes and breathing apparatus. It is essential that the fire suit is cared for and stowed neatly without creasing, ready for immediate use.

All firemen’s outfits are to be checked weekly to ensure all equipment is present. Safety lamps are to be tested monthly to ensure correct operation. Rechargeable batteries are to be discharged and then recharged to prolong their life expectancy.

Fire detection systems

The fire detection system is to be classed approved and must be maintained in good working order. Any defects with this equipment must be notified to the management office without delay so that technicians can be arranged and Class notified as appropriate.

It is imperative the crew is familiar with the operation of the system and operating instructions must be posted in the working language of the vessel, adjacent to each control panel. A description of the system and operating procedures must be included within the ship-specific Fire Training Manual.

The procedure for isolating zones must include notification of both the Deck OOW and Duty Engineer and log book entries made as appropriate. Machinery spaces not left in UMS condition with zones isolated.

Spaces not covered by a fire detection system should be covered by regular fire patrols, weather permitting. Such patrols should not utilise the bridge lookout during the hours of darkness.

The Electrical Officer is responsible for maintaining a test schedule for all detector heads onboard and this should include the periodical cleaning and maintenance required by the manufacturer’s instructions. Sufficient stock of testing equipment is to be kept onboard along with at least one spare detector head of each type fitted onboard.

Common fire sensors for bulk carriers

Heat sensors: These are fixed temperature detectors that sense a sudden rise in temperature and set an alarm off. They should not give an alarm if the temperature rise is gradual, ie change of climate or heating going on. These type of sensors are useful in dusty environments as the sensors are completely sealed, but they do not give off as early an alarm as other types of detectors.

Infrared flame detectors : This type of detector is set off from the flicker of flames. The detectors are tuned to go off at around 25Hz, which is the characteristic flicker of flames. They have a short time delay incorporated in the unit to minimise false alarms.
They can give an early warning of fire and this makes the detector suitable for areas where there is a high risk of fire, ie machinery spaces. They should not be installed in boiler rooms where naked flame torches are used for ignition.

Photo electric cell smoke detectors : There are three types of this detector in use, those that operate by light scatter, by light obscuration and a combination of both.
These types of detectors give a very early warning, but they can be vulnerable to vibration and dirt.

Testing of fire sensors

Heat sensors - these can be tested by means of a portable hot air blower

infrared flame detectors - can be tested by means of a naked flame

photo cell smoke detectors - can be tested by means of an aerosol can which has been specially formulated for testing these types of sensors, or from smoke from a cigarette.

Related articles

Fixed fire fighting systems : CO2 & HALON

Fire extinguishing system HALON testing

Required Personal protective equipment (PPE) for working in a confined space

Ships Confined area safe practice

Shipboard hazards & bulk carriers safety guideline

Health hazards for personnel working in a dusty condition onboard

Safe working practice onboard self unloading bulk carriers

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