North P&I publishes ro-ro fire paper

Following on from IUMI’s position paper on ro-ro fires (see IMN last Wednesday), North P&I Club has published a 10-page prevention briefing on how to prevent, detect and fight fires on roll-on-roll-off (ro-ro) vessels and car carriers. North noted that ro-ros were twice as likely to catch fire as other ships “and vehicle-deck fires are

notoriously difficult to contain and put out”. The briefing sets out a comprehensive series of recommendations covering training, maintenance, vigilance, reaction and procedures.

Deputy loss prevention director Colin Gillespie said that “we continue to see fires developing on ro-ro vessels that can quickly get out of control, putting lives at risk as well as causing significant damage to the vessel and cargo.”

Although vehicle fires collectively account for a large number of fires, the sources of ignition vary. Electrical fires in vehicles are common, with increasingly sophisticated electronics – particularly in hybrid and electric cars – meaning new cars can be just as hazardous as used ones unless properly isolated. Fires in vehicle cabs are also common, while other causes include hot engines, discarded cigarettes and fuel leaks.

Early detection is key, says Gillespie, and, once detected, North says it is vital to contain a fire, which means making sure all ventilators are properly closed – particularly if a carbon dioxide suppression system is being used. ‘Just a small gap in one louvre housing can render the system ineffective,’ Gillespie said. ‘And if water drenching systems or fire hoses are used – including for boundary cooling – it is vital to check the water is draining away and not destabilising the vessel through free-surface effects.”