Even if you’re surrounded by water, fire safety is a massive concern onboard cargo vessels.
Any vessel in navigation needs to be careful about fire hazards, due to the equipment being used onboard including the engine of the vessel itself. Cargo ships, however, are at an even greater risk for fires due to the different types of materials that they transport, as well as how these materials need to be stored, retained, and handled during transport.
While every vessel will surely have a number of different fire prevention systems (and is required to by law), there’s a few of them that are more common than others. If you need to know more about these systems and how they’re properly operated, here’s five of the most commonly-encountered fire safety measures on cargo ships and how they work:
Fire Retardant Bulkheads: Bulkheads, a component within the hull of a cargo ship designed to divide areas into rooms and create structurally sound, watertight compartments, are frequently designed to provide an additional layer of fire protection for both the seamen on board and the cargo it carries. Open joints in bulkheads are frequently firestopped with various fire-retardant materials to help prevent the development and spread of fire, and different classes of bulkhead (Class A, Class B, etc) are designed for specific areas of the ship (like the engine room and the pump room) to better accommodate fire prevention across each area of the cargo ship.
Main Fire Pump and Emergency Power Pump: Many cargo vessels are equipped with fire pumps, pumps designed to bring in seawater directly from outside the vessel and extinguish developing fires onboard. A backup emergency pump may be used in situations where the space required for the primary pump is not available, or when the primary pump is malfunctioning in any way, to ensure constant fire protection.
Firefighter’s Uniforms: For any vessel set to be in navigation for a long period of time, certain crew members (and/or an externally hired firefighter) must be properly trained in firefighting and fire prevention techniques to contain fires that may develop onboard. To assist them in their duties, firefighter’s uniforms must be provided onboard the vessel and designed up to the standards of governing safety boards. Cargo ships need to have a minimum of 2 of these uniforms, and passenger ships need a minimum of 4 to accommodate the increase in size and passengers.
Emergency Escape Breathing Device (EEBD): True to its name, an EEBD is a portable breathing device designed to provide a limited supply of oxygen to its wearer in the event of a fire or gas leak to allow them to escape safely. Consisting of a hood, a face piece, and a cylinder of oxygen (similar to the masks firefighters wear when entering a burning building), these devices are required to be readily available aboard cargo ships as per the International Maritime Organization Fire Safety Systems (FSS) code.
Means of Escape: It might sound a little obvious, but thanks to the frequently labyrinthine layouts and designs of many cargo ships, a clearly detailed means of escape needs to be provided for every area of the ship without fail. Escape routes, safe passages, ladders, and exit doors need to be clearly marked and demarcated, and all of your crew members need to be properly trained on their locations, their usage, and what to do in the event of a fire breaking out.
These are but a few of the fire safety measures required by cargo ships to protect their crew and cargo. If you feel like you have been injured or affected by an unsafe or unprepared work environment, you need the Jones Act attorneys of O’Bryan Law. Contact us today with any questions you may have.