How to Prevent Fire, Detect Fire and Fight Fire in Ships

by OldSailor on October 15, 2007


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This post is to bring awareness about Fire, Fire Prevention, Fire Detection and Fire fighting in ships.

Fire and Flooding are the two potential hazards in ships. Fire fighting needs to be seen in broader sense in terms of fire, fire prevention, fire detection and fire fighting.


Controlled fire is used in our day to day lives for useful purposes. Only uncontrolled fire is dangerous which can cause damage to ship’s crew and ship. A combination of three elements (air, fuel and heat) causes fire to take place. This can be easily understood by looking at the Fire Triangle given below:


If any one of the element is isolated, then fire cannot take place. Fire is classified depending on the fuel that causes fire.

Type of fire Fuel
Class A (General fire) Wood,Paper,Cloths etc.,
Class B (Oil fire) Flammable liquids – gasoline, oil, grease etc.,
Class C (Electrical fire) Electrical cables and electrical motors,switchboards etc.,
Class D (Chemical fire) Chemicals – Reactive chemicals and Active metals

2.Fire Prevention:

  • If total awareness is created to all personnel on Fire Prevention, then there is no need for Fire Detection, Fire Fighting etc.,
  • Remember the old saying “ Prevention is better than Cure”

Prevention of Class A(General) Fire is by:

  • good house Keeping
  • taking regular rounds of working premises
  • use of fire retardant, fire resistant materials while construction of ships wherever applicable
  • keeping working areas under lock & key, when not in use or manned
  • denying entry to unauthorized personnel

Prevention of Class B(Oil) Fire is by:

  • Proper storage of oil & petro products
  • Properly maintained fuel handling systems
  • Properly trained personnel
  • Avoiding leakage in the fuel system
  • No smoking
  • Not using naked lights
  • operating fuel systems under supervision

Prevention of Class C(Electrical) Fire is by:

  • Properly maintained Electrical equipment
  • Ensuring proper electrical insulation
  • Avoiding naked wires
  • Using weather proof, explosion proof fittings where necessary
  • Properly trained personnel
  • Switching off electrical equipments when not in use (lights, fans, air conditioners etc.,)
  • Avoiding prolonged use or overloading of equipment

Prevention of Class D(Chemical) Fire is by:

  • Understanding the characteristics of the chemicals and accordingly standard operating procedures must be implemented for the personnel handling these chemicals

3.Fire Detection:

  • Manual detection
  • Automatic detection (conventional or analog addressable)

Manual detection is by:

  • regular rounds by duty personnel during working and non working hours
  • alert and competent ships crew
  • observing the running machinery for abnormal noise, abnormal vibration, abnormal working temperatures etc.,
  • CCTV – central monitoring through Closed Circuit TV

Automatic detection is by electrical Fire Alarm Control Panel consisting of:

  • Smoke Detectors placed in different parts of ship


  • Heat Detectors placed in different parts of ship


A typical Analogue Addressable Fire Alarm Arrangement:


image source:WGPLC

4.Fire Fighting:

Fire can be easily extinguished if minimum one element is isolated (fuel or heat or air).

  • Removal of fuel from fire is called Starving
  • Removal of heat from fire is called Cooling
  • Removal of air from fire is called Smothering

Early stages of fire can be extinguished by Portable Fire Extinguishers available as per fireplan of the ships:

  • Water type extinguishers – for Class A (General) fire
  • Foam type extinguishers – for Class B (Oil) fire
  • CO₂extinguishers – for Class C (Electrical) fire
  • DCP (Dry Chemical Powder) extinguishers – for Class A,B,C fires

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Image source:DCFP

Advanced stages of fire can be extinguished by:

  • firemain and hose reel system (manual actuation) provided in the ship


  • Sprinkler system (automatic actuation)

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Image source:MajesticFire

  • CO₂Flooding system (manual or automatic actuation)for machinery compartments


image source:DCFP

Frequent fire drills are necessary in the ship to ensure fire fighting effectively. Feel free to contact Oldsailor if you got any questions.

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